Stallone gathers action heroes for Expendables

Dolph Lundgren describes The Expendables as 'just a typical Sly Stallone script, which means humour, action, and a lot of people getting shot.'

Dolph Lundgren matched against Jet Li in new film

Twenty-five years after they met in a boxing ring in Rocky IV, Swedish action star Dolph Lundgren got a call from his friend Sylvester Stallone.

"He called out of the blue: 'Hey Dolph, I got this script, check it out,'" Lundgren recalled in an interview Tuesday with CBC's Q cultural affairs show.

Lundgren's role as the Russian fighter in Rocky IV brought him to the attention of Hollywood and he went on to make Masters of the Universe and Universal Soldier. Standing 6 ft. 5 in. (196 cm), the Swedish chemical engineer was chosen above 5,000 other guys for the 1985 film.

Lundgren was only two pages into the script for Stallone's new project, The Expendables, before he decided he wanted it.

"My character is funny and interesting. It was just a typical Sly Stallone script, which means humour, action and a lot of people getting shot," Lundgren said.

Lundgren also stars with a roster of old school action stars — including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, wresting star Steve Austin, UFC champion Randy Couture, football star Terry Crews, veteran bad guy Eric Roberts and Stallone himself.

The film is a return to old school action, with actors who actually spend hours working on their bodies.

"In everybody's mind, there is a little competition when you hear who's signed on," Lundgren said. "You want to be as great as the other guy, but you don't want to affect the film itself."

Lundgren found himself paired against Hong Kong martial arts star Jet Li, and noted Li's ability to memorize fight choreography after just one run-through.

"What is interesting with Jet is he is very good with choreography. He'll sit and watch the choreographer go through it once and then do it all — he has an incredible memory of fight coordination. It put pressure on me to get my moves right," Lundgren said.

Stallone hasn't changed much as a director, Lundgren said.

"He's a pretty tough guy as a director. He knows what he wants and he's written the script, and he wants the film to be a success," he said.

Stallone even remembered a scene in Rocky IV where Lundgren had delivered him a body blow accidentally.

"Some of those shots, when you do it , you have to hit your opponent or you can tell on film it’s not real," Lundgren recalled. "He said 'Dolph, you owed me because you beat me up so bad that if he wasn't going to be in The Expendables I would 'be shoot him and bury him.'" 

Lundgren says CGI has changed the action hero, dating the change to the early 1990s, with Batman adding muscles via Velcro.

"Maybe the big star [in modern action films] is the director and the CGI technician," Lundgren said. "You could take pretty much anyone and train them a bit and give them stunt doubles and a green screen and wire a great script and lot of money and make anyone look like an action star."

"There was something to old school action hero who is a man or woman … [the fans] can look up to their accomplishments and to their character.  That is lost a little bit."

The Expendables opens Aug. 13.