25 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Action Movie Legend Dolph Lundgren
If we were to ask you to name Sweden’s greatest export, we would expect to hear a number of different answers ranging from ABBA to IKEA.
But we believe that the greatest thing Sweden has ever given to the world is the musclebound action movie legend who starred in some of our very favorite 80s and 90s films.
25. He has a Masters degree in chemical engineering (and an IQ of 160)
Born on 3rd November 1957 in Spånga, Sweden, Hans Dolph Lundgren could accurately be described as a genius.
By his own admission, Lundgren was an insecure child who suffered from a lot of allergies, and he worked hard to prove himself in both academia and sports.
He earned a Masters degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney and boasts an IQ of 160.
He also took up scholarships to study chemistry at Washington State University and Clemson University in the USA.
Initially, Lundgren planned to pursue an academic career, by studying for a PhD at either MIT or Harvard University.
However, those ambitions were put to one side once Lundgren found success in show business.
24. He dated Grace Jones after being employed as her bodyguard
Whilst he was living in Sydney, Lundgren was employed as bodyguard to the model and singer Grace Jones, whom he later dated.
With Jones’ help, Lundgren began pursuing a career in modelling and acting, abandoning his previous academic aspirations.
The pair later moved to New York City, where Lundgren obtained his green card and fell in love with life in the USA.
Among his earliest work there was a bouncer job at The Limelight nightclub in Manhattan.
Lundgren made his acting debut with a small role in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill on Jones’ recommendation.
14th in the James Bond franchise, this film sees Lundgren play Venz, a formidable KGB agent working for General Gogol. In the same movie, Jones stars as Bond girl May Day.
23. He used to always carry two guns with him when he lived in New York
He can clearly handle himself in a fight, but Lundgren has revealed that whilst living in New York during the early 1980s, he never left home without two concealed guns.
In a 2012 interview with Men’s Health Magazine, Lundgren said New York was a particularly dangerous city at that time.
The tipping point for him was when he discovered girlfriend Grace Jones carried a pistol, since she had already been robbed a couple of times.
“I walked around New York all the time with two guns hidden on my body,” Lundgren remembered. “One in an ankle holster and the other strapped to my chest.”
It was, and still is, illegal to carry a concealed weapon without a licence in New York. “I was always nervous that I’d be caught,” Lundgren said.
“It’s funny, part of me was afraid of the cops, and the other part was afraid of being mugged,” he explained. “It wasn’t a nice feeling.”
22. He hospitalised Sylvester Stallone while filming Rocky IV
Lundgren joined the cast of the Rocky franchise for movie number 4 (or IV, as it were), starring as the Soviet boxing champion Captain Ivan Drago.
During filming, Lundgren and co-star Sylvester Stallone decided to throw real punches rather than fake ones.
They were hoping to make one of the film’s many boxing scenes look just that little bit more authentic.
But the two men underestimated each other’s strength. At one point, Stallone told Lundgren to punch him as hard as he possibly could.
Aged only 27 at the time and relatively new to cinema, Lundgren obliged his film star idol, and the impact of his punch caused Stallone’s heart to swell.
Stallone was flown from the Canadian set to a hospital in California, where he ended up in intensive care for eight days.
21. Lundgren’s strong Swedish accent almost got him dubbed in Masters of the Universe
In the 1987 movie Masters of the Universe, Lundgren plays He-Man, a soldier who’s not of this world – and yet the actor’s accent caused some commotion among the film’s crew.
The film’s director, Gary Goddard, was concerned that audiences wouldn’t be able to understand what He-Man was saying.
He recommended that the production team should find another actor to re-record Lundgren’s lines for an American-accented dub.
However, as the project was quickly running out of both time and money, Lundgren’s performance was kept intact.
Lundgren’s role was considerably more violent than the He-Man of the cartoon series, with the movie character wielding swords and lasers against his nemesis Skeletor.
The movie also did away with He-Man’s alter ego Prince Adam of Eternia, as well as his pet green tiger Cringer/Battle Cat.
20. He lost the chance to battle Russell Crowe in Gladiator
He may have starred in a number of fantastic films, but we really wish that Lundgren had won a part to battle in Gladiator.
Had he taken the role of veteran gladiator Tigris, Lundgren would have fought against Russell Crowe’s Maximus in the historical epic.
He was beaten to the role by Sven-Ole Thorsen, who rose to fame for winning Denmark’s Strongest Man competition in 1983.
Nine years later, Lundgren also turned down the part of Roland Niedermann in 2009’s The Girl Who Played with Fire.
It would have been his first film to be made in his native Sweden, but Lundgren opted instead to direct and star in the action film Command Performance.
On a $6 million budget, the film’s plot was inspired by a Madonna concert for Russian president Vladimir Putin.
19. He was the first Marvel movie hero
Cinema these days is awash with Marvel films of all stripes, but did you know that Lundgren played his part in pioneering the comic giant’s turn on the big-screen?
11 years before 2000’s X-Men kicked off the modern superhero revival, Lundgren played Frank Castle in The Punisher.
This film has been described as the first true Marvel superhero movie, with Lundgren playing a Sicilian ex-marine pursuing the mobsters who killed his family.
For this role, Lundgren abandoned weightlifting in favour of cardio and martial arts to become leaner.
Lundgren’s Castle appears drastically different from He-Man, his previous superhero character, with the actor losing 25lbs between the two films.
Speaking to Comic Scene in 1989, Lundgren pointed out, “Frank Castle is a guy who has been living in the sewers for five years. He could not look too healthy and be believable.”
18. He speaks six languages
In addition to his aforementioned Masters degree and impressively high IQ, Lundgren is proficient in six different languages.
This Hollywood star, who lives in California, can hold a conversation in French, German, Italian or Japanese.
He’s fluent in both Swedish and English, and he perfected his Spanish while living with his then-wife Anette Qviberg in the city of Marbella in the 90s.
Perhaps Lundgren inherited his knack for languages from his mother, who was a foreign language teacher in Spånga.
He is also a big music fan who can play a number of different musical instruments, including the drums, on which he is said to be pretty talented.
In his youth, he sometimes dreamt of becoming a rock star – although he also found time to study the trombone.
17. He supports Everton Football Club
Lundgren became a big fan of football whilst he was living in Europe, where he decided to follow England’s Everton FC.
In an interview with the BBC in 2018, Lundgren recalled, “Everton were my team back in the day.”
“This was a long time ago in the late 1970s when I lived in Sweden,” he noted, “and before I moved to the United States aged 17.”
“I used to watch the World Cup too, when Germany were very good and Franz Beckenbauer and those guys were the stars,” he said.
Funnily enough, Lundgren’s Rocky IV co-star Sylvester Stallone also happens to be a famous fan of Everton.
Though he spends most of his time in Los Angeles these days, Lundgren still makes sure to follow international football tournaments such as the UEFA European Championship.
16. His own agent didn’t recognise him in his Johnny Mnemonic outfit
Lundgren has cited the cyberpunk action thriller Johnny Mnemonic as one of his favourite movies to film.
Speaking to the AV Club in 2008, Lundgren said he particularly liked “designing a character [who] was very different from me.”
“He walked different and talked different, and used body language like a street preacher, and had a wig and a long beard,” he said, describing his hitman character Karl the Street Preacher.
“I remember my agent showing up on set, and he walked up to me and said “Hey, have you seen Dolph Lundgren?” I guess my outfit worked,” Lundgren joked.
In the movie, Lundgren’s Karl hunts down the titular hero, played by Keanu Reeves. Aside from the fun of fight scenes with Reeves, Lundgren also said he enjoyed playing a smaller role.
He said it was the first time he had ever played a supporting role once he made it in Hollywood, and he wasn’t burdened with “carrying the movie.”
15. He called He-Man his “lowest point as an actor”
Though his superhero persona of He-Man was popular among comic fans of the 80s, Lundgren himself was unimpressed with the part.
Lundgren once said of his famous role: “Playing He-Man was pretty much my lowest point as an actor. It was a kids’ movie.”
“How much could I do as an actor when I was running around in swim trunks and chest armour?” he complained.
Plans for a sequel fell through, and Lundgren was booked up in other movies regardless in the following decades.
Yet his image as He-Man prevailed. In later comic book depictions, the figure increasingly resembled Lundgren’s version of the hero.
In particular, the 2002 remake series by Mike Young Productions stuck closely to the Swedish star’s famous look.
14. He stirred up trouble in Sweden by asking to be interviewed in English
In the late 80s, Lundgren returned to his home country as a Hollywood movie star.
But upon his arrival, he made an embarrassing faux pas in the eyes of his countrymen.
When he was being interviewed by the Swedish media, Lundgren was asked whether he would prefer to be quizzed in English or his native tongue.
Lundgren opted for English, which reportedly caused quite a stir among the Swedish press.
Years later, he joked that Swedish reporters probably thought his years in the USA had turned him into an “a**hole” who had forgotten his first language.
In 2010, Lundgren once again returned to Sweden to host the Melodifestivalen, the popular event where the Swedish Eurovision candidate is chosen.
13. He grew up in an abusive household
Despite his macho movie performances, Lundgren said to the Guardian in 2010 that he enjoys a good cry.
“I cry a lot. It makes me feel good,” Lundgren said. “I had a bit of a cry this morning, in fact.”
“It was the feeling of loss and not being around my family that set me off,” the star explained.
Among Lundgren’s more unusual appearances was for Ted Talks in 2015, where he made a speech about how men deal with intense emotions.
Entitled Healing and Forgiveness, this speech included details about Lundgren’s father, whose physical abuse fuelled Lundgren to train in martial arts.
Speaking about his difficult childhood, Lundgren noted the importance of personal healing and kindness. “You have to come to terms with yourself,” he said. “You have to love yourself so that you can appreciate those things in others.”
12. Burglars abandoned his house when they recognised Lundgren in a photo
Lundgren was staying away from home when burglars broke into his house in Marbella, Spain in 2009.
But Lundgren’s then-wife, Anette, was assaulted and tied up by the thieves, who began looting the family property.
As they were collecting cash and valuables, the burglars came across a photo of the family that made them stop in their tracks.
Reportedly, they recognised Lundgren’s face and only then realised whose home they had chosen to rob.
They fled the scene immediately, deciding a fight with the Hollywood star wasn’t worth their while.
However, the home invasion had a lasting negative effect on Anette and her eldest daughter. Anette and Lundgren divorced in 2011.
11. He served in the Swedish Marine Corps
As a young man, Lundgren joined the Swedish Marine Corps for a mandatory year of military service.
He fitted this year in between his studies at universities in the USA, Sweden and Australia.
He remains a proponent of the system, noting in 2010, “I think military service is something all young men should do.”
“The discipline and physical challenge of the Swedish Marines Corps were necessary for me,” he said.
In his military service, Lundgren was following in the footsteps of his father, who often brought the stresses of his military role back to the household.
“He was a very strict military officer who had problems with his career, so he’d take it out on us,” Lundgren recalled. “That experience formed me.”
10. He received an award from the Russian Special Forces for playing so many heroic Russians
According to the Swedish newspaper The Local, Lundgren’s work as an actor won him recognition from the Russian military.
The paper reported that the Russian Special Forces once awarded him a medal for “playing so many heroic Russians on film.”
This may come as a surprise, considering that Lundgren is also famous for playing villainous Russian figures.
In the James Bond movie A View to a Kill, Rocky IV, Red Scorpion, the Universal Soldier franchise and Showdown in Little Tokyo, Lundgren plays antagonists of Russian descent.
Lundgren can also count a prestigious Swedish-American prize, the Eliason Merit Award, among his accolades.
Given to Lundgren in 2012, this award celebrates people who have “contributed towards strengthening Swedish-American relations in the areas of commerce, culture, science and art.”
9. He used to work as a bouncer alongside Chazz Palminteri
During his early years in NYC with his girlfriend Grace Jones, Lundgren made a living as a nightclub bouncer.
He worked closely with Chazz Palminteri, who was also an aspiring actor struggling to make ends meet.
While Lundgren had only recently moved to the city, Palminteri was raised in the Bronx, and he was the son of a bus driver.
Palminteri spent his spare time performing in off-Broadway plays. When he was fired from one club for refusing entry to the talent agent Swifty Lazar, Palminteri was unexpectedly inspired.
He began to write A Bronx Tale, a one-man show about a young and impressionable man in NYC who is torn between an honest living and a life in organised crime.
Robert De Niro would later direct this tale about young men in NYC in a Broadway musical of the same name.
8. He led the US pentathlon team at the 1996 Olympics
For the Atlanta Olympics of 1996, Lundgren was hired as a leader for the US pentathlon team.
Working closely with the coaches and athletes, he assisted in the training regimes for fencing, shooting, swimming, show-jumping and cross-country running.
According to a 2008 BBC article, Lundgren said his background in karate helped him to excel in the fencing category.
Lundgren and pentathlon training actually have a long history. In the 1994 action thriller Pentathlon, he starred as an East German athlete who is fleeing from an abusive neo-Nazi trainer.
In preparation for this physically demanding role, Lundgren himself trained with two top US pentathletes.
Throughout the 90s, the star campaigned to preserve and promote pentathlons as a sport for future generations.
7. He has blond hair in all but three of his films
Lundgren rocks his famous blond locks in every movie he’s starred in, with three notable exceptions.
In The Punisher and Dark Angel, his hair is instead tinted with a deep black colour.
Likewise, in the comedy Small Apartments, he sports dark hair in the role of a self-help book author.
Lundgren suspects that his distinctive fair hair might have helped to secure him the role of Drago in Rocky IV.
“On film, there is a certain thing between us [Stallone and Lundgren himself],” he said in a 2009 interview with Movie Web. “We have a great screen presence together.”
“He is Italian and dark,” he said of Stallone. “I am the blond Nordic type. When we are together on screen, it looks very good when they cut back and forth between us.”
6. He has directed six films of his own
As well as being a talented actor and sportsman, Lundgren is also an accomplished director, having called the shots on six films between 2004 and 2010.
His first directorial gig was the action film The Defender, a German-British action film in which he also starred.
Once again, Lundgren takes up the role of bodyguard in this movie, tasked with protecting the National Security Agency chief as she meets with a terrorist.
This movie was set in Bucharest, Romania and Washington, D.C., and it was filmed on location.
Lundgren followed up The Defender by directing and starring in The Mechanik, Diamond Dogs, Missionary Man, Command Performance and Icarus.
A direct-to-video movie, Icarus was set for five weeks of filming, but reportedly managed to wrap within 18 days.
5. Quentin Tarantino got his first movie job on a Dolph Lundgren workout video
Dolph Lundgren unwittingly provided one of the most significant filmmakers of the last 30 years with their very first professional role in the film industry.
The future Oscar-winning screenwriter and director was working as a video store clerk at the time.
It would be another six years before Tarantino broke through in movies in a big way with his 1992 film Reservoir Dogs.
Tarantino would enjoy even greater success with his second film Pulp Fiction, which won him the Best Screenplay Oscar.
Tarantino would share his Academy Award with his friend and co-writer Roger Avary, who was also a PA on Lundgren’s workout video.
4. He fought UFC champion Oleg Taktarov when he was 47 years old
Lundgren doesn’t just play a tough guy in the movies: he’s genuinely skilled at hand-to-hand combat in real life.
Long before getting into acting, Lundgren pursued martial arts, training to 4th dan black belt level in Kyokushin karate.
Lundgren would compete internationally, becoming the European Karate Champion two years in a row in 1980 and 1981.
Years later, Lundgren decided to try his hand at fighting professionally again, in a 2004 celebrity boxing match against Oleg Taktarov.
Russian mixed martial artist Taktarov was a former UFC champion, and like Lundgren had broken into the movies (his credits including Air Force One and Bad Boys II).
Ultimately, Taktarov was ruled the winner of the fight by the unanimous decision of the judges, although it was reportedly a close call.
3. Janice Dickinson claims she had a threesome with Lundgren and Grace Jones in the 80s
Lundgren’s rise to big screen stardom in the 80s obviously owed quite a lot to his physical beauty.
The star’s good looks and statuesque physique have won him vast swathes of admirers over the years.
Unsurprisingly, it would seem Lundgren enjoyed his share of physically intimate moments with some female admirers.
The supermodel Janice Dickinson has claimed that in the 80s she had a liaison with Lundgren and his then-girlfriend Grace Jones.
Lundgren has not denied this, admitting that wild encounters with multiple partners were commonplace in his relationship with Jones.
In 2018 Lundgren told The Sun, “It’s great in theory but when you have to get up and fight Sylvester Stallone in the morning it’s not such a good thing.”
2. He’s been married twice and has two daughters
Lundgren’s engagement to Grace Jones didn’t last: the actor says his rise to fame soured the relationship, in part because Jones grew jealous.
Still, Lundgren would eventually experience married life, first with Perri Momm, whom he married in 1991.
Unfortunately, this marriage was not to last, and Lundgren and Momm divorced only the following year.
Then in 1994, Lundgren married stylist Anette Qviberg, with whom he would have two children.
The couple had two daughters, Ida Sigrid Lundgren (born 1996) and Greta Eveline Lundgren (born 2001).
Unfortunately, the relationship fell apart in the aftermath of the traumatic 2009 break-in at their home, and Lundgren and Qviberg divorced in 2011.
1. He got engaged to a 24-year-old at 62
In June 2020, Lundgren raised a few eyebrows on sharing a photograph of himself with his new fiancé.
The actor took to social media to announce his engagement to Emma Krokdal, a personal trainer from Norway.
This news surprised many as Krokdal is only 24 – the same age as Lundgren’s eldest daughter, Ida.
Some of Lundgren’s followers on social media seemed genuinely confused, thinking that Krokdal actually was his daughter and that he was announcing her engagement to someone else.
Regardless, any criticisms that Lundgren has faced over his plans to marry Krokdal have been ignored by the actor.