Q&A: Dolph Lundgren Talks Creature Hunting in “LEGENDARY”
Swedish action superstar Dolph Lundgren stalks inhuman prey in LEGENDARY, out on DVD and VOD today. The actor/martial artist spoke with FANGORIA about the creature feature, as well as the current state of fight choreography and contemporary MMA stars.
In LEGENDARY, directed by Eric Styles and a.k.a. LEGENDARY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON, Lundgren plays a big game hunter named Harker, who’s tracking a mysterious and dangerous cryptid in China. His pursuit puts him at odds with a cryptozoogist played by Scott Adkins, who wants to save this strange species.
FANGORIA: Have you ever been hunting yourself?
DOLPH LUNDGREN: I’ve done a bit of hunting, mostly in Sweden. I’m not a huge hunter. I don’t get a kick out of killing animals, really. I’ve done a few things when I was a bit younger, but I can relate to it, you know?
FANG: I did it for the first time this past September, and enjoyed it.
LUNDGREN: A lot of people don’t understand that a lot of it is control, actually. In Sweden, for instance, a lot of the elk population, if you don’t decimate it every year, they starve to death in the winter anyway. It used to be that wolves would take them, but now there are not a lot of wolves left. It’s nature’s balance; its an upkeep sort of thing. Most people are against it. They don’t understand. They think of it just as killing.
FANG: Absolutely. The character you play is on the opposite end of that, though; balance may not be what his motivation is.
FANG: While you were playing Harker, did you think back to when you were hunting, or were you in a completely different mindset?
LUNDGREN: I think what I did was, I kind of saw him as a guy who has a chip on his shoulder; he’s trying to prove something. He’s kind of full of himself, he likes to hear his own voice, is a bit of an egomaniac and believes he’s always right, that he knows everything. He’s just one of those people. I run into them in my business sometimes—no names or anything! I looked at him that way. The hunting was secondary to his personality traits.
FANG: The other key character in LEGENDARY is a cryptozoologist; how far into that field did you get for this movie?
LUNDGREN: Not very far. I just worked on my character to try to give him a lot of colors and different levels that people might not have seen me do before. He likes to talk a lot and hear his own voice. There is a lecturing quality to him. I looked more at that aspect. As far as seeking mythological animals and stuff, you know, I’m not into Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
FANG: What was it like making the movie in China, and how were the Chinese fans? Did they know you from your past roles, or are you new to them?
LUNDGREN: That’s a good question. China is very different; it’s a huge country, and very modern in some ways and very…I don’t want to say “backward,” but once you get out in the countryside, you’re back 100 years. The people are very driven and conscientious. They work hard, but they’re not used to making Western types of movies—even though this was partially a Chinese production. It was different. The studios outside of Beijing are huge. They took me to my dressing room, and it was enormous—but there was not one piece of furniture in there. Me and a couple of people walked in and said, “OK, nice, but what do we sit on, the floor?” “Oh! OK. Yeah, we need some couches in here, a table, maybe a fridge.”
It’s just very basic stuff. Some things you’d expect aren’t there. I believe some people did recognize me, but I think at first they looked at me because I’m a tall blond guy. I think you have to have a presence in China, a different way for them to know you. One of the reasons I did LEGENDARY was to kind of start that process. I ended up doing some other movies in Asia over the last two years, in Thailand. It’s not hard for me to stand out there; I just have to sit down on a few talk shows, and they’ll see who I am as a person.
FANG: Hollywood has been doing a lot of shooting in China lately, on films like IRON MAN 3 and the latest TRANSFORMERS. Where there any logistic challenges shooting there—any special rules or restrictions? Or was it just another job that happened to be in China?
LUNDGREN: What happens is, when you do a film in China, I knew a little bit about it because I co-produced a picture in Thailand, and we were negotiating for a Chinese deal. Basically, they are quite sensitive to the material. That’s why with movies like IRON MAN and TRANSFORMERS, it’s all fantasy, they’re all PG-rated, there is no provocative stuff—no drugs or prostitution or executions or a lot of blood. They are very sensitive to that. For instance, I don’t think you can get YouTube in China. Those violent computer games aren’t available. You can’t get MTV. They kind of watch what content the kids are looking at. Some of that isn’t such a bad idea, I think, if you look at our Western society and what is happening to our kids. But I do think there is a problem if you want to do a serious movie about real subject matter, social subject matter, that has real people and real suffering or real social injustice in it. That’s difficult in China. We didn’t have that in the case of LEGENDARY, because it’s a fantasy movie.
FANG: Another horror-oriented movie you did recently was BATTLE OF THE DAMNED, where you fight zombies with the help of robots.
LUNDGREN: Yeah [laughs].
FANG: What was it like to fight zombies with the aid of robots?
LUNDGREN: [Laughs] I don’t know, man. We shot that in Indonesia. I’m not really into robots or zombies, but I kind of liked the story and the character. It was sort of a Clint Eastwood thing. I hadn’t done anything like that, and wanted to try it. I don’t mind horror stuff, but I have to connect it to reality somehow. There are so many of these fantastic movies where characters are airborne, flying from building to building. It really isn’t my style. I guess that’s as far as I took it with the zombies and the robots.
FANG: To kind of segue off your recent films, you’re a big mixed martial arts fan, and tweeted pictures of yourself at UFC 175 with Lyoto Machida and Ronda Rousey.
LUNDGREN: Yeah [laughs]!
FANG: How has the popularity of MMA influenced fight choreography? With fans having a better idea of what real fighting looks like, how have the choreographers adjusted to that?
LUNDGREN: That’s a good question. It’s funny; it’s almost going in two directions. One direction is based on the Chinese and Asian-type choreography, where it’s very fluid and fast. There are a lot of jumps and spin kicks, a lot of chicks beating up guys. It’s interesting, because obviously in the ring, you get hit once in the face and you see what happens. They’re wearing thin gloves. Without gloves, even if you’re a very tough guy, you take two or three shots and you’re done. If you look at THE RAID, for instance, a real fight doesn’t look like that. I think there are a string of pictures coming up that have more realistic fighting.
It’s funny you should mention that, because I was just reading a script the other day and thinking that if I ever control a picture again, as a director or as a producer, it would be great to do a film where all the fighting is very real. All of the street fighting would be very authentic, because it would be kind of shocking to most of the audience. I don’t know how commercial it would be, but it would certainly be different. People would go, “Oh shit! That’s what it’s really like?” It would be interesting to do that.
FANG: What do you think of your fellow Swede, mixed martial artist Alexander Gustafsson, how did you score his first fight with Jon Jones and what’s your prediction for their rematch?
LUNDGREN: Well, I didn’t watch the first fight. I was making a movie in Thailand for five months, and then I was in South Africa. I know they are both great fighters. So I can’t give you a prediction right now. What I can say is that I really enjoy Weidman and Machida. What’s cool about both of those guys is they come across as real martial artists when they talk. They have a certain humility and respect for each other, and for other people in the game. When I started in martial arts, part of their purpose was for the individual to become a better person—to work with yourself, not inflate your own ego. It’s actually the opposite. That’s why I really like Machida, his trainer, his dad, and also Weidman has the same quality. I’m sorry I can’t give you a prediction because I didn’t see their first match, but I’m sure it will be a good fight.
FANG: That’s very diplomatic of you.
LUNDGREN: Thank you [laughs]!
FANG: I figured you would have been all over Gustafsson, your fellow countryman.
LUNDGREN: I’ve seen him fight a couple of times, and I know he is a tough guy. I just haven’t studied him and Jon Jones, so I can’t give you a prediction.