Dolph Lundgren (Film: Universal Soldier, Rocky IV, A View to a Kill, The Expendables, Masters of the Universe; TV: Arrow, Justice League Dark) is a household name when it comes to studly bad-assery with a slight tongue in a cheek somewhere. Now Don’t Kill It — directed by Mike Mendez (The Gravedancers, Tales of Halloween) — opens this week with Lundgren as a snarky demon-hunter trying to save a small Mississippi town. This one has a sense of humor a la Evil Dead 2 or Dead Alive and more than enough hilariously campy gore to please fans of the genre. Mr. Lundgren graciously spoke to us about the films that he has always loved. The list of his Five Favorite Films is here:
One movie I like is The Godfather, the original, because it’s got everything. The lighting, the acting, the story, the performances, direction — everything put together. You can always watch it. If you’ve seen it 20 times, you could see it another 20 times, you know? There’s always little details — that’s the thing, attention to detail.
Unforgiven is a good movie, I think. Simplicity and epic qualities, and acting and everything. Story.
Spartacus is a great movie, too. It’s also one of those epic pictures. The story is great. I think what’s cool is you had a young director. The fact that he had to walk on there — Kubrick was in his 20s and they fired the original director, and it was produced by Kirk Douglas, so being a star producer — I can kind of relate to that. He brought this kid on set, and didn’t really know him. He turned out to be this incredible genius who did these incredible battle scenes, and just some beautiful stuff in there with real extras — they had 5,000 extras. If you call “Cut! Reset!,” it took half a day to put everybody back in their positions. That’s an accomplishment, I think. Scale, but also keeping it intimate in those close-ups.
Also, they said that [Kubrick] always designed the last shot of his movies first. He tried to sum up the whole picture in the last shot of the movie, like Dr. Strangelove. The guy sitting on the bomb, falling down. That’s a classic shot. In Spartacus, it was Spartacus hanging on the cross being crucified, and there’s a row of crosses leading all the way to Rome, I guess, to the horizon. Then his son is born a free man at his feet, and his wife says, “Spartacus, please die.” Because he was so tough, he wouldn’t die on the cross. She’s asking him to die, while she’s sitting there with his son who is free now. He’s not a slave anymore. Anyways, it’s a beautiful movie.
Have you ever done a movie last scene first?
Have I? No. I know when we shot Rocky IV, Sly [Stallone] said, “Hey, you guys should shoot the ending first while we still have money and everybody’s fresh [laughing].” So we shot the ending of Rocky IV first.
I haven’t directed in almost 10 years, but I’ve got something planned — hopefully this year or maybe next year. But yeah, we’ll probably try to do the same. I try to design the last shot first to see how it works. At least, it’s a good theory of trying to tell the story in the last shot again.
That’s one you can see a million times and and it’s like a whole new style, and dialogue, and all that stuff.
Kerr Lordygan for Rotten Tomatoes: I saw Don’t Kill It, and I fell in love with it. I wasn’t expecting it to be so funny. You’re very funny in it. You had to learn a Missouri dialect there?
Dolph Lundgren: Oh, yeah. It was a funny movie. The whole thing: the guys talks a lot, the dialect, the fact that there’s so much verbiage. Usually in action movies — which is mostly what I’ve done, people don’t talk that much; you’ve got to do without dialogue. But that’s what I liked about it when I read it. The guy over-explains things, and I thought it was funny. I tried to make the guy funny. Make him comical.
I’m doing this arc on Arrow, and I was taking so many ideas there and used it for Don’t Kill It because the guy on Arrow talks quite a bit, too. It’s quite efficient sometimes, effective on screen. A big guy — I think no one expected it.
RT: It was great. Did anything surprise you about doing the movie?
Lundgren: I had a lot of fun. I had more fun than I thought. It was a little bit of a breakthrough because you are a slave to the material as an actor, and that one — because I talk a lot and because it’s funny — I felt much freer after that movie doing other things because it affected me a little bit — like I said — on Arrow. The kind of movies now, everything I’ve done recently, I have a little more fun in front of the camera.
RT: Did you expect it to be that funny when you agreed to do it?
Lundgren: Not really, no. I knew that the character was entertaining, the main character. I haven’t done many horror movies, and I’m skeptical to all that about demons and s— like that. But I read the script, and somehow it pulled me in enough about halfway through. I said, “If it could pull me in, then maybe it will pull the audience in,” because I’m sure they’ll be skeptical, too, of this thing — especially if I’m playing the lead in it. It worked, I guess.
RT: Lots of really fun gore in this one, too. Funny and well done.
Lundgren: Yeah, because Mendez, he doesn’t care. He’d have buckets of blood standing by all the time. He doesn’t care. I like that. There’s so many movies that’s, “There’s too much blood!” Did you ever get punched in the nose? Do you know how much you bleed when somebody breaks your nose? It’s like there’s blood everywhere down to your knees on your shirt. I used to do martial arts. I know how much blood comes out of a nose. But in movies, they don’t want to do that because people can’t take it anymore. People are a sanitized version of reality.
Don’t Kill It opens on Friday, Mar. 3, 2017 in limited release.