It’s no secret that ’80s action film star Dolph Lundgren also has a degree in chemical engineering and gave up a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT to become a bodyguard for Grace Jones and eventually an actor. By complete coincidence, in “The Expendables 2,” we learn that his mercenary character, Gunnar, gave up studying chemical engineering at MIT to become a bouncer at a club and shack up with an exotic girlfriend. How convenient.
Whose idea was it to make your character’s backstory your own backstory?
That was [Sylvester] Stallone. I had reservations about the original script on the second [movie]. My character had been so fun to play in the first one. That was the reason I did the movie, and it felt like everyone seemed happy with it. Then in the second one, my character was just like a regular guy in the back with the rest of them, like, “Hey, can I throw a grenade? Can I kill someone, please?” And I didn’t like that. I didn’t want to make the picture — actually, I did turn it down. So then Stallone kind of came to me and said, “I’m going to think of something,” and he came up with a couple of ideas. This was one.
Did you have a say in exactly how much his story matches yours?
It was all in there. I was a bouncer, and it had to do with Grace [Jones] — he fell in love with some girl who dances at a disco, which is kind of like Grace and the whole thing, right? Look, Sly made a career out of making his whole life into movies and it worked for him, so I did a little bit for me, I guess, and I guess it worked pretty well.
Was it common for you guys to slip in Stallone impressions on set when he wasn’t around?
Yeah, and the Arnold [Schwarzenegger] one, too. “I’ll be back.” (laughs) I was at Comic-Con with them, and you’re sitting at the panel with Arnold and Stallone, and you just don’t say a word because what are you going to do? These guys are so famous that they’re like almost beyond famous. Anybody can do their voice, everybody knows them in the whole world — in the fricking jungles of Malaysia, even.
When you’re bringing in all these new characters, beefing up the cast, is there a worry that you’re going to get crowded out?
Yes, I think it weighs on you incredibly. Part of the filmmakers’ and the writers’ task is, how do you give 10 co-stars enough screen time for them not to get upset or feel like they’re getting lost — or for the audience to get their dose of Chuck [Norris] or whoever they want to see, Dolph Lundgren or Terry Crews or Stallone — well, Stallone gets a lot of screen time. [Laughs.]