Hans Dolph Lundgren was born and raised in an academic middle-class family in Stockholm, Sweden. Despite an early interest in playing the drums and clowning around in high school comedies, Dolph decided to follow in his father and older brothers cerebral footsteps and pursue an engineering degree. After completion of his Swedish military service in the Marine Corps, Dolph enrolled at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm to study Chemical Engineering.
As a teenager, Dolphs fathers career took a turn for the worst and, as a result, his father took out his aggression both verbally and physically on his wife and sons. The physical abuse Dolph suffered at the hands of his father later motivated him to pursue both contact sports and the dramatic arts. I still love my father, no matter what happened. There are many things about him I still admire. I must have been too much like him, too stubborn -- perhaps thats what he somehow couldnt deal with. Dolph says. Dolph relished in the opportunity to get stronger and prove that he could stand up to his father and peers. Within five years, Dolph was a world-class competitor in Japanese full-contact karate and deeply involved with a philosophy of life that has become an important part of his persona, both on and off screen.
Dolph spent considerable time in the United States and abroad on various academic scholarships. He attended both Washington State University and Clemson University in South Carolina, studying Chemistry. My dad always told me that if I wanted to succeed in life, I had to go to America, Dolph remembers. In the early eighties, Dolph participated in an exchange program with the University of Sydney in Australia and later graduated from The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, completing his Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering. Graduating at the head of his class, Dolph was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, one of the worlds top engineering schools.
Dolph moved to America and accepted the M.I.T. Fulbright scholarship to study for a PhD. That same year, Dolph met singer Grace Jones, fell in love and decided to move to New York City to take up modeling to make some extra cash. After being told he was a bit too muscular for a models size 40, on a friends advice, he began studying drama at the Warren Robertson Theatre Workshop in Manhattan, not knowing how quickly his life was about to change. My time in New York opened up my adolescent eyes to a multitude of different people and lifestyles. I had stumbled upon a profession that truly made me happy.
With his charm and good looks, the film offers began to pour in. His motion picture debut was 1985s James Bond feature, A VIEW TO A KILL. Im on screen for ten seconds, you blink you miss me... However, it was Dolphs memorable performance in ROCKY IV later that year that garnered worldwide attention. After a nine month audition process among 5,000 hopefuls, Dolph was cast by writer-director Sylvester Stallone as his fearsome Russian opponent, Captain Ivan Drago.
In preparation for the premiere of ROCKY IV, a still innocent twenty-something Lundgren moved to Los Angeles. I walked in to the theater that night at the premiere as Grace Jones boyfriend and walked out ninety minutes later as movie star Dolph Lundgren. I was shell-shocked for years from the mind-boggling and daunting experience of being a student athlete from the small country of Sweden, suddenly having to live up an action-star persona, he remembers.
Dolph did manage to build quite a career as an international action hero and has since starred in more than thirty feature films. In the eighties and nineties, Lundgren played the classic action lead in such films as MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO co-starring the late Brandon Lee and BLACKJACK by Hong-Kong action legend John Woo. Lundgren has also turned in some memorable performances as the main bad-guy to other action stars, most notably in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER opposite Jean Claude Van Damme, directed by Roland Emmerich and JOHNNY MNEMONIC opposite Keanu Reeves.
Throughout the years, Dolph has continued to practice martial arts: Karate and physical fitness have kept me reasonably sane in a very tough and sometimes inhuman business. In 1998, after a three hour grueling examination, including twenty consecutive full-contact karate bouts without rest, Dolph was awarded his third degree black belt by the World Karate Organization in Tokyo. My instructor told me to hire a crew and film it because, as he put it, youll never do this again! Watching the footage ten years later, I completely understand what he meant, Dolph has said. Dolphs other athletic accomplishments include being the captain of the Swedish National Karate Team and the individual champion of the Swedish, European and Australian Heavyweight Full Contact Divisions.
In addition to his Karate expertise, Dolph was selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee to serve as the Team Leader of the U.S. Olympic Pentathlon Team during the 1996 Atlanta Games. I starred in a film called PENTATHLON and worked closely with two US Olympic team members who really got me interested in the sport. I later became involved in trying to raise its profile and to prevent one of the original events from the 1896 Olympics to be cut from the games all together. Both Sweden and the US have a colorful history in Pentathlon, with a young Lieutenant George Patton placing in the 1912 Stockholm Games. Dolph sums up his experience, Entering the Atlanta Olympic stadium at night, together with my fellow US team members and the ten thousand other athletes was one of the proudest and most humbling experiences of my life.
While staying busy in Hollywood, Dolph has also managed to raise a family with his wife Anette, to whom hes been married for fifteen years. They have two daughters, Ida and Greta and together the Lundgren family has lived in places as diverse as Los Angeles, New York, London and now Marbella, Spain where Dolphs kids attend a British-Spanish school. Giving our children a more normal upbringing is much more important to us, his wife Anette says. She is the person who gave Dolph the go-ahead to become a director five years ago. Dolph was working on the screenplay with one of the producers a week prior to principal photography when the director suddenly fell ill. He recommended I take over, Dolph remembers. I was a bit stunned, so I asked Anette. Go ahead and do it or youll always regret not taking the opportunity, she said without hesitation. I took her advice that day and didnt sleep for a month, and as usual, I feel my wife had made the right decision.
Since then, Dolph has directed four feature films. His production company Thor Pictures is currently developing several projects in which he will produce, star and direct. His latest project is a feature he co-wrote and directed titled, COMMAND PERFORMANCE, produced by Nu Image in which Lundgren stars as the drummer of an American hard-rock band playing at a charity concert in Moscow. Armed extortionists take over the arena killing scores of civilians and security personnel. They also take the American pop-star, Venus, and the Russian president hostage. Dolph teams up with a young Russian security agent and they both set out to save the day. Principal photography ended in Moscow in September 2008. The film will be distributed by Sony Pictures and is set for release in 2009. Im very happy so far with what Ive seen of my latest film. It takes a while to learn the ropes as a director-- especially since I dont have any formal film school training. Years of experience in front of the camera does give me a certain edge, Dolph says.
Dolph is also a founding member of Group of Eight, an off-Broadway theatre group started in 1994. Im currently speaking to a Swedish director about doing full length stage plays in Sweden. All my acting so far has been in English and performing in my native emotional language would be very exciting, Dolph says.
He is very pleased and excited about his newfound directing career: It finally gives me a chance to express myself and tell my stories directly to the audience. It also has allowed me to feel freer as an actor and explore other emotional chords in my performance. I am aware that the public still sees me as a fairly one-dimensional action star -- somebody whos invincible, kicks ass and saves the day.
Well, I think theres a way to deliver on that expectation and still give the audience more than they bargained for emotionally. That is what one of my big role models, Clint Eastwood, has done. Im only fifty so theres still plenty of time, as long as I keep going to the gym two hours a day...
Shortly after ROCKY IV, Dolph released his workout video, MAXIMUM POTENTIAL. He is currently working on a fitness book for men. In addition to the book, Dolph is also developing a personalized brand of vitamins and supplements, as well as a mens skin care product line. For the past thirty years Dolph has stayed in great shape, first as an athlete and later as an action star. Friends and family have been asking me for advice on training and nutrition for years, so I decided to put my own personal fitness regime down in writing, he explains.
To sum up his first twenty-five years in show business: Looking back, I guess Ive sort of always just played my own game. Its something Im proud of and now, I feel like its finally starting to pay off.
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