CREED II

IN ‘CREED II,’ THE SE­QUEL TO THE HIT 2015 ‘ROCKY’ SPINOFF, DOLPH LUND­GREN IS HAPPY TO RE­TURN AS IVAN DRAGO, SAYS JOHN CARUCCI. HE RE­MAINS GRATE­FUL TO STAL­LONE, NOT ONLY FOR CAST­ING HIM IN THE 1985 FILM, “ROCKY IV”, BUT FOR BRING­ING HIM BACK IN A HEARTIER,

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Be­ing cast as the vil­lain Soviet boxer Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV” launched Dolph Lund­gren’s act­ing ca­reer. But he had a brainier path if that didn’t work out. The 61-year old ac­tor holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing and was on a Ful­bright schol­ar­ship at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy when Stal­lone cast him as Drago for the 1985 “Rocky” se­quel. Lund­gren doesn’t re­gret trad­ing academia for those red box­ing trunks with the gold stripes, though he wishes his char­ac­ter had a few more co­her­ent lines.

“It felt re­ally sur­real, and, at the same time, it felt like a big mo­ment for me in my ca­reer as a per­son, be­cause that char­ac­ter started my whole ca­reer and it’s been a great thing for me. But it’s also kind of been a neg­a­tive in one way be­cause the guy was such a mono­syl­labic guy,” Lund­gren said. “He was a ro­bot.”

This month, Lund­gren reprises the role of Drago in “Creed II,” as much a se­quel to the pre­vi­ous ilm as it is to “Rocky IV.” Lund­gren re­mains grate­ful to Stal­lone, not only for cast­ing him in the irst place, but for bring­ing him back in a heartier, more sub­stan­tial role.

“I got a chance to play a guy who was a real per­son and who has real prob­lems, es­pe­cially a fa­ther-son re­la­tion­ship. When I see fa­ther­son re­la­tion­ships in movies, it al­ways gets me emo­tional. And I had a chance to be part of that,” Lund­gren said.

Back in “Rocky IV,” Drago kills Apollo Creed in the ring, only to lose to Rocky Bal­boa. But he loses much more than a match.

In “Creed II,” we learn he is liv­ing in squalor af­ter the em­bar­rass­ing loss. He is rais­ing his son Vik­tor, played by Flo­rian Mun­teanu, to be a boxer and is seek­ing re­venge on Rocky by get­ting his son to ight the son of the man he killed.

Mun­teanu said he felt a bond with Lund­gren. “It’s an hon­our to play his son,” he said. “He wanted to cre­ate a fa­ther-son re­la­tion­ship right from the be­gin­ning.”

Lund­gren had a unique tra­jec­tory that led him to the big screen. He was an en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, when he met ac­tress Grace Jones. While dat­ing, she took him to New York and in­tro­duced to him peo­ple like Andy Warhol and Michael Jack­son. It didn’t hurt that he was a karate cham­pion when Stal­lone dis­cov­ered him.

Since then, he’s had a busy ac­tion-movie ca­reer, which in­cludes “The Ex­pend­ables” tril­ogy, por­tray­ing He-Man in “Masters of the Uni­verse,” and the up­com­ing “Aqua­man.” Still, he ad­mits to soul search­ing when it came to his ca­reer path.

“’Why did I quit MIT? Why didn’t I con­tinue with en­gi­neer­ing? Why did I be­come an ac­tor?’ And it took me a while,” Lund­gren said.

Now he’s at peace with his act­ing de­ci­sion: “Whether I’m a good guy or a bad guy, it makes them feel some­thing, and it bright­ens up their lives. That’s kind of what my part in this earth has been, I guess.”

This time around, there wasn’t a lot of ac­tion scenes for Lund­gren, and he was ine with that. But he did get in shape to play Drago, who he de­scribes as “one of those guys who’s al­ways in shape.”

“No mat­ter how much vodka he drinks, he’s go­ing to go to the gym,” Lund­gren said. Michael B. Jor­dan is now a Hol­ly­wood heavy­weight star­ring in the box­ing se­quel “Creed II.” But the 31-year-old ac­tor is mak­ing some of his big­gest moves be­hind the scenes.

His pro­duc­tion com­pany, Out­lier So­ci­ety Pro­duc­tions, was among the first to em­brace the in­clu­sion rider. Jor­dan adopted the pledge to seek di­verse casts and crew just days af­ter Frances McDor­mand ref­er­enced it at the Os­cars. Jor­dan was also in­lu­en­tial in Warn­erMe­dia mak­ing a sim­i­lar agree­ment, mak­ing Warner Bros the sole ma­jor stu­dio thus far to sign up.

Jor­dan says that he hopes “other stu­dios and other pro­duc­tions will fol­low our lead and de­mand the same thing from their sets.”

Michael B. Jor­dan as Ado­nis Creed (left), Sylvester Stal­lone as Rocky Bal­boa, Dolph Lund­gren as Ivan Drago and Flo­rian Mun­teanu as Vik­tor Drago. Dolph Lund­gren

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