Move over Sly -
DOLPH'S GETTING BIGGER EVERY DAY
by Mary Fletcher, Woman (UK), December 19/26 1987
He's huge, sexy, has more muscles (mussels!) than Billingsgate fish market and an engineering degree. In Fact Dolph Lundgren is impressive on several counts - and not just as Grace Jones 'lover. Now to cap it all, he's starring as Master of the Universe. Mary Fletcher reports.
Lunchtime in a posh Beverly Hills restaurant littered with movie moguls. A brick outhouse wearing a designer suit has just walked through the open door, blocking the sun from the assembled rich and famous.
Ambling languidly to a prime table, ignoring the hush that has descended, the outhouse speaks in an agreeably pleasant light tenor: "Hi, I'm Dolph Lundgren."
Hollywood's newest sensation makes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone look as macho as Woody Allen. He shakes hands without crushing bones, eases his mighty frame on to a delicate chair and orders grilled tuna and green salad. All around, forks that were momentarily suspended complete their journeys to open mouths. In a town that has seen it all, Mr lundgren has just made a grand entrance and relished every minute.
It would be hard not to notice Dolph lundgren. An enormous 5, jacket strains over bulging boulder shoulders, a silk shirt threatens to pop its buttons over iron-hard pectorals and a gold chain stretches to breaking point around a tree trunk neck tapering to a granite jaw.
He's six foot six inches, weighs 17 ½ stone and, as he himself tells you perfectly seriously, very few people pick fights with him.
Until now, Mr lundgren's fame & has rested on the fact that he was singer Grace Jones' lover and Stallone's Russian opponent Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Now however, having added even more body-built muscles, Dolph is about to be seen in his first leading block-buster film role which he hopes will make him a star.
The part is that of a plastic doll -no, don 't laugh. For this is the legendary He-Man who, since his launch five years ago, has been heavily marketed into the hearts of small boys everywhere, to the tune of one billion dollars. He has also become a Saturday morning cartoon character seen in 32 countries.
Now in the flesh of the mighty Dolph he hits the big screen here on Boxing-Day in Cannon's $20 million Master of the Universe-to the enjoyment, producers hope fervently, of an older audience as well. Lundgren is taking the responsibility of becoming a young boy's hero very seriously. "I know I'm going to have a lot of kids as fans and that makes me very happy," he says. "I like kids' honesty. And in my industry where everybody is saying one thing and thinking another, that's a very reviving quality."
But even the most experienced actor might have baulked at breathing believable life into the role of a plastic toy. He-Man had to be massively muscled yet lean and agile, capable of fighting with weapons and hands: in short, the awesome and heroic champion warrior of the universe.
Dolph found a solution, but it wasn't easy. "I was very reluctant to take the part of a toy," he says. "I had four months to put on pounds of quality muscle. I've never trained harder in my life.
"Then coming on to this fake set, wearing this stupid outfit, carrying a plastic gun and talking about things like Eternia, Skeletor and Cosmo King makes you feel silly to say the least. But in the end I realised that He-Man is stronger, smarter and wittier than everybody else. He has to be all good, the total hero. So I just played a distilled version of myself."
It would be easy to dismiss Dolph Lundgren as a big male musclebound version of the dumb blonde. Only he's heard that one before. "I know I'm seen as the brainless hulk," he says. "The problem is that a lot of people get intimidated if they meet someone who's extremely big or beautiful, so they tell themselves, well, at least he's probably really stupid. Because they don't like to think that someone can look good and be smart as well.
"But I'm not worried about that, because to me my body is an asset. You can be a great actor, but not be sensuous. But if you have a good body and you're also a great actor , that makes you a star, because a star has sex appeal."
Modesty and lack of ambition are clearly not going to hold Dolph back. He knew bigger things were in store when four years ago he was chosen from 8,000 other hopeful hunks for the part of Drago and got his first real taste of the movie industry. But there was much to experience before He-Man came along.
"I came to Los Angeles not knowing anybody, not even having a driving licence and knowing nothing about movie making and jealous people and back-stabbing. I was in shock for a while.
"I discovered that with a big star like Stallone everyone in his entourage lobbies for position and I was the new guy. It was a case of, 'Who the heck are you?'
"Rambo hadn't yet opened and Sly's two previous movies had bombed. Plus he'd just gone through his divorce from Sasha and he was being sued by some guy, so he was totally pressured. And that upset all the people around him.
"And I'm thinking Hollywood is supposed to be about acting! But it turns out that it's all about show business-with the accent on business.
"Since then, an awful lot of things have happened to me behind the scenes, with managers, agents, attorneys, hangers-on, thefts, frauds, all the things that go on because people change when there's a lot of money at stake and even more so when fame and success are mixed in.
"So the last two years have taught me something about how to deal with the sharks of Hollywood. Because unless you learn fast, you drop out even faster."
Dolph's face first appeared in newspapers and magazines when he became Grace Jones' lover. He had grown up in Stockholm, won a scholarship to Washington State University then another to Sydney University where he got his master's degree in chemical engineering and where he met Grace while she was on tour in Australia.
That was in 1982, the year he added the Australian Heavyweight Karate Championship to the
European titles he had won the two previous years.
The affair with Grace lasted four years and he's happy to talk about it-but with little personal detail. "It's hard to tell why we split up," he says. "When your careers are changing it's very hard to stay together. But we're still friends."
Living with Grace in New York in 1983, Dolph started mode'ling and was told he could have a great future as a heavyweight boxer. "But I thought acting would be better than being a chemical engineer, model or fighter because you can use your body, your mind, your emotions, everything."
Landing the part of Drago a year later set Dolph on a serious course of body building, modelled on Stallone's regime. Closely monitoring his diet, he's now able to look in the mirror every morning and know exactly how much carbohydrate and protein he'll need to eat that day.
'I' m not fanatical about my food," he says. "I don't crave sweets like when I did Rocky IV. Back then, me and Sly would go to Tramps on a Friday night and eat eight desserts. Each. Now I try to hit a peak two weeks prior to a film and then coast through, just like an athlete trains for the big game."
But surely his future as an actor must be limited by the muscleman roles he'll be expected to play? "Listen, everybody's limited," he says. "Can you see Dustin Hoffman playing the heavyweight champion of the world? It's up to your talents and your belief in yourself and I'm very ambitious.
"Sly and Arnold Schwarzenegger are getting older-they won't be able to keep going in the movies they do for more than a few years. So even if I was the dumbest guy around and couldn't act for peanuts, I'd still make a ton of money in action movies."
Dolph has acquired a house in the Los Angeles suburb of-wait for it -Mount Olympus, expensive clothes and a fiancee. . . Italian American model Paula Barbieri, a very, very special person.
"She's very down to earth and unspoilt by the modelling business. It's hard to meet someone like her in this town because nice people stay out of the business unless they want to lose their pureness. I know myself. I was trying to hold on to my boyishness when I came to Los Angeles and yet still stay smart."
Dolph's current projects include writing a screenplay about cops in New York, co-producing two movies -in one of which he also stars and releasing a work-out tape that he says is tougher than Jane Fonda's. His future seems assured.
"You can have all the serious and talented actors in the world, but the people working in supermarkets or offices aren't interested," he says. "They need stars. They need something to focus on that's visually strong. They need a hero." Dolph could be just the man..