Eurohunk Dolph Lundgren Takes on America's Ultimate Tag Team: Sly Stallone and Grace Jones
updated 12/09/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/09/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST
It was Dolph's prowess at the latter, however, that led Sly Stallone to cast him to play his Soviet foe, Ivan Drago, in Rocky IV. Lundgren, a former bouncer, bodyguard, hand-to-hand combat instructor and kickboxing champ, has all the tools, arranged in a sculpted 240-pound package. He claims it's all natural beef—no steroids. "The risks are too great," he says. "They cause kidney damage, hormone imbalances; they decrease sex drive. That just wouldn't be worth it to me." Or, for that matter, to Jones, who seems keenly aware of the publicity value of tart talk and innuendo. "It excites me when men and women approach Dolph sexually," says Jones. "I take it as a compliment. It seconds my emotions about him. I get very excited. He's the biggest man I have ever been with. Definitely the biggest."
Is their relationship approaching another dimension—say, marriage? "I consider myself married already," says Jones. "I don't know if or when we'll have time. We've gotten more secure and more intense." Lately they have been sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Marina Del Rey while Dolph fields film offers, prepares for an Adidas advertising campaign and pumps iron to stay picture perfect.
It's proof of his endurance that he has anything left for his panther at day's end. He and Stallone worked out twice daily for three hours over four months with L.A. bodybuilder George Pipasik and picked up boxing tips from Larry Holmes's trainer, Richie Giachetti. At one point during their boxing workouts, claims Dolph, "I hurt Sly, by accident. I punched him in the abdomen and pushed his diaphragm up into his heart. He was out of commission for two weeks." Adds Lundgren, "I guess I don't yet know my own strength. I feel like a kid. A very big kid." Says Stallone of his protégé: "Dolph's an amazing looking guy, a smash. He is frightening as Drago. He's a lot better than Mr. T, who gave me rug burns with his hair in Rocky III. I envisioned a guy who put together the brawn, the looks, the coordination and the X quality that makes people stare. He's hipper looking and slicker than Rocky. I guess he's a vision of a Russian filtered through West Hollywood."
Lundgren had to sacrifice red meat, salt and dairy products while in training. Stallone told him to focus on "movie muscles"—belly and buns. "If you look good there," grins Lundgren, who does, "you look great onscreen." He also studied fight films and came away impressed with pugilism. "It's worlds away from kickboxing," says Dolph. "Boxing is much more mental. To win, you have to have strategy—as well as power."
Growing up in Stockholm, Dolph, whose father works as an economist for the Swedish parliament, had neither. He says he was skinny and short until his teens. Bullies kicked snow in his face; girls didn't swoon. But by 17 he was a martial artist: the wrong guy to pick on, the right guy for girls to hit on. By 19 he was 6'5½" and lifting weights. After high school he spent a year as an exchange student at Washington State University, then returned home to work on a degree in chemical engineering at Sweden's Royal Academy, which he later completed at the University of Sydney in Australia. Dolph took a year off from college to teach hand-to-hand combat to Swedish marines and later became captain of his country's martial arts team. Eventually he specialized in kickboxing, a sport which, as its name implies, employs vicious legwork. "The bigger and stronger I got, the more trouble I had controlling myself," he recalls. "I was starting to hurt people. I realized I had a killer instinct in the ring. When I got hit, I liked the feeling of retaliation." He was the European kick-boxing champ in 1980 and 1981.
With such puny prelim opponents out of the way, he was finally ready to take on Jones. They met in 1981 in Sydney. She was in town to give a couple of concerts. He caught her show and found her "unbelievably sexy." They met, however, because he was unbelievably hungry: He and a male friend managed to get backstage, spotted an unattended buffet and helped themselves. Then, says Lundgren, Grace walked in "with all these drag queens and weirdos. We kept eating." Jones claims that she took in the scene, decided that the evening's prospects had suddenly improved and purred, "What have we here—the main course?"
Dolph survived a week-long siege with his new sparring partner, finished out the semester at college, then flew super-economy to meet Jones in the Bahamas. After a little more romantic Ping-Pong, he moved into her New York apartment. She helped land him a job as an assistant stunt coordinator for A View to a Kill, the 1985 Bond film in which she made a splash as the villainess May Day. Dolph also played a bit part in the movie as a KGB heavy, and the twosome wound up onscreen together in a brief scene that struck close to home. "It's where she lifts a man over her head and heaves him down some steps. It was not too far from reality at all."
These days, Lundgren is still feeling pressure under Grace. But he's shown he's a contender. And Jones, if truth be told, isn't all teeth and nails. "We fight, but we fight like children," she says. "Dolph is hard, powerful, glorious—but cuddly at the same time."