by Jamie Portman, Southam News, Calgary Herald, December 3, 1995, Sunday
Did you know that he has a master's degree in chemical engineering?
He's tired of movie-goers viewing him as nothing more than an incredible hulk with iron fists and cement in his brain. It's an image that has dogged the Swedish-born actor since his screen debut in Rocky IV as the mindless punching machine who almost finishes off Sylvester Stallone.
"People who know me realize I'm not like that," he sighs. "But a lot of people in Hollywood don't want their minds changed. They don't care. They're just concerned that their movie makes money."
Still, he's working hard to change the way he's perceived. He moved from Los Angeles to New York to work in theatre. He changed his manager and his press agent
"I've given up my karate and weights -- I've stopped doing anything which tends to make me look bigger."
He goes out of the way to talk to the press. "I know I come across differently in person. Anything I can do to change perceptions of me will help my career."
Lundgren, 37, believes The Shooter, a new movie he recently finished shooting in Prague for Canadian director Ted Kotcheff, will help rebuild his screen image.
"It's a post-Cold War thriller. It's not just action. It has a plot. I play a U.S. marshal who's actually been born in Czechoslovakia but has lived in the United States most of his life. He gets sent back there to bring a wanted terrorist back to America for a trial.
"Furthermore," he adds happily, "I have a relationship with a woman in this film."
Lundgren was also seen recently as a demented killer called Street Preacher in the futuristic thriller, Johnny Mnemonic. He says he took the role because he was playing a real character, not just a mindless brute.
In real life, Lundgren is a product of Stockholm's Royal Institute Of Technology and Australia's University of Sydney where he received his master's degree in chemical engineering in 1982.
He was on his way to further studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he abruptly switched his career course.
"I'd never really thought I'd wanted to be an engineer the rest of my life, so I decided just to quit and try acting.
"As a kid, I'd been fascinated with the idea of acting, but my family had wanted me to be an engineer."
It was his massive physical presence that led Stallone to hire him for the role of the menacing but characterless Drago in Rocky IV. But it also typecast Lundgren in the eyes of Hollywood.
"I didn't even want to be an action star at the start. But I wasn't in a position to turn down this Rocky offer."
Group Of Eight, the modest New York theatre company with which he's associated, is central to his image rebuilding. The company recently mounted a double bill featuring Lundgren in two contrasting roles -- as a comic, hard-working husband and as a death-row prisoner.
"I'm doing it for my craft. I want a better understanding of dramatic material, of how to make a situation work and make it interesting for an audience. If I manage to make a transition to character-driven roles, even though they may have a lot of action in them, I'll still know what I'm doing."