Dolph Lundgren on Small Apartments, Expendables 3 and Max Gatling

Action star Dolph Lundgren has a new film out, and to celebrate, we chat to him about Expendables 3 and lots more...

One of the greatest gifts The Expendables has bestowed on us is the access we’ve had to the mighty Dolph Lundgren. He’s long been a favourite of ours, but ever since his re-teaming with Stallone on the big screen in the first Expendables movie, we’ve had several interview opportunities with him, and each one has been fantastic in its own way.

Seizing the chance to speak to him again some months ago to promote Small Apartments, which finally sees its UK home release on the 29th July, we faced the very strange challenge of speaking to him for longer than he appears in the film, as his role is more of a cameo. That said, a little Dolph (if there is such a thing) goes a long way, and it’s great to see him getting more opportunities to diversify, while still playing characters like Max Gatling, who fights zombies with robots in Battle Of The Damned – a film so exciting that Ryan even wrote a piece about it.

So it is with great pleasure that we welcome Dolph Lundgren back to Den Of Geek. And here’s what he had to say…

I thought Small Apartments was a very sweet, but very surreal movie – how did you first get involved?

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[Laughs] Well you know Jonas Åkerlund is a friend of mine, and he used to be married to my ex-wife’s cousin, as a matter of fact and strangely enough – Sweden’s a small place – so I know him from there. He had the script and he asked if I wanted to do a little role in it, and it was a weird little comedy and I said, “Yeah, why not? Let’s have some fun.”

Jonas Åkerlund is quite a visual director, so I wondered how much of a sense of his vision you got from the script, as it’s quite difficult to pitch?

Well I just thought it’s a character I’ve never played before, it’s totally different, a self-help doctor, kind of bizarre but fun, and he talked to me a little bit about the costumes and the colouring, the colour scheme – I’ve seen his music videos, so I know he’s quite good with that stuff. So I thought yeah, I’ve got nothing to lose, it’s just a fun, different type of role – I trusted him basically.

And talking of those suits, did you get to keep any of them? They were something else!

I didn’t exactly want to keep most of them, but… [laughs] They didn’t really work for me, but they worked for that guy!

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How was it being part of such a big ensemble cast, because I’m more used to seeing you in lead roles?

I like it, I like that better almost than starring, I mean it’s a nice break and you can have more fun. You don’t feel as much pressure, you can try different things, it’s not as crucial… if you play the lead in a bigger movie then everybody’s nervous about if the movie’s going to work, [saying] “You don’t want to do this, you don’t want to do that.”

Everything has to be likeable, or more kind of by the numbers, but these smaller films, especially indie movies like that, you just have fun and just try different things, which I haven’t really had the luxury to do a lot, or at all, which I’m trying to do more of now. Actually, I’ve done a few things like that [recently], where I take other turns and try to dream up some interesting characters, that are a little more fun for me to play. 

I know your role as Dr Sage Mennox was small, though pivotal – did you have much say in how you played your character, or was it all laid out for you?

No, I did talk a lot with Jonas about it, and obviously I’m the one who’s doing it, so I could do it any way I wanted and Jonas is a pretty easy director. He doesn’t dictate to the actors, you just do it your way and then he’ll come up with a few pointers – I don’t think he had too many in my case – but he likes to have fun on set and come up with stuff as you’re shooting, and come up with ideas as you’re doing it, which is very liberating for an actor not to feel like you’ve got to follow some kind of plan from a to z. So it was an enjoyable project and a lot of fun to work on.

On the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD, Jonas said you’d told him it was the first movie since Rocky where you weren’t holding a gun…

Yeah that’s right, somebody pointed that out to me, I think in the UK when I did an interview, and I said, “Damn, you know you’re right.” It’s been like 48 movies or something, and I’d like to add a few more to that, but it’s difficult [chuckles] in my position – you always end up pulling out some kind of weapon!

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But I’m actually doing this series, this TV series called Rescue 3, and that has to do with saving people. I think I’ll fly some choppers, drive some boats and things, but I don’t think I fire any weapons or anything like that, so that should be cool. It’s actually kind of refreshing for me, because I’ve done so much action that it all blends together and loses its excitement after a while. 

What’s the premise of Rescue 3?

It’s based on this unified command off California coast, where the lifeguards, the fire fighters and the coastguards they coordinate these rescue operations, like if part of the Pacific Coast highway collapsed and a bunch of cars end up in the water, that’s the kind of marine environment that it’s about. In the series I play the second in command, and my boss gets killed in a fire in the Catalina Island and I’ve got to take over – I don’t want to do it, but we’re both ex-military and I have some kind of pain killer addiction that I’m dealing with.

So when I do have to take over, I do it because he was a great friend of mine, so the premise is that the series is about me leading these three or four guys and three or four girls in these rescue operations. Every week there’s a new situation, and of course, you have a lot of character based drama between the characters and so forth, so it’s interesting and it’s modelled on real people, so there’s nothing super heroic about it, there’s no super hero and no gun play, so it’s different for me and it feels kind of exciting to do something like that.

It sounds like the more grounded, real life heroism…

Yeah, yeah it is, and actually and one of the producers – I don’t know if I should mention to you – he did Baywatch, so you know I don’t think I’ll be wearing those red trunks [laughs] but it is that kind of show, Saturday night, eight o’clock, it’s action no violence, romance no sex – it’s a tamer environment than I’m used to on features, but I think it could be interesting for me, and it certainly shows the more normal side of me that people haven’t seen.

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And now inevitably going back to the guns… Expendables 2 was fantastic, have you had any update on The Expendables 3 yet? [This interview took place back at the start of the year]

The only thing I’ve heard [about the cast] is there’s some new guys coming on, so I heard names like Wesley Snipes and Jackie Chan, people like that, Nicolas Cage, but I still don’t know anything for sure and I don’t know if I’m in it because I haven’t seen the script, but it certainly is a fun concept and it’s a fun thing to be involved in. It’s a lot of work, because you go off for four months to some godforsaken location, but Sly and I are friends and I enjoy working with him, it’s a lot of fun to work with him, so hopefully it’ll happen. 

When I spoke to you before about who you’d like to see in Expendables 2, you mentioned Van Damme, he then came aboard and was fantastic – have you got anyone in particular who you’d like to see in part three?

Haha! Let’s see… I mean look, there’s obviously guys who are my idols, like Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery and these guys, but there’s probably a slim chance of them being in it. I do like Wesley, I think he’s a good martial artist, he’s a good actor and Jackie Chan, of course, has a huge audience and is a fun guy, so he would add humour to it and you know he’s a terrific person. I met him a few times, a really nice guy and I know Sly likes him so… I’m not in the driver’s seat on that one, so I can’t say, but any of the above would be great to work with.

I enjoyed working with Chuck Norris and Arnold and Bruce Willis and these guys, not just because the movie’s great, but just on a personal level, it’s fun to work with them because they’re icons and you put them all in one room and you get to part of that, that’s something you never forget, really. I’m not the only one to feel that way; I think most of the guys, (including the above) felt the same way, so I thought that was a fun part of the project, you kind of realise well it’s not going to happen too many more times in the history of film!  Are you going to get these type of guys in one room, sitting and talking action again – I don’t think so! [Laughs] Strapping on guns and grenades in some little tent in some place in Bulgaria! So it was cool to be there, it felt special you know?

And for me as a lifelong action movie fan, when everyone was together onscreen at last it felt like I’d been waiting forever to see that happen…

Yeah I know, but like I said, the real life behind the scenes situations were even more mind blowing, because then they’re there for real – the real people standing there talking to each other, that was kinda cool! [Laughs]

I also thought I’d mention quickly that you’ve got a film coming out called Battle Of The Damned…

Yeah, that’s a little movie I did, the director Chris Hatton wrote the script and it’s kind of like a zombie movie – it’s zombies and robots – and its model is Escape From New York as he was a big fan of that picture and Carpenter. It’s an interesting movie, a lot of action and very violent too, a bit like Universal Soldier 4. We’ll see how it does as it’s a small, under-the-radar type of movie, but I like it, it could be interesting so see what you think when you see it.

Actually, one of our writers wrote a piece just about the fact that your character’s called Max Gatling!

Yeah, I know, I know – very subtle huh? [a great big laugh] Major Gatling at your service! [laughs]

Amazing! Dolph Lundgren thank you very much!

Small Apartments is out on DVD and Blu-ray on the 29th July.

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