Interview: Dolph Lundgren Talks "The Expendables"
Thu, 12 Aug 2010 08:16:24
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In The Expendables, Dolph Lundgren constructs a rather enigmatic character in Gunner Jensen.
Gunner's part of the titular unit of mercenaries, but he's got a dark side that Dolph thinly veils very artfully. In fact, Dolph adds depth to the film with a performance that's both nuanced and throat-ripping all at once. Make no mistake about it, you don't want to mess with this sniper, but he's also on an interesting path that weaves through all the bloodshed, bodies and bullets very nicely.
In order to get close to one of The Expendables toughest characters, ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino sat down with Dolph Lundgren for an exclusive interview about Gunner Jensen, squaring off with Sylvester Stallone for old time's sake, weaponry, cranking Led Zeppelin on the plane and some favorite memories of Rocky IV.
What resonated with you about Gunner?
In the original script, the character was more complex. The whole movie's been essentially compressed by about 40 percent because Sly just wanted to take all the fat out. I did like the fact that Gunner was complex. He's a friend of Stallone's, and then they become enemies. You can play an emotion with a character like that; you don't have to worry about trying to be tough. He's right there on the page.
That makes Gunner more human.
It does make him more human. I think a lot of people don't know me. They've seen me in Rocky IV and maybe playing a few other evil bad guys and in some smaller movies. On the big screen, people haven't seen me for awhile. It's fun to come out with something a little bit unusual when you first come back.
Gunner's also got this dark past that you hint at perfectly.
Thanks, man! In the original script, he was crazier. I think Sly wants to save some things for if we ever do another one. We'll have a few more surprises; Gunner will do more crazy shit [Laughs].
There's definitely a rhythm in your performances. Do you ever listen to music to get into character?
Sometimes I do! In this case, it was a combination of the preparation and the fact that Stallone wanted a certain rhythm. He's into that a lot actually. I think he has a lot of rhythm in the way that he likes to direct. It's funny you should say that. I never thought of it, but you caught it.
Who do you typically listen to?
Right now, I'm actually listening to Ian Dury. He's an English artist from the '70s who had a funky, punky style. Ian Dury and The Blockheads have a very frickin' cool sound. Nobody's heard it for awhile. It reminds me of Roxy Music or one of those bands, but it's very modern. I can't believe the music's 35-years-old when I listen to it. When I go on airplanes, that's when I listen to music a lot. When you're going to Europe, you're up there for eleven hours. I end up going through music that I missed because everything goes so fast. Sometimes, it's modern stuff like Alicia Keys. At first I was like, "My wife listens to her. That's girls stuff!" [Laughs] Then I listened to it, and it was pretty good! Led Zeppelin was kind of before my time, but I'll listen to one of their albums on the plane and think, "Shit, this is really good!" While I'm flying, I get to catch up on everything actually—sleep and music [Laughs].
What would be on Gunner's iPod?
Oh man, some kind of a crazy Viking hymn! [Laughs] He'd be singing it himself with a bottle of vodka and a big knife!
Did you have any rifle training to become a sniper?
I've had plenty in my other movies! In this, Gunner's a sniper, but Sly brought me this huge knife and said, "Hey Dolph, what do you think of this?" I just said, "Shit, man, that's a sword!" He goes, "That's your new knife." Thanks…It comes down to my knee [Laughs]. I pulled it on Jet once [Laughs]. Even though the one we used on the other actors wasn't sharp, you've got me in character with blood dripping down with this knife to his head. You can see Jet saying, "Uh oh, I'm dead!"
You must have amassed a pretty substantial collection of weapons from all of these films.
I've got a few, yeah…The He-Man sword is the biggest. It's about six-feet long, and it's very heavy. I could handle it in those days [Laughs].
Was it like you and Stallone were picking up where you left off?
I think so. It's a little bit different because I was a kid last time, and I was basically obeying orders. Now, I have more experience. Plus, he has a lot more too. He listened to my suggestions a little bit more about the character and such. He's still my director though. Really, we want to help him out. We're still friendly. I suppose I was the guy on the set he's known the longest apart from maybe Arnold.
You guys go toe-to-toe again too.
It's cool! The first thing we shot was the scene where I square off with him. The crew hadn't seen me. I come as Gunner Jensen kind of nuts. I've got dark circles, and I'm a little edgy. They're all saying, "Fuck, what's wrong with this guy?" I square off with Stallone. We didn't have time to rehearse; we're just right there and suddenly they're rolling film. I'm supposed to give him this pendant back so I get the impulse when I'm acting and I push him with it. He staggers back and I can hear everybody go, "Oh, fuck" behind the monitor [Laughs]. He goes, "That was pretty good, Dolph. Push me harder next time."
Is there an inspirational quality to these action films?
I think there is. There's a quality in the old school action movies that's hard to get in a superhero picture because you don't really believe what you see. You've got beautiful stunts. Part of you believes it because it's very quick and well-cut. There's also some young cool good actor playing the lead in a superhero movie, but it doesn't have that solid soul and body you get from an old school action movie where you really believe the guy's doing it for real. That's the inspiration that this movie might give to kids and other viewers too.
Gunner's a flawed character. He's easier to identify with than the spiffy superheroes.
I agree. I think Stallone is very good at doing that. Hopefully, this could start a new trend. We'll see. Maybe there will be some more damaged characters. It would be great to do that with all of these anti-heroes. In the '50s, you had the squeaky clean hero and then during the '60s you started getting the anti-hero. Eastwood came along. In the '70s, he was like the bad guy but he was a little bit better than the really bad guys so he became hero. It was really cool.
Do you have a favorite memory from Rocky IV?
It really brings a lot of things back. It was my first film. I was a kid from Sweden. I hadn't seen a film camera before. The last fight in Rocky IV was the first thing we shot because Sly loves to do that. He does the big fights first. He knows that you're fresh. At the end of the movie, you're a mess. You can't walk; you can't do anything. You might as well do dialog at the end. The first couple of days shooting that picture, Ivan Drago comes in and enters the arena. It was like me entering the film business and squaring off with Stallone. It was very cool. Those scenes were very special. It was shot in Vancouver with 5,000 extras dressed as Russians [Laughs]. You come into that stadium, and you're like, "Whoa, welcome to show business."
Now you're in the jungle blowing people away with Stallone.
You're right! It's equally exciting. Stallone is a special guy. Some people might think these ideas that he comes up with are crazy, but the audience responds to them. Hopefully, this will do really well.
The sense of humor is important.
That's what Arnold had when he did Predator. With another actor, it would've been a less entertaining picture. He knew people couldn't help but laugh at the one-liners no matter how scary it is. Some of it was shot in hard conditions in New Orleans when it's 120 degrees. Everybody's tired. It's like you're brain is not really functioning. You're like, "Okay, what do you want me to say here?" Other times, you're fresher and you're laughing.
You get live out all of these childhood dreams in flicks like this. What kid hasn't wanted to run around with a giant gun?
You're right! There are a lot of hard things about it like the discipline and so forth. On the whole, it is a dream come true. To be able to run around getting paid to play soldier with a bunch of other big guys and have fun is great. Nobody should complain for sure.
Will you be seeing The Expendables when it hits theaters Friday August 13, 2010?
Check out our Expendables interviews with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin here and Terry Crews here!
Also check out Corey Taylor of Stone Sour and Slipknot on The Expendables here!