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A chance to meet VENZ - aka Dolph Lundgren - i Melbourne

By: Andrew McNess
Published:
2015-04-19
As part of Dolph Lundgren’s Australian tour in April 2015 the big Swede visited Melbourne where Red 8 Agency hosted a couple of Q&A’s with the man himself. On Friday evening, 10 April, a Q&A was held to mark the 30th anniversary of ROCKY IV, and two nights later a Q&A was held prior to a screening of 1992’s UNIVERSAL SOLDIER.

Dolph Lundgren Melbourne Rocky IV Universal-Soldier
For the author of this article, Lundgren’s visit constituted an unofficial 30th anniversary celebration for A VIEW TO A KILL. I’ll take a celebration wherever I can find it. It is probably a well-known fact – particularly within the FROM SWEDEN WITH LOVE community – that Lundgren (the then-partner of “May Day” herself, Grace Jones) found himself making his on-screen debut rather unexpectedly during the filming of the 007 thriller; pulled off the sidelines, as it were, by director John Glen to portray the KGB agent, Venz. As we have all observed in numerous viewings of the film, Venz is genuinely taken aback by the physical power displayed by Jones’ villainess.

I missed the boat for attending the ROCKY IV screening, but managed a ticket for UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. For anyone versed on Eighties cinema, Dolph Lundgren is, to use an overused term, an iconic figure. While the response was mixed for ROCKY IV, Lundgren’s granite-jawed, ultra blonde boxer nemesis, Ivan Drago, made a tremendous impact – a silent, relentless Michael Myers-type figure who, as the film progresses, stirs a Frankenstein’s monster-level sympathy in the audience member. Drago’s lines are minimal, but certainly impactful when they arrive – both camp and highly intimidating in their simplicity and directness.

So to catch sight of Lundgren in the cinema’s foyer – in a low-ish cut black shirt, tightly fitted black jacket and stonewash jeans, with his short hair spiked Drago-style – was an odd pleasure. What’s he doing stepping into our world? Each audience member was granted a photo with Lundgren, and his friendly, respectful and approachable manner was a true pleasure. He was eager to ensure that each of us received a quality snap, often positioning us to make certain we were well framed by the ROCKY IV banners. Also, considering all his Supanova convention commitments over the weekend, he was surprisingly energised and engaged. But I should have reminded myself this is the man who penned FIT FOREVER.

The Q&A for UNIVERSAL SOLDIER was hosted by Red 8 Agency’s Dan Deltondo. Dan is a huge fan of Eighties and Nineties actioners, and he noted that action films just aren’t the same today … before promptly adding “except for films like THE EXPENDABLES and SKINTRADE (Lundgren’s latest)”. The straight-faced, quick-thinking diplomacy earned a broad smile from Lundgren.

Dolph Lundgren Melbourne Rocky IV Universal-Soldier
Anyway, some observations on the Q&A: Lundgren noted that UNIVERSAL SOLDIER was a significant step forward in headlining (or co-headlining with Jean-Claude Van Damme) a large blockbuster production; there seemed to be a great deal of esteem in the room for the Lundgren and Brandon Lee co-starrer (and cult classic), SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO (I can’t claim to have seen it!); there was an appropriate shift in the otherwise cheerful tone when a question was asked about the human trafficking backdrop of SKINTRADE; and Lundgren’s response towards whether he felt his EXPENDABLES character, Gunner Jensen, had perhaps been denied the opportunity to shine in the star-overcrowded third instalment garnered the night’s biggest laugh (“I think everyone felt a bit ripped off. Except maybe Sly [Stallone].”)

Dolph Lundgren Melbourne Rocky IV Universal-Soldier
When Dan suggested it was time to roll on with the screening of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, and thus allow Lundgren the opportunity to depart the venue, Lundgren added he’d like to stick around and at least watch the opening scenes. And so Dolph won us over again, as he strode up the aisle to take a centre row seat. It was another odd pleasure to see his large frame filling something as mundane and everyday as a cinema seat. But by sitting amongst us, we were, in a sense, given a reminder of the star actor’s dependence on a willing cinema audience.

I’m pretty sure I heard a laugh from Dolph when a female audience member whistled at the sight of Van Damme’s naked derriere during the film’s second act. When the 102-minute film reached its conclusion, however, Dolph was nowhere to be seen. How did he sneak out without an accompanying applause? Did he threaten nearby patrons with the possibility of retributive violence should they be misguided enough to squawk?

Dolph Lundgren Melbourne Rocky IV Universal-Soldier
I didn’t record all of Lundgren’s Q&A (technology issues, alas), but I did capture an anecdote that I felt was most representative of the seemingly humble – even slightly shy – man we had observed during the evening. Talking about ROCKY IV, Lundgren noted an event both petty and amusingly humbling that occurred prior to the shooting of one of the film’s press conference scenes.

Over to you, Venz…

“I’m just sitting there in my trailer. No assistants. Just sitting there. And I get a knock at the door. It’s the producer. He’s a nice guy. He says, “Look, there’s just something we need to do – don’t worry about it – we just need to measure your trailer.” And I’m “Okay. Alright.” And two guys come in with measuring tapes, and measure it – one end to the other.”

Pause.

“Fifteen minutes they come back and say, “I’m sorry you’ve gotta move.” The trailer was a little longer than it was for some other guy.”

Who? Who do you mean? Burt Young? Carl Weathers? Talia Shire, perhaps?

“Welcome to Hollywood.”

Written by Andrew McNess © 2015 From Sweden with Love

Editor's note:
FSWL contributor Andrew McNess is also the author of A Close Look at A VIEW TO A KILL.

For other posts featuring Dolph Lundgren on From Sweden with Love, click here.

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