By play Ivan Drago 33 years after "Rocky VI," Dolph Lundgren"s function in "Creed II" is help him job-related through abuse he endured as a child and also the uncertainties of a career in Hollywood.

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Ivan Drago has been following Dolph Lundgren around for decades.

The unstoppable Russian rogue of Rocky IV launched Lundgren’s career, resulting in a lengthy string the tough-guy duties that played turn off the actor’s great looks and Norse god physique. Drago likewise gave world the idea that possibly all Lundgren was reduced out because that was playing physically dominating, emotionless men.

But through Creed II, Lundgren is proving that’s no the case. Lundgren delivers the many nuanced power of his job by embracing physical and emotional damages the actor has lived v for decades; he’s make an older, beaten-down Drago, one who has been shunned by his people after his defeat at the hands of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) 33 years earlier.

“It to be my big break, yet it also pigeonholed me,” Lundgren tells The Hollywood Reporter ofhis complex relationship v Drago. “People think, ‘He’s a robot and also he has actually no emotions.’ now I can do the opposite, and also it’s very, an extremely satisfying.”

When we choose up with Ivan Drago again, he has actually spent years training his son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), for a match he really hopes will redeem the family name: Viktor Drago vs. Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the kid of the man Ivan eliminated in the ring.

Perhaps there’ve to be times Lundgren, 61, has actually wanted to leaving Drago behind. But revisiting the character in Creed II allowed the gibbs to work through concerns he’s been battling much of his life: being abused through his father, the apprehension of a faltering career, the way fighting have the right to be an escape from the pain.

“That’s what I’m using a lot for Drago,” says Lundgren. “He’s additionally a guy who has lost everything and suffered a lot, and also I’ve endured a many in my life.”


There’s a mythology bordering Lundgren that exceeds the of many of his ’80s action contemporaries. Where’d Bruce Willis go to school? who knows. Who’d Wesley Snipes date prior to he made that big? No idea. Go Stallone provide up some other career to pursue acting? no really sure.

But pretty lot everyone who cares around such points knows Lundgren’s basic story. He was an design genius that dropped out of MIT in the ’80s to seek the brand-new York way of living he to be enjoying with then-girlfriend grace Jones. Back then, that was simply a striking-looking, 6-foot-5 sweden competitive fighter that Jones, the famed model and also singer, had picked up in Australia and brought come the collection of the 1985 James shortcut movie A see to a Kill, where Lundgren earn a walk-on duty as a bad guy.

“My dad was rather abusive physically come me and also that’s why I ended up being a fighter,” Lundgren states of his journey in those early days. “That provided me a lot of energy to succeed and to prove to him that ns wasn’t a failure and also that ns was strong.”

Just as pouring himself into academics and also physical task had listed an escape native childhood trauma, exhilaration became another release because that Lundgren. While functioning as a bouncer in new York, that took part acting classes and auditioned at a cattle call for a boxing movie. A spreading agent soon dismissed him for being also tall, however when Lundgren found the film to be Rocky IV, that devised a plan to keep his hat in the ring. He commissioned photos of self in boxing gear and managed to gain them come Stallone, that months later summoned him come the great lot — a meeting that would change the course of both the Rocky franchise and Lundgren’s life.

As Lundgren pulled as much as the big lot in his rental car, he experienced the Hollywood authorize in the background and soon was in front the Stallone, long-haired and also buffed up for a role inRambo: first Blood component II.

“The first time ns met Dolph Lundgren, he adjusted the entirety concept. I was see the Russian Drago together this Man-Beast, nearly animal-like, unbeatable,” Stallone tells THR. “Then this mythological uber-Viking to walk in. Ns said, ‘This is what human being may look like in 500 hundreds years. Genetically perfect, engineered to be the athlete that the future.”

Lundgren was star-struck through the actor, that in the eight years due to the fact that breaking out v two Oscar nominations because that Rocky, had become an A-lister; a macho guy who also had a sensitive artist living inside of him, the sort of guy who pen a script about a boxer who loves turtles.

Stallone, that wrote and also directed Rocky IV — together he’d done for the second and third installments in the franchise —showed Lundgren a binder complete of images of other hopefuls because that the part. The pair take it shirtless photos alongside each various other in boxing trunks, and also eventually, Lundgren was required to vie against two other constructed blond guys for the function by carrying a monologue that would be used in the trailer. If the other males opted for an over-the-top take it on Drago (“I fight every my life and I never lose!”), Lundgren take it the advice of his exhilaration coach Warren Robertson, who told him come play it cold, internal.

“It’s an extremely hard because that actors to execute less,” states Lundgren. “It’s progressed acting, actually, to perform less, come play internal. Also though i didn’t know what ns was doing, the translated very well to the screen, particularly with Stallone’s closeups the he uses.”

He landing the part. Lundgren to be living with Jones in brand-new York, therefore he rented a home in Coldwater Canyon during the five months of day-to-day training v Stallone. Jones would certainly come into the apartment through her entourage after ~ a night the partying at around 4 a.m., and also Lundgren would should be up at five. Stallone was strict on his younger co-star throughout their training and noticed the was getting here tired. God assist him if he ever before showed up late.

“I finished up remaining at his residence for a when to get some sleep. Grace didn’t appreciate that,” states Lundgren with a laugh. “I to be a 27-year-old Swedish child who to be stuck in between Sylvester Stallone and also Grace Jones. It’s not that easy. Sly would certainly basically fire me if ns was in poor shape, and Grace was going to death me or worse.”

No matter how accomplished he becomes, Stallone will never ever utter words an ext famous than, “Yo, Adrian!” Likewise, Lundgren has appeared in dozens and also dozens of films because Rocky IV, but he will never utter words more famous or an ext chilling than, “If he dies, he dies.”

That line came after Drago delivered a fatal punch to Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) during an exhibition fight in ~ the MGM grand in las Vegas. For years, rumors have actually persisted the Weathers endangered to quit when filming that scene due to the fact that it was so difficult being in the ring v Lundgren.


If Weathers was a little worried if filming the fight, who can blame him? while Stallone had 5 months getting to understand Lundgren, Weathers didn’t meet the swedish powerhouse till the job of filming. Lundgren had actually rehearsed the fight with someone rather in Los Angeles, and also most the it was improvised on the day.

“When Carl Weathers gets in the ring and then suddenly this 6-5 Swedish guy shows up and also doesn’t to speak a word and looks in ~ him choose he’s walk to death him, i think the looked in ~ it as, ‘What the hell? that is this guy?"” recalls Lundgren. “He to be worried, I understand he was. Stallone was telling me to walk at him. Ns didn’t want to struggle him, yet obviously, ns did hit him in the body a tiny bit, since that’s what you’ve got to carry out in order because that it to look good.”

Then come the “If that dies, that dies” line, which proved to it is in a how amazing emotional moment for Lundgren.

“When I had actually to to speak the line, my ready was that i was really feeling bad around it. Ns didn’t choose that he died,” claims Lundgren. “I understand in the movie the means it come out, he’s type of emotionally an extremely brutal. However the method he claimed it, it’s not v a smile. It has some type of remorse behind it. That’s certainly how ns felt. I felt really bad seeing him with all the blood in Stallone’s arms. Ns realized in ~ that suggest I was the rogue of the picture. It was going to it is in rough once this thing comes out.”

Rocky IV is height Rocky in regards to the character’s training and also physicality, and Stallone urged Lundgren come be as imposing as possible when it came Rocky’s turn to confront Drago.

“He wasn’t versus me getting bigger and also stronger, and I would wear elevator in some of the scene to make me also taller. I also stood on a crate for a pair of shots, relying on where the camera was,” says Lundgren.

Stallone was pushing self hard throughout filming: producing, directing and also fighting Lundgren in the last bout, filmed in Vancouver, doubling because that Russia. Lundgren was concerned for Stallone, an especially when his boss asked him to go after him because that real during filming.

“I to be tired. Ns was 10 years younger 보다 him. I said I couldn’t execute it,” recalls Lundgren. “I to be tossing him approximately the ring, and I believed he to be going to have some sort of collapse or something, physically. Ns was supplied to being roughly guys who were fighters and I could tell once they room tired.”

One that Lundgren’s punches landed on Stallone’s chest, and Stallone ended up in an emergency jet ago to Santa Monica, whereby he was placed in intensive care with a swollen heart. Lundgren only discovered out after the fact, as soon as a producer referred to as him.

“I feel bad around that, too,” that says.

He didn’t recognize it yet, but Lundgren had turned in a power that would certainly follow the the remainder of his life.

“Any time I check out Dolph, I watch Drago. That’s just how iconic thatcharacter to be he played,” states hisTheExpendablesco-star Steve Austin.


Lundgren went ago to his life with Jones and waited because that Rocky IV come come out. As he’s often recalled it, that walked into the premiere as Grace Jones’ boyfriend, photographers shooing the aside to acquire a shooting of Jones. That walked out of the premiere as movie star Dolph Lundgren, Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, the picture that stubborn today.

Rocky IV still stands together the top-grossing film in the franchise, not bookkeeping for inflation, v $300.5 million globally. However Lundgren’s newfound stardom put a strain on his partnership with Jones.

“We loved each other. There to be this child she choose up in Australia, and he was an engineering student and also a fighter and also suddenly had become, overnight, quite well known,” states Lundgren.

The singer created in she 2015 autobiography,I’ll never ever Write mine Memoirs, the the beginning of the end of their connection was when she proved up to his Los Angeles hotel room v a gun, telling his manager she essential to see him. Their relationship was over by 1986. Meanwhile, the newly produced movie star ongoing to occupational through worries stemming from his childhood. His Rocky IV success come 10 year after his abusive childhood had ended, and also Lundgren says he wasn’t mature sufficient to confront his father around it.

“It’s a facility issue,” Lundgren says. “Basically, the was really proud that me and also I forgave him. Yet the underlying concerns still troubled me until around five years back through therapy and meditation and also stuff. Now it’s come and also gone.”

After Rocky IV, Lundgren toplined a cable of big-budget genre films, consisting of a leading duty as He-Man in Masters the the universe (1987), Frank castle in Marvel’s The Punisher (1989) and a co-lead v Brandon Lee in Showdown in tiny Tokyo (1991). For a time, he appeared poised for a career favor that the Jean-Claude van Damme, a fellow fighter and his co-star in 1992’s Universal Soldier. But Lundgren states at the time, he didn’t have the service knowledge to make that happen.

“I didn’t recognize who he was really,” Lundgren claims of meeting Van Damme. “He’d done one or 2 movies, but he was very, an extremely smart. I thought he was very clever through his picture and an extremely business savvy — much an ext than ns was at the time.”

Things got difficult for Lundgren in the year after Universal Soldier. He starred in a grasp of big-screen films, yet his function in 1995’s Johnny Mnemonic would certainly be his critical in a wide-release film because that 15 years. Lundgren resided in straight-to-DVD exile, and his marriage to ex-wife Anette Qviberg dropped apart. He has actually taken the blame because that that, alluding in interviews end the year to poor behavior and infidelities ~ above his part.

“I did smaller sized indie movies. My career wasn’t going that well,” states Lundgren of the time. “I relocated to Spain with my ex-wife. I had actually two youngsters there and also I wasn’t doing that well. I started drinking also much. I was depressed.”


Then in 2009, a miracle. Stallone referred to as to say he was placing together a film — a who’s that of movie hard guys indigenous the previous 25 years.

The Expendables changed Lundgren’s career again, permitting him to go back to the large screen in a home whose premise was irresistible to action fans in the same way the idea of see The Avengers ~ above the large screen was to Marvel fans in 2012. Stallone assembled men like Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li and Bruce Willis. He composed a character because that Lundgren called Gunnar Jensen, a chemical engineer and MIT dropout. (Sound familiar?) 2 sequels followed, v the collection earning $804.1 million globally and also a 4th being discussed.

“I went with a many hardships before that, whereby I didn’t understand what to be going to occur to me in mine career and how ns was walking to assistance my family and stuff choose that,” Lundgren says.

After years of alternately embracing Drago as component of him and wanting to display what else he could do as an actor,Creed IIhas proven come Lundgren the he and the Russian boxer were intertwined an ext closely 보다 he knew. Favor Drago, he knows what it’s favor to be competing at the top of your field and then watch disappear. He to know what it method to shed family. And also in the sequel, he gets to suffer the various other side the the father-son equation the shaped his life, with it hinted the if Ivan isn’t fully physically abusive come his child Viktor, he’s at the very least inflicting emotional damage by pushing his child so hard.

After reading the Creed II script, Lundgren soon envisioned playing Drago as older and worn out. (He’s still in remarkable shape, because that the record.) that pitched that vision to manager Steven Caple Jr.

“He wasn’t sure around that in ~ first, yet then that agreed,” says Lundgren. “So the made my clothing two sizes too big so I always look like perhaps I’ve lost some weight or something.”

There is a startling step in Creed II in which Rocky and also Drago accomplish for the very first time in decades. Drago lays the end what his life has actually been choose after shedding that struggle in 1985. It’s a subtle and also affecting moment that is critical to what follows — and featured currently Lundgren fought to save in the script.

“That scene to be rewritten a couple of times. Some things were taken the end that I assumed were wonderful, and I dealt with for putting them earlier in,” says Lundgren. “Things were put back in due to the fact that I claimed ‘I’m no going come shoot it any kind of other way.’ people have to recognize where I’m comes from, and also that’s among the few scenes where we know what the hell this man is about. And it was an important scene and I’m very pleased it’s in the picture, pretty much in the initial version. There to be like 5 versions the it.”


“I really simply wanted human being to feeling for both characters at the end of the film,” to add Caple. “I want to not have actually the typical negative guy. I didn’t want it to come off as a cartoon. I wanted whatever to stay in this grounded place.”

While part viewers could be surprised by how an excellent a dramatic gibbs Lundgren is in the film, Stallone is not among them.

“Dolph is a an extremely deep and also extremely sensitive person that people have never given him credit transaction for, since he entered this business therefore a remarkable physical specimen,” states Stallone. “He to be a publication judged by his cover, however I constantly knew just how intense that was and is.”


Lundgren has always graciously shrugged turn off comparisons come the other activity stars of his generation, noting the someone will constantly be richer than you or have bigger biceps than you. Yet he’s in the middle of a career moment that might make his contemporaries jealous. A month after ~ Creed II opens, he’ll have a function in James Wan’s Aquaman for Warner Bros. And DC as King Nereus. When’s the critical time an ’80s activity star appeared in two movies poised because that such an essential and jae won success in a single year, lot lessjust main apart?

In following month’s Aquaman, Lundgren share the display screen with the next generation’s larger-than-life action hero: Jason Momoa. He and also Momoa invested a couple of days training together, and have even talked about appearing in something else with each other down the road, yet their very first meeting wasn’t what Lundgren expected.

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“He remained in his trailer and also he come out. I’d never met that so ns said, ‘Hi Jason.’ and also he looks in ~ me and also nods his head and didn’t to speak anything,” states Lundgren. “And climate he come running as much as me, ‘Oh! I’m sorry man, ns didn’t identify you.’ that didn’t know it was me since I looked so different .”

While Lundgren establish it’s a special moment in his career, he sounds prouder of just how those functions have enabled him to dig deep rather than any type of attention he might receive due to the fact that of it.

“I was never ever in this service toimpress world with mine physique and try to be badass, due to the fact that I to be already. I was in the military, i was currently a fighter, i was a champion. I got into it originally since I like to it is in creative,” states Lundgren. “I had to occupational out few of my trauma from mine childhood however I didn’t know exactly how to do it. It took me years to be able to do it on the big screen, yet with good, great directors, not some movie no one will ever see. Periodically it’s hard to dig in and also really ceiling your soul in a movie instead of simply taking the easy means out.”