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Dolph Lundgren tries out a different look in Johnny Mnemonic
















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 information courrier.
"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, 're-rooting'.
"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 look.
"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."