In 1984, Dolph Lundgren was catapulted into stardom with his now famous role as the big Russian Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Two years prior however, he was living in Sydney as a university student studying a masters in chemical engineering. Little did he know at the time, but a chance meeting with Grace Jones would soon see his career path changed forever. In Dolph Lundgren's biography he describes his dramatic transformation as:
I walked into a Westwood movie theater as Grace Jones' boyfriend and walked out ninety minutes later as the movie star Dolph Lundgren. I was shell-shocked for years from the mind-boggling and daunting experience of being a student-athlete from tiny Sweden suddenly having to live up a new action-star persona.
It all Started While Living in Sydney Australia
In 1982 while studying at Sydney University, Dolph was your typical student trying to juggle academic aspirations with his financial commitments. To earn extra cash on top of his scholarship, he worked as a bouncer at several locations including Sydney’s then infamous Kings Cross. During an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dolph candidly admitted he was definitely active in his role as a bouncer.
"There were so many incidents there and I was certainly not aggressive, but something happened once or twice and they (the cops) were very nice with me and got me off."
Seeing his 1.96m stature guarding any door would have been enough to make people think twice. He was more than just height and muscle though. He was the European heavyweight champion in Kyokushin karate for two years prior to coming to Australia. I feel sorry for anyone who crossed his path…..
A Chance Meeting With Grace Jones
During the early ‘80s, Grace Jones was on the up and up with her career. After transitioning her music career into ‘new wave’, she was on tour in Sydney promoting her Warm Leatherette album. It was during this time working as a bouncer / the ‘security industry’ that Dolph’s path crossed with Grace’s. While in the UK, Dolph described the experience to the Daily Mail as:
"I met her (Grace Jones) at the Capitol Theatre where she was performing and I was doing security with a couple of friends of mine. I got put on her detail as she went around the nightclubs in Sydney and I guess she took a liking to me. Four years later, we were still together."
I think she took more than a liking to Dolph as their paths were intertwined for years. Imagine it, one minute you are a university student working as a bouncer, and the next you are side by side with #GraceJones traveling the world. I don’t think he was complaining about it!
Dolph's KGB Henchmen Break
#DolphLundgren was always a motivated man with many accomplishments already under his belt and being with Grace Jones did not stop his drive. After moving to New York with Grace, he began taking acting classes at the Warren Robertson Theatre Workshop. The combination of his looks, drive and relationship provided the opportunity for him to be noticed.
During the shooting of the James Bond movie A View to Kill in 1985, his first true big break as an actor came from trying out for a minor role as a KGB henchmen. The fact that Grace Jones was starring in the same movie could have helped a little bit... Regardless of the how the opportunity was seized upon, Dolph was now too in movies.
I Must Break You
The role in Rocky IV was his shot into true stardom. There was a 9-month audition process, which had him selected against 5,000 other Ivan Drago wannabees.
To Dolph’s advantage, he was already an accomplished fighter. Using this background, he began building upon his skills to become the skillful and menacing boxer we all remember from #RockyIV. Reliving the experience with Men's Health magazine, Dolph was physically on display:
"There was no CGI. It had to look like you hit the guy. Now, you could be twenty feet away, and they can fix it in the editing room. Obviously there is a way, with camera angles, the way you position yourself, so it looks like you're pummeling each other when you're really not. And it helped that I was quite a good karate man. I could adopt very easily to that"
In the end, the hard work, skill and prowess of Dolph paid off as he was eventually chosen by writer-director Sylvester Stallone to be his adversary.
Drago: My name is Drago. I'm a fighter from the Soviet Union. I fight all my life and I never lose. Soon I fight Rocky Balboa, and the world will see his defeat. Soon, the whole world will know my name.
The Romance Was Over
Not long after Rocky IV was released, the whirlwind romance that plucked Dolph Lundgren from a university student to international movie star was over. The reasons why they went their separate ways can only truly be known by them. Regardless of the reason, their four years together were instrumental in Dolph Lundgren becoming the accomplished actor that we know him for today.
I am not sure what movie role I have enjoyed most. Rocky IV is definitely a standout, but being a kid of the ‘80s all my dreams came true when I went to the movies with my Mum to watch Masters of The Universe – a classic.