Hi, I’m Eric Conner senior instructor at New York Film Academy.

And I’m Aerial Segard acting alum and in this episode, we bring you two of the men who helped get rocky another go around on the big screen. Director Steven Caple Jr.

And Ivan Drago himself the man who played He-Man The Punisher. He was in Don’t kill it. I come in peace The Expendables Aquaman. Yes, we’re talking about Dolph Lundgren.

As a director. It’s your baby and it’s your projects you’re responsible for the whole picture whereas as an actor you can always blame it on the director or at least the critics could blame it on the director. So you’re off the hook a little bit.

You might remember him from a previous episode of the backlot.

And at the time we were the first ones to find out that he was going to be in Creed 2 as Ivan Drago.

Well, I can tell you now anyway because it’s probably going to you know be public but anyway Stallone contacted me and asked me you know what you think what about playing Ivan Drago again you know. So I don’t know if it’ll happen but if it does you know you know you heard it here first.

So when you grew up 25 miles from Philadelphia like I did. Rocky is more than just the movie. It’s like a religion. It’s like if you don’t know Rocky you can’t really talk to anyone on the playground if you haven’t run up the art steps then what are you doing. For 40 years. Every opening weekend I’m there.

But some of us haven’t grown up with it. Some of us weren’t there from the start. Like you and Dolph Lundgren.

My old friend.

He’s had a career spanning decades. But Steven Caple the director he was newer to the industry he created his first independent film called The Land in 2016 and then he got Rocky.

He got Creed.

He got Creed.

To be honest with you I didn’t know how many people watched the land when it dropped it felt like it was a industry thing. You know I mean like I made the land and I really made it for teenagers. You know what I mean like a lot of kids I was mentoring and for my city, you know yes a tool to get out there but I was like if y’all rock with it y’all do if you don’t. I made it for me. It was like one of those kind of films. And when I did so it did what it needed to do and in the industry, it gave me work cause they saw I can work with actors and tell stories and non-actors at that. So like it was pretty effective in that realm because when I got the call from MGM like it was you know hey we want you to meet Sly Sly saw the land Mike saw the land come and check it out. You know so that’s kind of like how it helped so far is like showcasing my work and talent. But before that it was a lot of short films I did like plenty of shorts that kind of got me to notoriety I got my agent and manager off of a short film, not necessarily my first feature. They helped me get my first feature off the ground which was a long process two years. But you know that’s two years of not paying someone or a team and just sending you to meetings and you hear a lot of no’s but I got them off of a short film called A Different Tree that end up like selling HBO and gave me my first like I guess ticket you know. And then the first feature came out and then everything moved really fast after that. So it’s not a typical story but I tell like how fast everything moved cause I got my agent. While I was still in film school and I was trying to drop out soon as I got them like I’m out of here. It’s too expensive. But I got advice to finish you know get that master’s degree paid them loans. But it did help because that’s where I end up you know writing my thesis project which became the land. And then after that, I made it as soon as I graduated so I don’t know how it worked.

I love how he says he made it. You can rock with it or I made it for myself. Just so honest right there. But it’s impressive that MGM trusted him so much just to say here you go meet with Sly.

And I think his feature debut really spoke to him. You know it’s funny because it’s like some people this industry is a marathon. It just kind of keeps going and then others like do that one film or write that one script and it’s a dash.


That was him. He just did a short had a feature. Boom. Within three years goes from an independent feature low budget.

Too high to something.

To something pretty darn big to Creed 2 and it might be a more recent trend. But there are other filmmakers who have gone from doing like a low budget feature right to. A high budget studio picture.

Right. Like John Watts who did Spider-Man Homecoming. He did cop car.

Because I know so many of you have seen cop car. But but the right people saw it. Colin Trevorrow did Safety Not Guaranteed which was a million dollar movie and he got Jurassic World.

And now we have Steven Caple to add on to that list.

Once he got, of course, the blessing of two key players one being the studio.

And the other Sly himself.

To bring me on. You know I had that was the worry just like how do I now make it my own. You know. And that wasn’t until meeting with Sly you know it’s like the studio will tell you one thing they’re like yeah we want you to speak to the Generation I’m like yeah but where sly at like I want to talk to. Where’s sly like what does he think about all this. And Mike you know what I mean because Mike is not working without Ryan Coogler who is working on his last few pictures with you know so I was like I want to see where they’re at you know where their headspace is and they both were on the same page which is we need someone from the outside coming in who has a perspective on this and who is I guess a fan but also can appreciate the characters and transition I guess into something like a bigger studio film while adding that freshness I guess to to the project. And sly was yeah he was open about it from the jump. You know I think it was you know we were in his house we geeked out watch a few clips from like rocky 4 over and over again I had to pinch myself when I walked into his house, man his house is enormous. He has an actual Rocky statue right there. You seen his Rocky statue.

Which one I mean he’s got a few of them.

He’s right, he’s right there’s multiple.

Wait he has a statue of rocky in his own house.

Because there’s only two. Sorry, I’m getting off topic but there’s only two rocky statues ever one is in Philly that same one is in his house. As soon as you walk in.

Well, Dolph has a statue of He-Man in his house.

No, but the funny thing about the statue is that it brought to mind there’s this clip of me in the movie when I’m up at the Rocky statue in Philly and I’m standing on top of the Rocky steps Ivan Drago was standing there and his son is there. I remember my internal monologue was just wait till you see my statue this flipping statue is going to be nothing. It will be back in Moscow it will be very big. This piece of shit this thing.

I definitely didn’t get that motivation but I’m glad that was in your head. What’s funny wait about that scene when you go to MGM. When I did my pitch of like what the story was going to be. I didn’t have that scene. And so they were like What. Every Rocky movie we have to be at the steps not Sly Sly was like you know three fights let’s do the desert. I’m cool let’s rock it. MGM was like steps we have to have steps and we have to have the statue. And I was like How are we going to do steps like Rocky been on the steps 100 times they ended the last one at the steps. And I was just like you can’t get better than that they’re looking off into the Philly they’re side by side I’m like why would I bring them back again. I was like unless he’s like dying at the steps I don’t know what else to do. And I was like You know what. I’m going to have Drago on top of the steps and they all were like oh wait what you’re going to have the Dragos on top of the Iconic steps. I was like Yeah. I think it’ll be cool. The villain is on the steps and looking over it worked though. I remember like being in the theater at the premiere and everyone was like oh like they felt the tension but the studio was kind of like on ice about it they were like we don’t know man it’s like it’s a tricky movie how the rocky fans going to feel and it’s always that which is interesting when trying to do the film you’re always like how are the rocky fans going to feel you gotta keep tapping into that which is crazy.

So a bunch of years back I was at a wedding in Philadelphia and we took a picture of the bridal party on the top of the steps of the art museum. The famous Rocky steps while we’re up there. I couldn’t even tell you how many other people came running up the steps. Arms outstretched you know doing the rocky pose when you think Rocky you think that you think the steps you think the statue but the problem with nostalgia is you could also just be trapped in the past.

Right. And being such a big fan and then having all these new characters to blend with all the old characters who have already been established. That’s a tricky balancing act. He had his work cut out for him for sure.

And it almost scared him off the project but thankfully it didn’t.

I was afraid to take on his project because I am a fan. You know it was like. Who Wants to make a sequel to something that was already dope. You know what I mean so it’s like I’m that guy when someone says they’re doing a part two I’m like Why. You know the first one was good. You’re gonna drop the ball. You’re gonna mess it up and then it’s like I did Creed 2 and I was like wait what like as soon as the team came I was like no like creed one was good. Why would you go try to do a creed two you’re going to like draw. It was like well I guess if someone’s going to do it it might be someone who cares. And I definitely did. You know what I mean stepping into the project and so like I said I treated it as a fan so I made it for like people who are honestly Rocky and creed fans like if you’re new to it. Great. You know what I mean like I didn’t pitch this to the studio obviously but I’m a let you guys know on a one on one level that is for you guys who care about rocky and care about the Dragos who want to see this as I am as a movie geek you know it’s like how you get excited about like a Star Wars or whoever like it’s like you want to see those characters alive again. That’s why I made the project ultimately.

Yeah, it was good no I appreciate that you were under a lot of pressure because not just because Creed was such a good film and performed really well but also you probably internally on your own like What the hell. Like you said I’m doing the sequel to a great movie and there’s already been another five, six Rocky movies. Who knows how many at least six. But on the other hand I think well they were kind of fizzling out. Some of the freshness had gone out of the series. And then creed, of course, came along and it was it was fresh it was urban it was new it was. It was in our times and this one is the same way. So I think this one just solidifies the fact that there’s a chance there will be a few more of these and they will all be for the new generation for you guys. And one day Stallone and I won’t be in them either and there’ll be other people. Michael B will be like the old guy training somebody scary but that’s life.

Mr. Capel was hesitant to say the least to board this 40-year franchise. It’s been around for so long but I mean even the mighty Drago was nervous about getting back into the ring.

It was a strange experience and I wasn’t too crazy about it. Originally when I heard about it I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play this guy again I was afraid it’s gonna be just like a one-dimensional bad guy. To try to throw some people and to get some people in the theater you know MGM was just going to kind of use me as some kind of prop there. But it was when I met Steven and read the script. That I realized that this is a real movie it’s a real acting part. It’s a real drama on many levels not just me but for Rocky for everybody else in it. And and then it became. You know a lot of work trying to prepare to deliver something that was on the page you know deliver as an actor and make it authentic and something that’s organic. And it was a lot of fun to work with Steven to work with Stallone again and our fifth picture and Florian who plays my son Michael B who’s a great guy good actor. And yeah it was. It turned out to be one of the best experiences in my career. Actually this film. From being a bit. I was a bit. Not sure about it but then it turned out to be really great.

You know I can understand his concern because it’s not just an actor going back to a role from 30 years ago. It’s also like it was the 80s. You know every film it was like U.S. versus Russia and so Drago the character was such a product of that time. So it begs that question like is that character even going to be relevant in 2018.

Right. And he didn’t want to just do like a glorified cameo. He actually cared that he was going to be able to explore this character more and not just his character but every character really gets to shine and show some depth.

Yeah, and creed one was like this great reminder that yes Stallone was an Oscar-nominated actor.


You know that he really has presence and then creed 2 like this is how far Dolph Lundgren has come Dolph Lundgren’s really become a good actor. I mean he’s done like almost 80 films since Rocky 4. And his character in that one barely speak speaks only in. Russian and like just threatens people if he dies he dies. That’s it. Nothing else. This one it’s so much more of a real character.


So much more complete.

Which I mean that’s to the writer’s credit right. They went after it head-on.

Right. Instead of just making a nostalgia trip and there’s a fabulous scene when they finally meet and it’s just the two of them in Rocky’s restaurant and it’s instead of saying like well this is Drago and Rocky isn’t it cute they’re back together but rather you know what would it be like if they would reunite after 30 years. And it did not disappoint.

Everything changed that night.

Hey look you know that’s like a million years ago.

Like yesterday to me.

So you came all the way over here to tell me that.

Because of you. I lose everything. Country. Respect. Wife. My son will break your boy.

Been a long day. I think we’re done here.

It really showed how Dolph’s acting work has deepened through the years.

Yeah, and the writing of the character deepened with it it was like they needed all of Dolph you know and all of this sort of 30 plus years of experience he’s now had to really make that scene fly.

This scene was. My favorite scene when I read the script. And obviously this guy wrote the scripts so why don’t you ask him.

Oh, I thought you were going to answer the question. No, it was. As a fan just again like similar to your experience you go to the movie theaters and you want to see some of these scenes where it’s like you know what’d be cool Drago and rocky like actually hashing out like what’s been going on for the past 30 years. So when I got the script sly had written the first draft of the script and when I got it that scene wasn’t in there and I was like Sly man you guys need to have like a conversation like and first of all he didn’t speak in Rocky 4 so you had two lines. It was break you.

There was I must break you.

If he dies he dies.

Yeah if he dies he dies.

That’s it. Maybe like three other lines.

It was a lot to memorize.

And so beyond that I really wanted to know who Drago was you know besides a killing machine and it felt like a perfect opportunity to blend in as sort of like you know two legends sitting down hashing out after 30 years but yet also giving his characters some dimension you know so it’s like it’s more than just a revenge story. It was stuff he’s holding on to from the past that you know you can see in his eyes. I think one thing we play with throughout I don’t know how many of you guys seen the film I always hate spoiling a film for people. But I’m a have to spoil the film for you. I’m sorry desperation. You know what I mean it was much more than just like alright I’m gonna like hurt you and try to hurt you the best way I can. But more so I have no other route. Like if I’m going to get my name back and have that kind of you know status again you’re the only thing that’s standing in my way you know. And so just to have that kind of scene that was just between these two intimate. No one else there at a table.

Yeah yeah, I remember there wasn’t that much blocking even so it was all them as actors.

Inspiration from like. I’m scared to say it but like Heat you know with De Nero and Al Pacino.

You know the funny thing is though I realized when I talk to my kids they’re like teenagers you know Robert De Niro Al Pacino in a weird way to some people we become them you know because they grew up with us. A lot of people in the action business. And then you know when you’re doing a simple scene when you boil it down to sitting across the table looking each other in the eye then it becomes very personal and very strong on film. Because there’s no there’s no activity there’s nothing to do. It’s just right there. And I think that’s what was brilliant about this scene which was as was the one in Heat as well.

But you guys are always like obviously in the pit fighting you know what I mean you guys are like action stars you know so for me it was like oh let’s see the depth behind Drago. You know see where we can take him.

They did leave one of Drago’s most important lines out from Rocky 4 which was you know he says in Russian. I fight for me for me, and yells at the crowd. Everything else though I think they pretty much nailed. He did not speak much in rocky four at all.

They were trying to go deeper in the relationship than the last time we saw Drago and Rocky that conversation in the restaurant is exactly what the audience needed to fully understand. After 30 years and it’s one of those things that when the acting works as a director stay out of the way.

And I think that’s one of those lessons sometimes directors especially younger directors newer directors they’re kind of like no I have to do this I have to do that. And to Steven Caple Jr’s credit like he understood. Like let the Titans Go. Let them do their thing. And you watch the scene it’s so simple.


Just them sitting I mean they’re sitting and I think Steven Caple Jr’s approach shows his film school indie film roots and it’s why he was able to balance this franchise and made it work despite all this added pressure because he knew to focus on story to focus on the thing he already knew how to do as a storyteller.

And just stay grounded.

Yeah everything is the same when you’re like just dealing with characters and actors you know what I mean. We didn’t have much CGI. We had visual effects for the boxing. So like I’m there I’m intimate they have me there on a one on one this will never change like how I’m talking to him is how to talk on a short film a commercial music video or whatever. So that don’t big film small film. That’s really what these Rocky films are about. You know what I mean are the characters so that didn’t change so that took away a lot of the anxiety I guess so to speak and then a lot of these guys besides him and Flo Rocky has been rocky for 40 plus years and then Mike’s been creed already Tessa’s been Bianca Phylicia Rashad’s been mom already so everyone already been these guy he’s been Drago but he’s come back as new a different Drago. So this was like this conversation was just a little slightly different it was more dialogue between us. Whereas like Sly you know I can just give him a note he’ll rock with it move it make it a rocky because he improvs a lot. That’s the only way that Rocky kind of comes out so he’ll have his moments where it’s Rocky-esque and it work. He has moments where it doesn’t when I would just get rid of that one but like he knows that character and has been pretty much the same throughout the years whereas Drago we’re like we’re going in deeper. He’s not just I’m just gonna break you. And so that took a little bit more care I guess you know TLC and we really wanted to make sure we didn’t step too much into rocky 4 so that dialogue becomes a little different. But beyond that the bases the fundamentals of filmmaking are still the same. You just have more money is a bigger stage bigger set pieces. And to be honest with you that’s just hiring the right people. Everyone who knows how to do it. You know you have you’re here for your craft. We’re just telling the story making sure people feel for the characters take them on a journey. It is not your job to sit there by a computer and figure out how to drop you know 30,000 people behind in the green screen that’s you have a team that’s there getting paid for and that’s their specialty they rock with that you just tell them your vision and communicate that and you’re good. Basically, the fundamentals are communicating everything I’ve been saying about talking to people if you can lock that down as a director. One Million Dollar fifty million dollar that’s just. And honestly, it’s not even I just spilled out the budget my bad but cut cut take two. No but no matter what size or project it’s still the same. You know what I mean I think it’s just again it’s you’re not even looking at that when you’re on set sometimes and most of that goes away anyway. You talk about anything from taxes paying the crew and all that so you’re not really working with that amount of money. You know Dolph is like you cost so much money.

Creed 3. Creed 3.

Creed 3. He cost me so much money. But yeah you’re not really working with that. You’re still you still feel like there’s not there’s never gonna be enough time there’s never gonna be enough money. So you still feel like you’re you’re in that same place you were before. I guess.

I’ve heard that even you know Steven Spielberg basically gets a green light on anything he wants to do and has all the money and time yet. You know even Spielberg probably would like another dollar another day. That’s common for all directors no matter how big a project is you do want more but you make do with what you have.

And Steven Caple wasn’t the only one doing indie films and then going to such a big blockbuster. I mean Dolph Lundgren. He was you know in the 80s and 90s. He was doing bigger films but most recently he’s been doing a lot of independent films.

Yeah. This winter it was like the big comeback of Dolph Lundgren. You know I mean he has some great indie films like don’t kill it but yeah he hadn’t done a studio film except for The Expendables in a long time and suddenly this winter there’s Creed 2 and there’s Aquaman.


And this guy’s been so many like big films over the past just year although he joked that the reason he did those big films might be a little different than what you’d expect.

Everybody has to work. You know a couple of divorces and a few other things kids in school. Part of that is you know paying a few bills and stuff too but.

That’s not the answer they’re looking for Dolph.

I’m being honest. But like like Steven said you know a small movie like don’t kill it for instance was an interesting little picture I did Mike Mendez is this horror movie director really talented guy I play a character who talks all the time like the whole movie you know was all like all I do is run my mouth all the time which is obviously different than I do in some of these big movies so you know that was an opportunity for me to have fun with something that would be quite difficult to do in a big studio picture. Because usually studio pictures you know got 30 minutes to set up the story 25 30 minutes and then you got execution at the end you know two acts of action usually Creed 2 is very different because it’s more of a drama and they’re quite few and far in between now. In Hollywood, it’s mostly big extravaganzas with a lot of CGI like like Aquaman for instance. So smaller movies can be great for as an actor you can have more fun there’s not as much pressure you can try things you know yeah you can try things when you’re looking at Sly Stallone across the table too you can be inventive but it’s you know the stakes are higher. But if you’re in a small movie you can try a lot of stuff that maybe you couldn’t do in the big picture you know I’ve also been very lucky this last year also because some of it is your energy as a performer as a human being. You know it changes a lot and the kind of career follows that energy what goes out to the universe you put something out it comes back to you. And in my case this year or last year I was very lucky I worked with Steven Caple here you know is a great director I worked with James Wan on Aquaman is a great director. And you know so it was great for me to be able to use some of the skills I picked up in those smaller movies over the years and use it in a big film. You know that’s the good thing about acting is that as a director you know it’s your baby and it’s your project so you have to you know you’re responsible you’re accountable for the whole picture whereas as an actor you can always blame it on the director or at least the critics can blame it on the director. So you can you’re off the hook a little bit. So if you do a small movie to try something to play a character you would never play otherwise. Like for instance this horror movie I would never have done that. I mean nobody would probably cast me I would never have done it in a big movie it probably wouldn’t happen. So I get that opportunity. So that’s kind of how I look at it.

As an actor you can always blame the director. Great quote Can I use that on set.

And I don’t think a director gets to say well I can always blame the actor. It seems like that’s a one-way street.


And these films like Rocky I mean if you ignore Rocky 3 and 4 you actually have a series of movies that are really dramas more than action films. And recently a number of these movies that deal with fighting as a theme they’re like dramas you know southpaw with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Warrior with Tom Hardy.

And of course the wrestler.


With Mickey Rourke. I mean these are movies that are really just dramas and the fighting is like an extension of character as opposed to just being now here’s an action scene but rather no here’s a character who needs to express something.

And punch somebody.

And punch someone.

I’ll give a little bit to Steven too but I think that I hope that guys like him will direct more of these movies because then you know boxing and we’ll say MMA as well. It’s a great way to. Put action into a film without running around with guns shooting people. That’s why I love the Rocky movies there are no guns there’s no gunplay there’s no explosions. It’s it’s about real people and it’s about fighting. So there’s some mobility to the whole thing. I think that’s why those movies will always be up there and they’ll always last and you can get an Academy award. Working on a boxing movie it’s very hard to get that you know to do an action movie but you know you get you get the box office and you can get the performances in there too. And I think that’s really unique. I mean what do you think.

No I think it is tough man because warrior the movie warrior is like one of my favorite movies in general yeah it’s crazy good if you haven’t seen it not even just the fighting just the characters and that’s what all this stuff is about when you telling like a boxing or fighting film is that story outside the ring or octagon. Right. So I think it’s kind of tough because now you have to find new angles to tell the story. You know which should be interesting we go to Creed three Creed four. You know I have an idea which I feel like hasn’t been touched ever so I think that’s a dope way I won’t say it right now. But beyond that one idea I don’t know how many other ways you can tell like a full on boxing film you know I know for a fact that there’s some TV stuff in the works not with this particular but I’ve been pitched and all that stuff like to trying to make shows that are centered around it. So I think it’ll always live on the contender came back with Andre Ward in it you know what I mean you can’t escape that sport even though some call it a dying sport. You know what I mean so far as viewers and spectators go but so far as actual fighters. It will never be. You know what I mean so as long as those people still exist I feel like it’s going to continue on but it’s all about right now I think if it’s going to be selling on this level. I don’t know how many more rocky creed I don’t think there’s ever being anything this long in general as far as a Rocky franchise that’s based off of this fighting thing karate kid maybe in a sense. I’m just thinking about fighting you know in general like what has that longevity that lasts this long you know that doesn’t deal with like cars or dinosaurs or aliens you know what I mean it’s just like straight up just two people hand-to-hand combat that’s it you know what I mean.

And also the same people cause like in the Bond movies as soon as Bond the actor gets a little too old they pick a new guy.

They pick a new James Bond.

But here they’re all like you know Ivan Drago’s still Ivan Drago.

No yeah no it’s crazy.

So we’re up to Rocky number eight. And I mean I don’t know about you. I’m in the mood for like another 10. I think they could pull it off. We’ve had a lot of boxing movies.

There’s a lot of boxing movies.

Great ones.

Yeah. Raging Bull.

Million Dollar Baby.

The Fighter.

Cinderella Man. I mean. It is a long list. And that’s the challenge then for a director coming to creed two is trying to direct not only the eighth Rocky movie but a boxing movie we haven’t seen a million times over.

And that we care about.

And that we care about and feel like oh yeah this one we haven’t seen. That was Steven Caple’s challenge.

Every Rocky film is slightly different. You know like Sly himself likes to stay outside the ring for most of the fights. It’s easier that way with shooting. Ryan did the iconic oner in the middle of his creed and then at the end he stayed on the outside very similar to Sly except for hopping in for the big knockout phantom shot where he like tilts off. For me I wanted to stay inside majority of all the fights only because of the story and tension between the two guys the size difference which is crazy because even in rocky 4 a lot of the camera work was outside the ring and you’re like huge you know compared to him and I was like going inside gives you a dynamic feel where you feel like you’re in his perspective. And so that perspective stuff is what I really wanted to capture so I did it with sound and I did it with camera work sometimes the choreography told it you know I had a great camera op Michael Heathcote he worked with Mike actually before Michael B Jordan and so he also knew some of his movements so it was perfect. You know so when we were in a scene and you know Mike is like Jab Jab slipped to the right come back boom boom. He would do that with the camera and we started creating this oner flow which is like we started to follow the punches and not even the actors which became really cool because it gave a sense of like a comeback moment or whatever so it’s like you would feel like a punch punch and then we’ll follow Drago’s huge swing. Even though Mike is out of frame now then he comes with another one and we come right back in. So that was cool stuff to play with but it puts you all in perspective of the fight and that’s where you know at least from what I’m receiving is audience members are like dodging and weaving and trying to like get into the fight which is cool but it gives it that kind of energy and that’s all this fight was like from the jump. I was like I’m gonna give you mad energy whereas Coogler was like I’m a give you like real life pacing and then hit you with something and then Sly was like I’m gonna give you massive punches in a very he has a crazy arc structure to this fight that we even use in the creed movies because he mastered that.

We have come a long way from Rocky one. John Alvidsen the director thought like you know you guys are athletes you’re actors. You know just just we’ll figure it out and they show up in the first rehearsal and he’s like Yeah we need to train a lot.

Yeah and sounds like Steven Caple was able to find the dance within the fight you know to find the balance of the story within the moves of the fight.

And that extended to even how he approached the entrances for the characters. You know the ring entrances to make sure that also was an extension of story an extension of character rather than just now here’s a two-minute music video.

I didn’t realize how important these entrances were with Rocky movies. You came from underneath the ground in Rocky 4.

James Brown singing.

James Brown singing and came from the top. I like an evil. And then Ryan Ryan did a oner exit and Balboa was huge too cause a shot at an actual fight. And so all those people were real and that energy was crazy. So it was like all this stuff pressure that came with it but I just went back to the story which was he’s taken that first fight not thinking of anybody else but himself a little bit selfish and he taps into Apollo Creed a little bit. You know the other one he came out pretty humble in Creed 1in this one he had to flex a little bit more so he comes out to Jaden Smith icon. We designed this LED panel light show.

Adonis Creed making a grand entrance tonight like his father Creed is ever the showman. And he’s energizing the crowd.

Again you guys are talking about budget. That one we had to scale down I was like how the hell do I impress people with a small or how am I gonna nail because all the fireworks went to his entrance like the last one so all the money kind of went there so I was trying to figure out how to do Creed’s in a really cool way. And it became like LED lights that’s cheap and that became a theme like the lights. And so it all kind of started from there. And then second match I’m like alright. He actually has come out different two ways is he comes out with nobody bare-chested no music kind of Tyson’s style but Drago had did that in the previous fight. So it’s like how do I switch it up. And it was like Tessa. He’s doing it for family. He has a support system and so she wrote a song that was her singing and her writing it the whole nine. That’s her stuff. For that moment and while we kept doing like adjustments because it didn’t feel war ready you know what I mean like I was waiting for something that felt war ready. And then yeah came up with this idea of just follow the light off of a tron and landing on them and they kind of popping out which again is mixture of CGI. And cheap lights almost. But in all fairness I think it works and just supposed to give you that ampness and the fact that they’re coming out together and it’s cool to peep into the theaters and see people clapping at that moment or cheering feeling like they’re ready to go at it because they think you know the Dragos feel like it’s their home turf. But yeah that’s kind of how the idea I came out with from there.

So what would your entrance music be if you were a boxer.

Good question.

I know.

Somewhere over the rainbow.

I got you. Hold me by Fleetwood Mac. It’s soft it’s tender.

There it is.

And it speaks to who I am. You can tell we’re not ferocious boxers and thankfully Stephen Caple did not ask for our opinion for his music selection and those entrances into the ring. I mean that’s a scene that usually in any other boxing movie is kind of forgettable. But in this movie as a director he made sure like it was part of the storytelling spoke to who the characters are.

And some of his most impressive work for this film was just what he did with Drago just the character itself.

Sure. Yeah in the first movie he almost seemed like a cyborg.


And in this one he’s really human. Exactly the kind of thing like Dolph Lundgren now could play so beautifully.

Obviously I’d played the character once before when I played him the first time I was thirty-five years younger and there was not as much internal work but there was some external work a little bit of stuff that I picked up watching movies about Soviet boxers Soviet officer cadets they stand a certain way like with their chin up and there was some posturing things that I used for the first guy very straight and kind of a thing and also the way he fought. So some of that was in my spine and also I had it there already. But in this film it was more of an internal performance. So I had to focus on the guy’s journey what happened to him in 30 years the last 30 years and what happened to me in thirty-five years what happened to Dolph in 35 years. All the stuff I’ve been through all the injuries all the pain I’ve had rejection in the business bad movies things people believe in me a lot of things that I’ve gone through as well personal problems as well. So I try to find some connecting tissue there that I could use for some of these scenes so I didn’t have to try to play it try to. I didn’t have to push it. I could just feel it and kind of internalize it and didn’t have to. Try to show too much what the guy was actually feeling but he has a lot of pain you know and everything comes from pain even his anger hate whatever you see comes from pain and I think that’s why the character becomes interesting. Then, of course, I had 40 lines in Russian and somebody at MGM maybe this guy said oh Dolph’s from Sweden he can speak Russian. Give him another twenty-five lines well Swedish and Russian are like English and Russian. There’s no similarities whatsoever.

I think I did. I thought you did speak Russia This was before I met him.

And now I’m done because now they think I speak fluent Russian because apparently, the scenes were quite good even Russians think they’re good. So next film I want to be done. I want to be done.

I want to tell you this. We’re at MGM and I’m like and we get we delivered a script before he reads it. And like it says like you know all the dialogue’s in Russian like his parts and then somebody asked that question in the room. And I was like yeah he gotta he speaks like like seven languages he definitely speaks Russian and someone goes yeah he is Russian. We’re like no one knew what’s up.

Probably like the head of the studio probably.

Yeah, Dolph’s Russian.

So yeah. Well, this thing is it’s an illusion right. So if you can connect to the guy on an emotional level and if he speaks another language and that is what made me look kind of a bit like I’ve lived in Kiev with not with a pretty bad dentist and you know not too many facials or anything like that also I look a little bit like I haven’t seen the sun for many years so I think the combination of a lot of little things like that. That’s the magic of cinema it adds to the illusion that you really believe the guy you know is Russia. And even for me. You know when I watch the movie it has an impact and it’s it’s pretty strong. It works.

As you could see the character has come a long way in 30 some odd years from. I must break you to this complicated very sad lonely father that we see Drago has become in Creed two and one that is a good reflection you know of the times we’re in now versus what life was like in the 80s.

Yeah and Hollywood’s come a long way too.

This is the fourth film this year directed by an African-American. That has made over a hundred million dollars. And that in some ways you’re like. That. Yes, it is an applause moment.

It is a slow process to be totally honest with you. Where we’re at now. We should have been at years ago. I think it really is a matter of not filmmakers. I met so many talented filmmakers. And I can only imagine someone who’s been in a game for longer than me more that are young that are women that are black that are whatever you know. It’s just a matter of having those people in those seats with power. So far as these studios going to use going out to support these a lot of them are independent films. But there’s so much talent out there it’s ridiculous. And so I’m going to step into producing too as well just cause I feel like they’re all there and I’m like I want to see everyone kind of work. And that’s where this kind of movie comes into play to have someone like Ryan Coogler who was a producer on this myself a director black. You got Mike and Tessa Mike’s a producer. Juel who’s a writer I brought on. He’s black from Alabama to have that kind of camaraderie and like say hey we want to tell this film meant a lot to us. You know that was a big part of me stepping onto it get the call MGM wants you to do the film Dope. Ryan what’s up you know like what’s on like are you involved what’s all the details. Cause you want to make sure that there’s like there’s a movement going on. You know what I mean if no one is aware there’s a strong movement between women and just diverse storytelling. You know I hate the word diverse but it’s diverse storytelling and it’s powerful. But it’s great to have these moments where we can showcase like it doesn’t matter what gender what sex who you with or whatever. You know what I mean it’s just legit we just the power of storytelling and the talent is there and if we can get in these seats and be able to show a unique perspective then great. But I – it’s cool being the fourth this year. I guess but it’s also like damn that’s it. There’s only four. And how many fast and furious were there how many James Bond movies were there how many. Four. It’s a problem. Yeah, we talking about one woman director like you know Wonder Woman. That’s it really. That’s it. So yes it is progressing but at the same time I think it’s a time to reflect and look at these numbers and be like yes this is cool but yeah we have a lot of growth to do or going to do. It’s all about like again like myself being at USC there is this sense of like not even just like the true relationships weren’t my professors it was everyone around me my editor she’s a woman dope she did all my short films she did my feature she did creed two took her with me. You know what I mean like my assistant who turned producer on creed Mexican dude from East L.A. his family straight from Mexico took him with me you know what I mean like we came up together and these are people who believed me these are people who produced my short films my music videos who I just connect with you know what I mean it’s.

It’s your village.

Yeah, you know what I mean and it looks like the world that we see today. So it’s like it’s for me it’s no problem I’ll fight for them when I’m in a room with a studio because I know they’re talented and you will deal with racism or sexism or whatever it is when you’re in these rooms straight up but keep prevailing. You know what I mean like these moments right now where I can sit in front of you talking about numbers like 100 mil. Those are the wins you know what I mean. So keep pushing through. Definitely get your neighbors to the left and right of you and your ride or dies if you’re having trouble as an actor because of your accent go find that community who’s like yo who wants to tell no legit like stories and make yourself the lead of your own movie you know what I mean like do it because no one’s going to believe in it until I see it sometimes, unfortunately, that’s how the world works it’s how the studio system works. So if you show them like this is a powerful short film or whatever it is a feature independent where I’m the lead I produced it look what I’m able to do with my capabilities make them put you in a movie you know what I mean like don’t don’t accept that no and this is coming from a person that heard of many no’s like I’m telling you like I heard so many rejections I’m sure you have too so to be standing here in front of you guys with this dude with this movie under my belt. It’s a huge blessing but at the end of the day those names behind that credit creed two mean way more to me than anything else like I said and that’s me working with Ryan Mike and these guys and having that be like look what we did because I was curious why Spike Lee and John Singleton didn’t produce each other’s stuff I was curious like where was that at. You know what I mean and I think this is that time.

It’s always good to end on such a positive note.

And then he deserves those applause.

Oh yes.

You know it’s funny the original Rocky it’s hard to remember this was like this independent film like Stallone wrote from his heart. He connected with that character heck he put his own dog into that film. It was so personal and they feel like that is what they’ve been able to put back into the storytelling with creeds 1 and 2. That’s what Steven Caple Jr and Dolph Lundgren did together. They made this thing both big and small. You know a Hollywood movie that is also very intimate like the best independent films.

We want to thank Steven Caple Jr and Dolph Lundgren for speaking with all of our students and thanks to all of you for listening. He’s Eric Conner.

That’s Aerial Segard and this episode was based on the Q&A that I got to moderate humungous. Thanks though to Chris Devane who set this entire thing up and brought them to our school to watch the full interview or to see our other Q&As check out our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/NewYorkFilmAcademy.

This episode was written by Eric Conner edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden our creative director is David Andrew Nelson who also produced this episode with Kristian Hayden and Eric Conner.

Executive produced by Jean Sherlock and Dan Mackler. A special thanks to our events department Sajja Johnson and the staff and crew who made this possible.

To learn more about our programs check us out at NYFA.edu. Be sure to subscribe on apple podcasts or you know wherever you listen.

See you next time.

Dolph Lundgren on Ivan Drago

  • Dolph Lundgren
  • Ivan Drago
  • An Overnight Sensation
  • Advice: Get Therapy & Start Mediating
  • Physical Toll of the Industry
  • Being Happy with What You Have
  • Benefits of Challenging Yourself
  • Spending Time Behind the Camera
  • Finding a Connection to the Material
  • Conclusion & Goodbye

Dolph Lundgren

— Who is the most underrated actor of all time? It’s Dolph Lundgren – Correct. Why? – Well because of his spiky hair and his ice-cold demeanor and his big muscles. – Absolutely.

If you don’t want that fu manchu knocked back into the 60s you better keep your gum chewing trap shut and show some respect.

I’m gonna hit you very very hard.

Our only hope of defeating Skelletor is to find the cosmic key.

Are you out of your mind? – No, just out of bullets.–

Eric:  Hi and welcome to the Backlot. I’m Eric Conner senior instructor at New York Film Academy. And this episode we’ve got the man who killed Apollo Creed. Dolph Lundgren. Now if you couldn’t tell already I’m a bit of a geek. The kind of geek that would go to let’s say the new Beverley’s Dolph Lundgren Film Festival which was a glorious 10 hour road trip down 80s memory lane Red Scorpion, Rocky IV, The Punisher, Universal Soldier, Dolph Lundgren’s the rare action star who’s as comfortable throwing a punch as he is a joke. But before he burst on the scene Mr. Lundgren moved to America for his brains and not his brawn.

Dolph Lundgren: I studied chemical engineering and school my dad was an engineer and my older brother’s an engineer I came to America under various scholarships to study engineering and chemistry and I ended up getting a Fulbright scholarship to MIT which is a great school in Boston. I was fighting. I was a karate fighter as well an amateur fighter. So that was my goal to come here graduate from MIT get a business degree and be the president of Exxon you know and something like that. But things didn’t really turn out that way. Then I went back to Sweden studied there for a couple of years did my military service went to Australia on another scholarship in Australia I met this girl this singer Grace Jones who was like a big deal in those days. We kind of fell in love and I came over to hang with her in New York ran into a few characters like Andy Warhol and Michael Jackson a few guys like that and back in the 80s Studio 54 the back room studio. I’ve been there. Interesting for a young Swedish kid and somewhere along the way I decided to start doing modeling to get a visa and then somebody said hey man you know you can do movies you can fight. You know you’re a big guy. So I started studying acting and when I did my first scene I realized wow this is really cool. I like this there’s something here that I haven’t done before because I’d been intellectual and I’d been physical but I’ve never really been emotional.

Eric: After appearing in a few films Mr. Lundgren audition for the role that would change his career. Ivan Drago the seemingly invincible Russian boxer from Rocky IV the problem was he looked a little too invincible.

Ivan Drago

Dolph Lundgren: Within about nine months I was up for a bunch of different movies and some of them were kind of dramatic roles or small roles but more dramatic and then there was this boxing movie that I went up for I didn’t know what it was. And I came up to a woman who sat at the table and she says, “ok, next! How tall are you?” And I say, “6’4” – “too tall! Next!” And I was like, “wait a second!” And I saw the poster Rocky IV, and I thought, “I got to do something about this.” And I took some pictures in boxing gear and sent them to somebody who my acting coach told me he said he knew somebody. He knew Burt Young and Burt Young was going to give the pictures to Sly. Well, nothing happened. Six months later I gave up on the whole thing and I was in Europe. Grace was working on a picture – a Bond movie actually and I was hanging out with her, with Christopher Walken. He was, he was the bad guy and she was the bad girl. So I was a bit jealous because they had like a love scene or something. And anyway – so I got a call from somebody some PA you know, like, “thank god I’ve found you! I’ve been looking for you for months! You know, we couldn’t find you. Because we had this picture!” and turned out that finally, Stallone got the photos. And they flew me out here to California from New York and I hopped in a cab here and LAX.

And I remember driving to Paramount because that’s where Stallone had his offices and I came in there and met Sly Stallone he had long hair very tanned because he was doing one of the Rambo pictures and he was a little shorter than I thought you know I was like “hm, OK.”

But you know he was really nice to me.

He had all these binders like everywhere black binders he’s all, “I got five thousand guys up for this role…” and says, “You gotta put on some weight.” Anyway we took some pictures and and you know I had to audition for it and six months later you know I had the part.

Eric: Mr. Lundgren nailed his audition mostly by doing the exact opposite of everyone else auditioning.

Dolph Lundgren: I was in great shape because I was I was European karate champion a heavyweight champion actually so I was pretty good fighter but I was quite thin. Here and had big legs from all those kicks. And then I had to get in shape for the screen test. They flew me to L.A. here. Some guy in a pickup truck picked me up and I had to audition. You know I was going deliver a monologue that I had practiced in New York. It was yeah they used it in one of the trailers it started –

— My name is Drago I’m a fighter for the Soviet Union. I’m a fighter from the Soviet Union. I fight all my life and I never lose. Soon I fight Rocky Balboa and the world will see his defeat. —

Dolph Lundgren: So I stay at the hotel you know and I was walking to the elevator to go back up. The doors open and there’s a 6 foot 5 blond guy looking at me. Excuse me some big Russian guy right. OK. Then I run into another big blonde guy I was like, “Oh s**t! OK.” Because I realized it wasn’t just me. It was three of us and I came to the studio and the sound stage empty sound stage just dolly tracked like this mark here we get changed into trunks, you know, bare-chested and there is about 50 people behind the camera: Sly, his bodyguards, guys in suits you know, a bunch of onlookers. And everybody’s looking at me and I’m like, “oh s**t here we go this is serious.” So I was last and the other two guys they kind of did a Russian Mr. T, “I’m gonna kill you,” you know. And I decided to play him very cool like it was all internal you know no movements and I’d seen the Soviet cadets they always kept their chin up like this. So I did my screen test and went back to New York and then the next day I got a phone call, “Hey kid you get the part you know.” So that was it man. And then I trained with Stallone for five months so at the end of that year of hard training I was in such good shape like sly said you know, “you’re in such good shape you’ll never be able to get out of shape after this.” And he was he was kind of right you know it was hard work.

Twice a day we did weights for an hour in the morning and then we did boxing for two hours every afternoon six days a week five months. And if I was five minutes late he went nuts and I was driving you know, through L.A. traffic going “f**k!”You know, I was going out with Grace and she would come home at 5:00 in the morning you know with her entourage you know and I had to get up at like 5:15 you know so it was it was a tough time.

Eric: Mr. Lundgren even found inspiration for Drago in the works of Mary Shelley.

Dolph Lundgren: Drago is like kind of the Frankenstein myth created by the system the bad guys Dr. Frankenstein really the monster is just a creation right. So that’s that’s why it sort of resonates I think on that level. And I had this guy who helped me with the Russian accent and everything who was a Russian director. He gave me a lot of suggestions that I took you know because I was quite inexperienced as an actor I didn’t really know about playing second level and all that. But he was Stanislavski trained director so he had me play a lot of second level stuff because he meant that the character is so stoic what’s going on? What are you thinking about? What is Drago worrying about? And some of that comes across quite well on screen that he is feeling bad about what he’s having to do, but he does it anyway and he’s kind of embarrassed about certain situations, but that wasn’t in the script. That was something that I ended up playing. And I think in the editing and Stallone when he cut the picture he saw some of that and he brought it out. So it’s a combination of both. I think.

Eric: When Mr. Lundgren watches himself in Rocky IV he doesn’t see an unstoppable wrecking machine. He’s a young actor that he was completely overwhelmed by the spectacle of it all.

Dolph Lundgren: One of the strongest things was shooting in Vegas. When we did the thing with Apollo Creed you know it was actually a real MGM show and there were the dancers were there and they had the ring come up and that was very interesting to me because when I see the movie the look of shock and confusion in Ivan Drago’s eyes is the look of shock and confusion in my eyes when I was there and when I saw that and there was no acting required you know. And it kind of makes me look at my own self at that age and it’s kind of nostalgic and kind of in a very nice way you know how I was such a kid. I was such a baby you know when I was there.

Eric: Rocky IV came out in the middle of the Cold War and became the biggest hit of the franchise. Nobody was more surprised by the film success than Dolph Lundgren himself.

Dolph Lundgren: You know what was strange. There’s something called ADR you know you redo your dialogue because some of the lines aren’t clear or something. So I went in there and I expected to see some of the movie because I hadn’t seen anything. I mean there were no monitors in those days none of that. So I went in there and it was like a s**tty black and white copy and I saw some scenes and I was wow this is it. This is what I work my ass off for a year. Didn’t look very impressive. So I went home I was a little depressed you know then I went into the premiere I was with Grace and there was a marching bands and the whole thing you know and people were trying to get me out of the way to take pictures of her you know. “Could you please step out of the way ?”You know you’re in the way of my camera and then I went in there and I sat down and the screen came up and those boxing gloves. And then I sat there like this for an hour and a half lights came up everybody was applauding and everybody’s looking at me because I guess I was a new guy you know and they knew sly already and then it came out. Like you said and people are taking pictures of me instead of Grace. And it was a weird it took me years I mean at least a year to get over it that first initial kind of shock. But it was an interesting period for sure.

Eric: In one week Mr. Lundgren went from being Grace Jones’s boyfriend to a full-blown movie star but becoming an overnight sensation also had a downside.

An Overnight Sensation

Dolph Lundgren: You know I wish in one way OK I can’t go back and change history and I got famous overnight for something I didn’t exactly really know what I was getting into. And I wish that I would have had broader education and been little more aware of the business and the various opportunities and the various positions and perhaps you know things that took me 20 years to accomplish or longer. I could have done maybe a couple of years if I had that education and the understanding because once you become. Valuable in the industry like once you’re box office and to stay put asses on seats. Right. If you could do that then the audience if you play priest you’re going to play another twenty-five priests you know in the next 25 movies. Or that’s what they want you to do. But maybe when you have a broader education like some guys after a couple of movies some actors they direct something or produce it and they do their own thing you know that I wish I would’ve had that opportunity.

Eric: And when asked what advice he’d give his younger self to weather the storm of celebrity. His answer was rather simple.

Advice: Get Therapy & Start Mediating

Dolph Lundgren: I would say get some therapy. Get therapy start meditating.

Make sure you have the best advisers. Make sure that you have a lot of inner calm and that you’re very secure in your self.

So you can have some resistance to that crazy world out there.

And I had some of that from martial arts but you know I got pulled along in many crazy directions because I didn’t I didn’t really have people to support me to speak to. You know I only had one or two people but I never had that really somebody to bounce things off like that. You know I started therapy by the way about four or five years ago. And now we say, “well acting is like therapy I don’t need any that’s bulls**t and I don’t need that.” But I realized therapy is great you know Marlon Brando started it you know back in the 50s you know because as an actor you have a lot of usually some emotional complexity and things but then in the business there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of times you beat yourself up over things that you really shouldn’t beat yourself up over that’s completely natural and by talking to somebody you know who knows you and who can give you good advice and you can bounce things off them it’s really valuable. It’s been great for me you know. So I think that and meditation I started doing that as well about four-five years ago has also been great to keep some kind of time during the day just for yourself when it’s all about you. And it’s not about doing things it’s about being and in a crazy world you know that that’s a really valuable moment I think for anybody and that goes back to you in your acting as where.

You know when you’re facing the camera you don’t necessarily have to do so much all the time because you have the courage to be in just, just breathe and just look the other person in the eye and just be yourself you know.

Eric: When you watch Mr. Lundgren’s films you can see his years of martial arts training. However over 50 films later it has definitely taken a toll on his body.

Physical Toll of the Industry

Dolph Lundgren: It’s hard to do martial arts when you’re a big person because you have a lot of torque you know and you’re I mean I’m very supple anyway from it’s just natural but I’ve had some injuries lately that I have to do less training and as a matter of fact I’m having some stem cell injections now I’ve done you know 40 years of karate so and you know a lot of the crazy stuff in the movies no warm up three in the morning stretch stretch and then you know do something crazy well I don’t do that anymore but I think you have to be careful if you want to be in martial arts in the movies to take care of your body and not to get worn out. Jet Lee he has a lot of damage worse than me a lot of those guys you know they get a lot of injuries you know and I think the best thing is to do strength training and stretching and really be careful to you know do some any crazy kicks and stuff unless you warmed up you know because I did a lot of the crazy stuff and I am paying for it now a little bit so you know hopefully I’ll get through these stem cell injections and everything and I’ll be back in Expendables 4 I hope next year maybe 2018.

Eric: One of Mr. Lundgren’s more recent endeavors was the Expendables franchise a veritable who’s who of our favorite action stars Stallone Schwarzenegger Willis Statham Van Damme even Harrison Ford showed up in the third one. Yet despite all the wattage of star power Mr. Lundgren explained that the egos were checked at the door.

Being Happy with What You Have

Dolph Lundgren: Well there is a little bit of that in the air. When you show up I mean you can’t help it these guys are athletes and a lot of them have their own franchises their own movies you know on The Expendables 2 I remember. I came with a few friends and then I’m in there. They’re putting all the gear on you and then you know Chuck Norris comes in and then you know Van Damme shows up and Jet Lee is over in the corner and Jason Statham. Wait a second, Stallone, Arnold, Bruce Willis was in that scene too. Yeah, it’s a bit surreal but I think what happens is the real athletes in there like I guess I count myself as such. To some extent and you know like Randy Couture and Terry Crews and Van Damme too. I think they’re not as competitive as maybe some of the other guys because to them the real competition is when it’s real and you getting your ass kicked for real that’s just bad. That’s painful. You know this is just a movie. You know there’s a little bit of competition but I think the bottom line is we’re all in the same picture and we want it to be a good movie. So you’re going to help if anybody asked me to help them. You know I’m not jealous of Van Damme or Stallone or any.

I know that there’s always somebody who’s bigger than you richer than you. Better actor than you got a better looking girlfriend than. You know they got bigger biceps. You know there’s. You know you just got to be happy for what you got you know. And that you’re in the movie.

Eric: As fun as it is seeing all these titans in one film. One of them almost didn’t make it out in one piece.

Dolph Lundgren: Yeah I had a few crazy experiences. I mean. There’s been a few lately on Expendables 3 there was some near misses. I mean there is a truck that we were supposed to all be on and we were practicing early in the morning Jason Statham’s driving and you know there’s some cameras set up he’s just doing like a little test run. And for some reason the brakes aren’t working so here’s the water we’re in the port and he comes driving and the truck doesn’t stop it just keeps going and takes out the cameras and he goes in the water and he disappears with the truck you know. So we’re all there going. What the hell is Jason in there and then someone’s like f**k send in the divers. But the guy was a diver you know so he pulled himself out. But you know I’ve been in a similar situation where I was in Masters of the universe. This is back in the 80s where things weren’t quite as you know organized as now late night shoot and I had to jump out of a window through the candy glass with my sword and then onto this on the set there’s just like a platform. And I get up there and I decide to do it I’m going to do it myself. And as I’m jumping you know I look and there’s no there’s just concrete and you know Time Stands Still it’s a short jump from here to there but for a moment I’m like oh s**t this is it I managed to somehow make it. If that was now you know a lot of people have done in serious trouble. But it was just ok he survived.

That’s good. That’s what happened.

Eric: Mr. Lundgren’s work in 2015. Indie horror film don’t kill it shows that even after decades in the industry he is still challenging himself.

Benefits of Challenging Yourself

Dolph Lundgren: I’ve done a few. You know I did do a little movie lately about two years ago called Don’t kill it just a little horror movie and this guy Mike Mendez who’s like weird far out director and it’s very bloody you know. But when I read the script it started out with this five page monologue you know and I was like OK how do I cut this down. But then immediately I realized no wait a second this is a great monologue. And I got to do this you know and I had to work on it. And because the film was postponed twice I really knew everything quite well. I knew all my speeches and all of that that was a very challenging role for me because I’m not used to doing that. But it was also I got some good reviews and it was really a bit of a breakthrough for me as an actor. And it was just recently actually it’s tough you know. I mean I think you go for those independent movies you know and that was just luck of the draw. That I found that role I had about 10 years or so after that rocky picture where I just I did a couple of movies where I really worked hard and then I did a bunch of movies were kind of didn’t care so much because I was having fun you know I was the young man you know and I was getting famous and you know I wasn’t married and had a lot of you know kind of late nights and things like that.

And you know I went astray you know I went I mean I always worked hard but I didn’t really focus on oh let me let me do this and then we get my career over here. But lately I’ve done a little more of that. And the thing is it doesn’t take much for people to see it. And then they realize oh he can do this. OK great then we can give him that. And you know happens quickly. The business responds quickly to to anything that you do as an artist which is cool.

Eric: He’s also spending more time behind the camera as a director and he’s welcoming the extra responsibility that comes with the role.

Spending Time Behind the Camera

Dolph Lundgren: Directing is more fun to me in one way kind of more challenging. Acting is playing playing and being childish childlike whereas directing you are a little more responsible. Now I’ve done the acting stuff a lot. So for me directing is is more of a challenge in one way especially now when I have a lot of experience and what I’ve realized as a director a lot of my experience can be to calm people down you know and like the producers you know like the actors hey guys you know don’t worry. Don’t worry it’ll be fine. Just have fun you know like that kind of kind of a calming influence instead of running around then you know. Once you have a good script and you cast the right people you don’t need to do that much. You don’t need to try to push people around too much it’s just it’s there already in the story and they just need to speak the line you know and to have fun with it. It’s an entertaining kind of a job and you know you’re supposed to have fun being an actor and being a director and you’re supposed to be laughing and goofing off a little bit too.

Stallone has a lot of fun and a lot of the Expendables guys like Arnold you know he’s makes jokes all the time with the cigar you know it’s all everything is you know the people love the guy. So you know you will crash the chopper you know don’t let them fly it you know.

Eric: Mr. Lundgren stressed that even after three decades as a performer it is crucial to find your own connection to the material.

Finding a Connection to the Material

Dolph Lundgren: I think the challenge is that you want to make it fresh for yourself all the time like you have to find something fresh in the material for you to be excited about what you’re going to do about the role. I mean I always try to find something if it’s a secret of mine or something I don’t tell anybody I don’t tell the director I don’t tell anybody you know some secret about the character and the way I approach it. Something maybe in the character’s backstory or something in the mannerisms or the way he talks or whatever. You know something that makes you want to come to the set every day and that is challenging because it takes a little bit of work to figure that out. And usually I sit with a script and I sit with the lines and I try this and I try that and I try to. Think of it and. Sometimes I’m watching another movie or I see some program about nature and I see a lion or something.

Wow that’s kind of interesting maybe I’ll use that. So that’s how I look at it. That is the challenge to make it fresh and fun for yourself.

Eric: Before he left Mr. Lundgren was kind enough to share a potential spoiler about the fate of Ivan Drago.

Dolph Lundgren: You know I said I’ve said many times I would not play Ivan Drago again because I thought you know the reason he’s such an icon in one way is because he’s only you can only see him up here you know but then.

Well I can tell you anyway because it’s probably gonna you know be public but anyway Stallone contacted me about six months ago and asked me you know what do you think what about playing Ivan Drago again. You know I got this idea you know. You know basically, he’s thinking of Ivan Drago coaching his young Russian son who’s a fighter. So then I would play a trainer like Sly did in Creed but sly would train the African-American kid and I would train the Russian kid you see. So I don’t know if it will happen but if it does you know you know you heard it here first.

Conclusion & Goodbye

Eric: The return of Ivan Drago. Sign me up. Thanks to Mr. Lundgren for sharing his stories with our students and thanks to all of you for listening. This episode was written by me Eric Conner based on the Q&A moderated by Chris Devane. The episode was edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden produced by David Andrew Nelson Kristian Hayden and myself executive produced by Jean Sherlock. Dan Mackler and Tova Laiter a special thanks to Chris Devane Aerial Segard Sajja Johnson and the staff and crew who made this possible. To learn more about our programs check us out at NYFA.edu. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review on Apple podcasts. See you next time.