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Dolph Lundgren Biography


Home > Actors > L > Lundgren, Dolph > Biography


Birth Name: Dolph Lundgren
Born: 11/03/1957
Birth Place: Sweden




Born on Nov. 3, 1957, in Spånga, Stockholm, Sweden, Lundgren was raised by his father, Karl, an engineer and member of the Swedish Parliament, and his mother, Brigitta, a languages teacher. Speaking five languages fluently and conversant in two more, Lundgren exemplified physical and intellectual prowess. He was gifted academically, graduating from the Royal Institute of Technology before earning a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney, Australia, in 1982. Atop his academic achievements, Lundgren was also a highly accomplished athlete, ranking third in the Sweden Junior National Weightlifting championship, holding a black belt in karate and winning tournaments across Europe and Australia. He also studied a slew of other martial arts, including judo and taekwondo, while also excelling at fencing. Having traveled to throughout the United States on various academic scholarships, he received a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But Lundren's stay lasted only two weeks, when the young student-athlete decided to ditch all in order to pursue an acting career.

Lundgren's life changed after meeting drama coach Warren Robertson in New York, who convinced him to add acting to his long list of professional accomplishments. He made his film debut in a small role as a KGB henchman in the Roger Moore-James Bond movie, "A View to a Kill" (1985), an opportunity received thanks to the suggestion of then-girlfriend, Grace Jones, who starred as the mysterious bodyguard of ruthless corporate CEO (Christopher Walken). His imposing physical presence made Lundgren a natural for portraying cold, implacable villains, which led to playing the superbly trained, steroid-enhanced Russian boxer Ivan Drago in "Rocky IV" (1985), his breakout role that he earned after beating out 5,000 hopefuls. A flag-waving look at the Cold War, with scrappy American underdog Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) taking on the big bad Evil Empire, as represented by Drago, "Rocky IV" proved to be the highest-grossing movie in the franchise despite mixed critical reviews. Behind the scenes, Lundgren showed off his fighting skills, putting Stallone in the hospital for several days with swelling around the heart following a sharp blow to the chest. He also allegedly knocked Carl Weathers unconscious for several minutes after Weathers took his own ill-advised shot at Lundgren.

Thanks to the financial success of "Rocky IV," Lundgren was transformed into an instant celebrity. In 1987, Lundgren made his entry into the lucrative exercise video industry with "Maximum Potential," a take-no-prisoners workout video based on his own daily regimen. His next theatrical release gave him his first starring role as He-Man, the iconic 1980s muscle-bound Mattel action figure, with amusing verisimilitude in the sci-fi actioner "Masters of the Universe" (1987). While the project made money, its success did nothing to enhance Lundgren's status as a leading man. Nor did subsequent blood-splattered heroic comic-book outings like "Red Scorpion" (1989), in which he played a conflicted Russian agent, or "The Punisher" (1989), playing Marvel Comics' popular vigilante anti-hero. With "I Come in Peace" (1990), a sci-fi thriller in which he was a human cop tracking down alien fugitives, he solidified what became a typical Lundgren outing: derivative storylines, mindless violence and cheap one-liners delivered in wooden monotone. The mayhem was a bit more character-driven in the well-crafted, but violent cop drama "Showdown in Little Tokyo" (1991). Most agreed, however, that the monolithic Swede's charisma was at a distinctly lower-wattage than that of his co-star, Brandon Lee.

Perhaps embracing his image as a robotic action performer, Lundgren was paired opposite an equally stiff Jean-Claude Van Damme in the diverting "Universal Soldier" (1992), helmed by a pre-"Independence Day" Roland Emmerich. Both played two Vietnam warriors who die after killing themselves, only to be resurrected decades later as genetically engineered soldiers to begin the battle anew. Even though the action flick was blasted by critics, many of whom underscored Lundgren's weak Schwarzenegger impression, "Universal Soldier" went on to become a modest box office hit. Because of his thick accent, stiff performances and poor role choices, Lundgren seemed relegated to second-string hero status, barred from ascending to the top of the action star list. This was ironic because unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lundgren was a trained athlete rather than a bodybuilder; unlike Van Damme, he was an award-winning world-class martial artist; and unlike all of his tough-guy contemporaries, Lundgren had achieved academic success in some of the world's top schools. Still, his intelligence and athletic prowess won him no respect with American audiences.

In 1993, Lundgren formed his own production company, Thor Pictures, and made his debut as an executive producer the following year with "Pentathlon" (1994), a character-driven adventure about a star East German athlete (Lundgren), who defects to the United States during the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. While training for the role, he met and befriended several of the top American pentathletes, and later took on a new career direction when he was selected as the Team Leader of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Modern Pentathlon Team. Tiring of Hollywood, Lundgren married fashion and jewelry designer, Anette Qviberg, and moved with wife back to New York City in 1994, where he became involved with the Ensemble Studio Theater, and even formed his own theater company, Group of Eight. But the lure of the big screen remained too strong, as Lundgren next turned up in the relatively high-profile "Johnny Mnemonic" (1995), playing the over-the-top messianic Street Preacher, a hitman tracking a data courier (Keanu Reeves) equipped with a highly-sought microchip. Once again, Lundgren found himself to be the subject of harsh critical reviews for his performance.

Lundgren continued to work steadily in the netherrealms of low-budget action and science-fiction flicks as a leading man in projects like "The Shooter" (1996), "The Peacekeeper" (1997) and "Bridge of Dragons" (1999). Many of the movies he did during this period were financed by American production companies hoping he proved more popular overseas, leading to such mediocre titles as "Agent Red" (2000), "Hidden Agenda" (2001) and "Detention" (2002). Lundgren made the smart business decision to begin writing and helming his own projects, starting with "The Defender" (2004) and "The Mechanik" (2005). A stand-out on his busy resumé came with a cameo opposite Van Damme in "Universal Soldier: Regeneration" (2009), the fifth in the long-running series. Outside of moviemaking, he was one of three hosts for the 2010 Melodifestivalen, the Swedish competition to select the country's submission to the Eurovision Song Contest, for which he had a blast singing and dancing to Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation." Lundgren's biggest career news, however, came with a juicy role in the big-budget action movie to end all action movies, "The Expendables" (2010), Sylvester Stallone's loving tribute to the genre. The film united perhaps the greatest cast of old-school action heroes of all-time, including Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Arnold Schwarzenegger and, of course, Lundgren.