Swedish-born actor Dolph Lundgren, who was born on November 3, 1957, is most famous for his role as Soviet bone-crusher Ivan Drago in 1985’s Rocky IV. While Drago might be his most memorable role, Lundgren’s personal life and career have taken several fascinating turns. Check out some facts about Lundgren's education, his Hollywood travels, and the time he nearly punched co-star Sylvester Stallone into an early grave.
1. Dolph Lundgren might be a genius.
Born Hans Lundgren in 1957, the actor told NPR in 2014 that childhood allergies kept him out of sports and focused on school work. Growing up in Stockholm, Lundgren had ambitions to come live in America but was financially strapped. To make the move, he used his prowess in chemical engineering to graduate from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and earn a Fulbright scholarship to MIT. But before he could settle in on campus, Lundgren’s life took a detour: He met model and actress Grace Jones during a gig as a bouncer in New York City and decided to pursue acting instead.
2. Sylvester Stallone thought Dolph Lundgren was too tall to play Ivan Drago.
Dating Jones led to Lundgren’s first onscreen appearance as a henchman in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill. Not long after, he was cast by Sylvester Stallone to appear as Soviet Union boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV—but only after Stallone changed his mind. Internet opinions vary on Stallone’s actual height—estimates range from 5-feet 7-inches to just under six feet—but Stallone himself thought the six-foot, five-inch Lundgren was going to be too much of a stretch for the character of Drago and rejected him during their first meeting. Lundgren persevered, getting into boxing trunks and sending the photos to Stallone, who eventually relented and hired him six months later.
3. Dolph Lundgren almost killed Sylvester Stallone.
Maybe Stallone had the right idea after all. During rehearsals for their climatic fight scene, Stallone kept urging Lundgren to hit him harder. That was a mistake, as Lundgren—who had trained in karate and other martial arts—hit his co-star so hard in the chest that Stallone's heart began to swell. "Later that night my blood pressure goes up to 260, I go to hospital, they put me in an emergency jet, and fly me back to America,” Stallone recalled. “Next thing I know I’m in intensive care for five days with nuns walking around.”
4. HE HUNG OUT WITH ANDY WARHOL.
During his time prowling New York with Jones, Lundgren was a regular at Studio 54, which was then the city’s premier nightclub attraction. According to Lundgren, Warhol came up to him and asked what he was famous for before taking his picture. Warhol then invited him to do a magazine shoot with Jones.
5. HE PACKED HEAT AROUND NEW YORK.
In 2012, Lundgren told Men’s Health that he was sufficiently nervous about the crime rate in the pre-gentrified New York of the early 1980s that he bought two guns that he kept on his person—one in an ankle holster and one strapped to his chest. “I was always nervous that I'd be caught,” he said. “It's funny, part of me was afraid of the cops, and the other part was afraid of being mugged. It wasn't a nice feeling.”
6. HE ONCE BOXED A PROFESSIONAL FIGHTER.
In June 2007, Lundgren accepted an exhibition boxing match for Russian television against Oleg Taktarov, a former UFC competitor. According to Taktarov, Lundgren stepped in after promoters failed to secure the services of Mike Tyson. After five competitive rounds, Taktarov won by decision.
7. HE HAD SOME PROBLEMS WITH HE-MAN.
Lundgren’s highest-profile role of the 1980s outside of Drago was embodying He-Man in a live-action adaptation of the popular Mattel toy line. Because of Lundgren’s thick Swedish accent, producers seriously considered dubbing him over with a voiceover actor. But after several looping sessions, they deemed his vocal performance sufficient. (The movie bombed anyway.)
8. HE TURNED DOWN GLADIATOR.
Or a version of it, at least. The Oscar-winning film was released in 2000 and starred Russell Crowe as Maximus, the combat specialist who fights to be released from under the thumb of sadistic ruler Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Lundgren turned down the script six years prior. “I thought it was a piece of crap,” he told Esquire in 2015. “It had no action. This was before Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott were on board. I can't remember what happened, but I remember not liking it. Huge mistake. But another skimpy outfit?”
9. HE MIGHT RETURN AS DRAGO.
While a lot of Lundgren’s recent films have skipped a theatrical release, 2018 may prove to be a renaissance period for the actor. He’s set to appear as undersea King Nereus in Aquaman opposite Jason Momoa. Lundgren has also dropped some not-very-subtle hints on social media about returning as Ivan Drago for Creed II, the sequel to 2015’s successful expansion of the Rocky franchise. The possibility seemed remote just a few years ago, when Lundgren swore that "I'm not pulling the old Ivan Drago shorts on again."