Dolph Lundgren has a long history of kicking butt on screen, but now he’s trying to use those powers for good. While developing his new film, “Skin Trade,” Lundgren learned more than he’d planned about human trafficking — so much so that he’s now working with a charity group aimed at combatting it. And he hopes at least some of his fans are paying attention.
This movie ties in with the charity work you’ve been doing. Which came first?
The film came way before, seven years ago. It was just an idea for another movie, an action movie about human trafficking, which was something I’d read about. I didn’t know much about it, but I started doing research as I wrote the script, and I realized, “Holy s— this is really serious. This is like 20 or 30 millions slaves around the world.” It’s the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, and it’s global and it’s going on everywhere — also in America, in every state and every city — and I was just like, “S—, this is really serious.” When I had to act this character who sees a lot of this stuff happening and get into that emotional space, it kind of affected me and I decided I need to find somebody to work with. I found these guys, CAST — the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking — they’re in L.A. and they’re reputable and doing a good thing helping survivors.
How weird was it filming this in locations where human trafficking was more obviously going on?
It was weird. You know, because we shot in Asia and there’s a lot of it in Asia, and some of it is recognized by the government and some isn’t — for various reasons, there’s corruption going on in all kinds of stuff. And it was a bit weird, but basically I can’t change that. I can’t walk out in the street and say, “Stop doing this!” All I can do is make the movie and hopefully eventually something will change. Hopefully the industrialized countries can lead the way and hopefully make other people realize this is wrong. If we stop buying, they’ll stop selling. That’s as simple as it is.
It’s kind of like hiding medicine in candy, isn’t it, confronting such an important issue in an action film?
I think that hopefully that will turn out to be a good approach. Hopefully the movie will reach a lot of people — especially men, who are the perpetrators of a lot of this violence against women — hopefully they’ll see the movie because they like the action but they’ll walk away thinking like, “Holy s—, that’s pretty bad. I’ve got a sister, I’ve got a mother.” And maybe next time they wouldn’t get involved with something like that or if it’s proposed to do something in the sex trade or whatever it is, they would think about it twice.
Do you get a lot of questions suggesting that maybe you’re getting a little old for this? And how do you not get offended by that?
Yeah, I’m feeling it. I’m getting older all the time. I mean look, I work out almost every day, and I’m the one who thinks those thoughts. But on the other hand, it’s kind of cool that you can still do some of it and you can still make it look OK. Hopefully there’s a transition into more producing and directing and running projects and cutting back on the crazy physical stuff a little bit. But you have to be able to entertain people and give them a bit of a ride, you know, in a different way. Up until a few years ago, Clint Eastwood was still making action movies. “Gran Torino,” guess you could call that a thriller or something. And he was 80 then, I think, so I’ve got a few years left.
You’re doing fine, don’t worry.
No, but obviously we know where it’s going to end up for all of us. It’s just a matter of trying to squeeze as much out of it as you can. I’ve got to cut back, or I’m never going to make it to 80. (laughs)
On a lighter note, how often do people come up and ask you to tell them you must break them?
“I must break you.” (laughs) Yeah, it happens pretty much on a daily basis, more or less. It’s OK, I don’t mind. That’s kind of cool. It’s not a bad legacy. Why not?
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick