I’VE always had a soft spot for Dolph Lundgren. He now has official “tenure” as an ageing action star in The Expendables series, but there was a time where he did hard time in all the straight-to-video action movies at the local video store.
Whenever I’d enter I’d always see his forlorn face on the covers of some incomprehensible shoot-’em-up, adopting a grim look of determination as he girded himself to see through 90 minutes of pure pap.
He was like the Rambo of the rental market – no matter how many flops he made, he just got back up on his feet for another drubbing. He was like Rocky, only Swedish. And blond. He was busy conquering Hollywood in reverse.
Until, of course, he hit the big time with The Expendables.
If I ever interviewed him, I always imagined it would go something like this …
“Welcome Dolph. Glad you could make it.”
Dolph (wearing a black tux): “Huurr … urgh.” (He always talks like he has a ball gag in his mouth. Is that because I think he talks like Sylvester Stallone in real life – or I just don’t want to hear what he has to say in case it shatters my opinion of him?)
“So what’s the piece of guff I see in the video store shelves today, Dolph? Ambushed? Imdb.com gave it 3.8 stars out of 10. Ouch.
“And Loaded mag says ‘it stars the dream team of action stars’. But Vinnie Jones and Randy Couture aren’t exactly the dream team of action stars, are they?”
“Hope you don’t mind me saying that. I know you can snap me in half like a chicken wing.”
“I remember the days when you were a leading man in such classics as Rocky V. Your Ivan Drago was great. [Adopts Russian accent] ‘I must break you.” Awesome.”
“And you played He-Man in Masters of the Universe. I must say, you were great as that scantily clad sword-wielding blond maniac. (Shouts) ‘I have the powerrrr!’”
(Lundgren looks visibly uncomfortable at the screaming.) “Hunnh!”
“And Skeletor … he was a dick.”
“Still, I’m starting to see a trend in your movies: brainless beefcake who saves the day. Do you think you’re being typecast?”
“Huhh … huhhhh!”
“You’re not really getting the challenging roles, are you? No one is casting you in Shakespeare. If you were in any high-art film they’d have to dub your voice like they did Andie MacDowell in Greystoke.”
“Was that ‘rrrr’ or ‘argghh’?”
“Thought so. Just didn’t want to transcribe it wrong. I think people have cruelly underestimated you, Dolph. May I call you Dolph?”
“Dolph it is. But yes, you are capable of so much more. For example, how many people realise that you have a master’s in chemical engineering from Sydney Uni?”
“Or that you were awarded a Fullbright Scholarship. People would look at you in a different way. Not many folks have been punched in the face by a Fullbright Scholar.”
“There must be days when you wish that you stayed in chemical engineering. Then perhaps people would respect you more.”
(Bows head forlornly) “Brrrggg.”
“Instead you’re the poster boy of straight-to-video guff. Sorry to point that out. You know I’m a big fan. (Pause) Hmmm … I’m just thinking, I’ve asked you some very personal questions here. I don’t think it would be remiss of you to punch me in the nose for my impertinence.”
“I thank you for your restraint. Just for the record – I loved you in The Punisher. I think your treatment of vigilante Frank Castle will remain the seminal Punisher.”
“Huuy … gargh!”
“Funny how the Yanks always want to cast you as Russian, though, even though you’re Swedish. Not that the Americans would know much different. Half of them confuse Australia with Austria.”
“Mmm, mmm! Mmmm, mmm!”
“Are you talking back to me, Dolph? Because I will slap you! I will slap you silly!”
“Good. Good. Just don’t give up, Dolph. We’re all relying on you to keep making those movies. If you stop, then that will mean some essential part of Western masculinity has died. The day you can’t walk into a video store and see your mug or Steven Seagal’s on the cover of a B-grade action flick … well, I never want to see that day.”
My military thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.