'Expendables' star a Fulbright scholar?

Dolph Lundgren talks comeback and 'dumb blonde' image

After a 15-year hiatus from big Hollywood movies, Dolph Lundgren, the man who played Drago in “Rocky IV” and He-Man in “Masters of the Universe,” is back in the spotlight as one of “The Expendables.” Lundgren has a master’s degree in chemical engineering, received a Fulbright Scholarship from MIT and speaks seven languages. THR checked in with the “smart Expendable” who’s in Los Angeles for a photo shoot for a fitness book he’s writing and trying to finish up a script about human trafficking.

How do you feel about your movie being No. 1 at the boxoffice?
Dolph Lundgren: It feels a bit unreal. It’s interesting how it happened. I haven’t been on the big screen in 15 years, so to me, it’s a big deal. It was fun to do it with Sly.

Did you go to any theaters this weekend to see how it’s playing?
Lundgren: No. I heard from a friend of mine who went to one of the Hollywood theaters that it played well and the audience seemed to respond to my character, crazy Gunner. That’s always fun.

What’s next for you?
Lundgren: I’m writing a fitness book for a Swedish publisher that will probably come out here as well. It’s about how I train and my life in sports. I’m in L.A. for some photography for that. Then I’m writing a couple of scripts. There’s one I’m trying to finish up called “Skin Trade”; it’s about human trafficking. Hopefully, I’ll try to get a more famous actor as the lead, and I’d direct it and play the co-lead. Hopefully, I can get a bigger budget.

Do you think that with “Expendables” being a hit, will it be easier for you to get a bigger budget?
Lundgren: I hope so. I’ve learned the ropes on these smaller movies, but it’s tough on a 30-day schedule to make a decent feature. I need a better schedule. Also, I’m trying to do something in Sweden, about Sweden or set in Sweden. Maybe a period piece.

Lundgren: I kind of think I belong in the past — onscreen, that is. I haven’t done a period piece, and I think it will be fun. I think as a director, what is difficult if you do action movies is to make the transition to dramas. One way to do it, and guys more accomplished than me like (Mel) Gibson and (Kevin) Costner have done, is to do a period piece. You have enough guys getting killed, so it’s easy enough to get financed, but you can make it upscale and a drama. They’re usually about real events.

Do you feel you get stereotyped as a dumb blonde?
Lundgren: Yes. Big, dumb, blond Swede. That’s been the stigma I’ve had for 25 years, especially in Sweden. There, they are even more upset that I didn’t do any Bergman movies and just went to Hollywood and started killing people. But it’s turned a little bit now because I hosted this Eurovision song contest this year and I had to do a little singing and dancing and people saw me as who I am and realized that maybe I’m not so stupid after all.

What’s your position on immigration reform?
Lundgren: I live in Spain, but I have a house here. I’m not quite sure what the issues are. I can’t afford to get kicked out, so I stick to the rules. If I get more work here, instead of work permits like I get now, I may get a green card.

Would you consider running for governor if you moved back here?
Lundgren: You have to be a citizen here first. But funny enough, I was asked to run for office in Sweden this year. But I didn’t want do it. … I spoke out about the environment, and the Green Party in Sweden came to me and asked. I didn’t want to do it, but it was interesting.

Why not do it?
Lundgren: I figure, if you’re a celebrity, it’s not good to work for one party. You can raise more awareness if people don’t look at you as working for one party only. But it would be fun to get involved in public service in some way because I’ve never done that. As you get older, you go from caring about yourself to caring about your family to caring about your community.

Are you better at math or reading?
Lundgren: Probably reading now. I haven’t practiced math in a long time. Math and physics used to be my strong suit. I like reading history, mostly nonfiction.

Did you read a lot of books on set?
Lundgren: Not really. The schedule was so crazy. It was night shoots for three months in New Orleans. I may have been finishing up a book called “South Pole.” I can’t remember.

Maybe your time was spent engaging in contests of champions?
Lundgren: (Laughs.) No. My character is an outcast, and I worked with Sly quite a bit but not a lot with the other guys. I had weird hours. I did have a couple of karate guys, and we were talking about fighting. I’m trying to get my 4th dan — my 4th-degree black belt — and we were preparing for that.

So it wasn’t a scene on set where everyone was showing off how strong they were or how much they can bench press?
Lundgren: It’s not really my style. There were a lot of big guys around, so you do feel a little bit of a healthy competition to be in shape. I did work out quite a bit for the movie and tried to put on a little more muscle. I’m usually more lean. People were pretty quiet. We’re older now.

You have two girls. Are you teaching them to be karate or weightlifting champions?
Lundgren: I help them with their homework. I want them to go to school and not be actresses or models. Well, they can be later, but not until they’re 18. I’m the boss until they’re 18. I feel it’s really important to get an education. What’s important in life are good manners and education. That helped me in my life, so I want to give that to them too. That’s why I keep them away from Hollywood a little bit.

So do you need a woman to be your intellectual equal?
Lundgren: Not necessarily. I think it’s more emotional. You want someone to support you and make you relaxed. That’s the primary thinking. Intellectually equal? No. Maybe it’s better if they’re not.