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Dolph Lundgren Discusses Directing Castle Falls And Expendables Pranks By Sylvester Stallone - Exclusive Interview

Dolph Lundgren is probably best known for his breakthrough role as Ivan Drago, the Soviet-era punching machine from 1985's "Rocky IV" who re-entered the Rocky film universe with 2018's "Creed II." The Stockholm, Sweden-born actor has over 80 movies to his credit, and he's also a writer, director, and dedicated practitioner of the martial arts. Lundgren has since joined up with Sylvester Stallone's ever-expanding ensemble cast for the old school action of the "Expendables" franchise, and in 2018 he entered the DCEU, donning a green beard to play Nereus, Atlantean king of the underwater tribe of Xebel, in "Aquaman." 

In short, Dolph Lundgren stays busy. It's that work ethic that led him to "Castle Falls," the new film he produces, directs, and stars in alongside actor and martial artist Scott Adkins. In an exclusive interview with Looper, Lundgren shared his thoughts on returning to directing, making the fights in "Castle Falls" look genuine, engaging with the "macho action" of "The Expendables," and connecting his long career to a new generation of moviegoers.

Dolph on directing, fighting, and directing fighting

What led you back to the director's chair for "Castle Falls?"

Well, I always wanted to direct. You know, I directed a couple of small movies back in 2003 or whatever (Lundgren directed two direct-to-video releases, "The Defender" and The Mechanik, in 2004 and '05, and two more films in 2009 and '10), and I was waiting for an opportunity to direct. I'd been involved in the "Aquaman" thing, and "Creed II," and before that it was "Expendables" and there was this other film that I was gonna do that was cut out because it fell through. So I was looking for a script. I got a two-hander, and the script was quite a bit different when we found it, but it had two characters in it. And I kind of tweaked it a little bit, wanted to get more emotional involvement, higher stakes, and get them both [characters] up against each other and then with each other, right? I kind of worked on the script, and Scott was excited, and that's what gave it a shot. Kind of like a test.

You've worked with Scott Adkins before, and you guys are back at it with a pretty great fight sequence midway through "Castle Falls." That's probably pretty fun to shoot, right?

Yeah, he's very good, Scott. He's this perfectionist. He's very good at fighting, and designing fights and shooting fights. He had a fight coordinator who was in Europe, unfortunately, couldn't come because of COVID. But we began to rehearse, and then of course, he rehearsed the other fights. And then we had a really good operator who's a stunt guy actually who works in the Marvel movies. Between all those things put together, we're able to do longer takes where we kind of see the actors fight, or the characters fight, right? Usually it's done with doubles. And that kind of made a big difference. I think it looks pretty cool.

How did the shot in the film of the building being imploded by explosive charges come about? Was that something that was already scheduled for demolition?

The hospital was scheduled for demolition. And that was part of the story originally, right? So we're scheduled to be blown up. And then we have to find a location in Birmingham, Alabama. We found the hospital and it was about to be taken down. But it'll be taken down later, we found out, with the wrecking ball, so we had to do the visual effects version. And they actually used shots of real buildings coming down. It was quite complicated because, you know, it's sort of interesting when you start examining what it looks like in real life and how they set the charges ... obviously, dramatic devices. Clockwork. 12 minutes, this thing's gonna blow up. We couldn't make it out. So it was kind of fun for me dramatically.

Biceps, big knives, and Sly Stallone impersonations

"The Expendables 4" is currently in the works. Did you ever imagine that it would turn into the massive franchise that it's become today?

No, no, I didn't, certainly back in 2008, or '09 or something. You know, it was being directed by Sly and he's a very, very smart man. He created "Rocky," and "The Expendables" and I think the timing was good because he had old school fights, shootouts, and more of our visual effects. Kind of older guys who're washed up, that nobody wants, and they do these missions for the government, and if they get killed, nobody cares. I thought it was a good idea. So it's still being done. And in this one, new guys, new people, new people involved like Megan Fox. So there's kind of new blood, but the same basic concept, which I think we're hopeful is going to work.

Do you feel like those films connect you and your career to a new generation of moviegoers?

Yeah, to some degree they do. Yeah, I mean, I'm lucky because, it's a funny thing. I do an "Expendables," which is obviously a totally new audience because the kids, they don't know who the hell I am. They've seen me in "Aquaman," but I'm just a guy with a beard. With "Expendables," kids get to experience that kind of macho action from back when I started. When you carried these guns and the more ammo you had, the better. It was a bit of overkill. Biceps, big knives. And I think a lot of kids probably — that's why the first one did well, because kids haven't seen that before. And they're like, "Oh, this is good. That guy just got hit by a tank."

Do you have any great memories of some behind-the-scenes moments on those "Expendables" movies?

I do actually. On the first one, there is the first scene of the movie. It was great to work with Sly again, because I worked on setting it out in the first scene in the movie. I'm telling this joke that he wrote, of course, and then I show up, and I blow this pirate away. So tell him this joke. And try like four or five takes and Sly is like [goes into a perfectly nuanced Sylvester Stallone impersonation] "Do the joke." Finally, 15 takes. This is driving me crazy. I could kill this guy. Embarrassing. He was like, "OK." Fine. I got over it. And then I show up for ADR — where you do like a little voice replacement. So it's first up, and Sly is like [does impersonation again] "Guess which take?" And it was the first one the whole time.

'Castle Falls' is now playing in limited theaters, and the film is available on demand.