The Expendables gave Dolph Lundgren a workout
There was a legendary time—the ’80s—when action-man status was obtained not with wire work and computer animation but through hard work and protein powder. In those days, the cinemas shook with the manly doings of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Dolph Lundgren.
Watch the trailer for The Expendables.
And on Wednesday (August 18), they shall shake once more when The Expendables brings these three back as part of a testosterone buffet that includes Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Eric Roberts, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Randy Couture, and Mickey Rourke.
Stallone wrote and directed this actioner about a mercenary squad that tries to rescue an Interpol agent from the clutches of a South American villain, and he also plays its grizzled hero, team leader Barney Ross. Schwarzenegger just has a cameo (with Bruce Willis!). Bridging their screen time is Lundgren as Gunnar Jensen, the team’s erstwhile sniper.
First seen at any length in Rocky IV, the kickboxer and Fulbright scholar never quite grew out of his vicious Ivan Drago character. But The Expendables could be a career changer for the still-buff 52-year-old. As Jensen, a killer whose various issues have made him, well, expendable, Lundgren turns in a wholly unexpected, breakout-type performance that is alternately funny, scary, and pathetic.
In a phone interview with the Straight, Lundgren, who now lives in Spain with his family, acknowledges that he felt flattered to have this role written for him.
“He is not an insignificant writer,” Lundgren opines of Stallone. “I did my best to make it work. He [Jensen] is screwed-up, a user who betrayed his best friend, is fired, goes through all this stuff, depression, has some kind of meltdown, changes his mind, has near-death experiences—it was a workout!”
Lundgren thinks his acting was enhanced by the circumstances of last year’s filming, split between jungle locations and New Orleans. “I am kind of the outsider of the film—and the outsider in the cast, to some extent. I didn’t go to Brazil, I came later in the shoot. My character is a bit of a loner; that does influence how you are.”
At least, he acknowledges, this movie gets his nationality right. “People still think I am Russian,” he says with a laugh. “It’s been kind of strange, people thinking I am Russian and can’t talk or am stupid, but that can be an advantage. Once people realize it is not true, the pendulum swings in the opposite reaction, with great effect.”
Lundgren tries to downplay the comeback potential of his role in The Expendables. “It’s a job. If anything bigger happens, that is cool.”
But he has already had a pleasant surprise in Sweden earlier this year. “I went back to host the Eurovision song contest,” he explains. “I did a song-and-dance number, talked about my family, my father, my fighting. People realized I was a real person, not just a movie-star asshole! That shocked me.”