Dolph Lundgren tries out a different look in Johnny
Dolph Lundgren is out
to prove he's not just "a pretty boy"
By Marianne Gray,
Film Review (UK), Sci-fi Special #14, February 1996
Dolph Lundgren has been quiet
for some time, but he's back with Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic.
THE SCREEN has been dark for
some time for Dolph Lundgren. This month, however, when Johnny
Mnemonic finally makes it to the cinema in the UK, he'll
officially be back from his European exile and ready to roll
whichever way it takes him.
"When I started out I groomed myself to be a chemical engineer
who would make money and support a family by using his brain
not his brawn," says Lundgren, Swedish strongman and Fulbright
scholar, in faultless English. "Well, it didn't work out
like that so now, at 35, I've been trying to get back to my original
plan and support myself and my family using my brain instead
of my brawn."
A big man in a blue linen jacket and neatly tailored waspy slacks,
Lundgren still has 24'' biceps, which according to his PR agent
are two inches larger than those of Sylvester Stallone, but he's
using them less now. Master of his universe after a Hollywood
career that brought him fame and money, now he's looking for
what the most of the rest of us have and don't want: a low profile
and a bit of brainwork.
He's not holding out much on Johnny Mnemonic which is
Keanu Reeves's film with Lundgren playing second fiddle as a
bad-guy preacher to Reeve's bio-enhanced silicone chip-implanted
"I don't know what's held this picture up particularly as
it's got Keanu in it and it's part of the computer pic wave.
It's written by the guy who started the cyberpunk movement, William
Gibson, and it's very 21st Century."
Unexpectedly cool, witty, and intelligent (he has a Masters in
Sciences and a couple of post-grad diplomas), he admits that
this sounds like another star plugging a 'humble' line, but says
he actually has set the wheels of normalcy in action.
Last year he married a tall, tanned Swedish jewellery designer,
quit Los Angeles for New York and spent a while back in Sweden,
"I feel ready to get off the pin-up thing and get on with
real life commitment. I live a normal life in New York, passing
unnoticed in the street, just another person. This would never
happen in LA. In New York, people are more human and what attracks
me to people is their human qualities, not just what they can
do for me.
"It's all 'showbisness' in Los Angeles. People are so fake.
They only think about money, parties and success. They probably
are saying, as we speak, what a has-been I am! That's part of
life and of course I worked to pay for a nice lifestyle, but
now I've set myself the challenge to find different things like
work in small plays off Broadway and learn how to act. I was
a movie star before having a chance to become an actor, so now
I'm going to backtack. I am persistent. If I want to get somewhere,
I get there.
"I'll probably only find a walk-on role in Off-Off Broadway
and be a huge failure! I certainly don't want to star on Broadway,
that's for sure. I don't have that David Hasselhof syndrome.
You know: can you sing? Can you dance? But maybe you'll see me
on some out-of-town, obscure stage one day."
When asked the standard 'trick' question showbiz hacks love to
throw at film stars about which Shakespeare character they'd
like to play (most actors say Hamlet), Lundgren's reply revealed
that he hadn't quite left all that macho-man stuff behind yet.
His choice: "Mark Anthony, because he reads poetry before
cutting someone's head off."
"Obviously because of my shape I can hardly be cast as a
five foot wimp-maybe a six foot wimp-but I certainly could do
comedy or romantic comedy. Until a few years ago I didn't mind
playing dumb bruisers. Anyway I couldn't have gone from playing
Ivan Drago to playing Jesus Christ. I had the body and if you've
got lemons, man, make lemonade. When I got hooked on movies you
had to be big to be an action star.
"Of course I still need to work-out but I try to stay away
from the weights because I don't want to get too bulky. I suppose
now is the time I should start worrying about the body begining
to fall apart!" A full-lipped smile breaks his blond god
"I used to worry so much about what kind of life is it when
you're always looking boffed, always posing, worrying about your
triceps, thinking about your fanatical low-fat diet. You use
your muscles like a shield against the world and get so stiff
posing that you can't express anything.
"In a way I think body-building becomes a means of getting
affection, admiration, something you perhaps didn't get as a
kid. I know my chidhood insecurity still haunts me. I was a very
weedy kid with a pollen allergy. I started to get tough so I
could be somebody. It was the ultimate ego trip.
"Then one day I realized I'd become the Science Fiction
type man. The guy who walks around like a stud hypothetically
shooting people. I guess I had to prove something. Now I've done
it and I know it means nothing. Now I'm looking for meaningful
work playing characters who have a more similar background to
mine. Nice home-loving action-adventure guys."
Born a Scorpio (November 3rd 1959) in Stockholm, the son of two
academics, at 15, Lundgren, who says he speaks five languages
including Japanese, had a first-degree black belt in karate.
By 16, he was a successful rock drummer and trombonist; by20,
European heavyweight kick-boxing champ; by 21, a sought-after
model; by 22, a chemical engineering graduate from Washington
University. By 23 Lundgren was a film star, having got lucky
when he was with his girlfriend of four years, Grace Jones, on
the set of A View to a Kill and obliged, as nobody else
looked impressive enough, by holding a gun on camera for 20 seconds.
"It all seemed so easy but it took six months getting the
next role, Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
"I found out fairly quickly that I'm not good film star
material. Nor am I just a pretty boy. Just because I'm big and
muscly doesn't mean I have minced beef between my ears! I find
showbiz fame mindless.
"Of course I will still do movies but now I'm seeking for
different roles. I'd rather have a supporting role in a good
picture than be your all-action man. I'd rather star opposite
a French actress like Julie Delpy thana Hollywood goddess like
Sharon Stone. Right now, my company, Red Orm Productions, named
after a character in one of my favourite Swedish books, is developing
a project with the Swedish film industry. This means a lot to
me because for a while my pictures were banned in Sweden because
of the violence.
"I'm always happy to shoot films in Europe just to be able
to buy some new suits. I love clothes. I'll travel a thousand
miles to attend a fashion show. I love looking good. It must
be the model in me."