There have been a lot of cool stories to come out of Hollywood in the last couple of years, but for our money one of the coolest is the sudden and unexpected career resurgence of Dolph Lundgren, who came out of nowhere (aka Europe) to reclaim his action star title with his turn as the despicable Gunnar Jensen in 2010's "The Expendables."
Now, Lundgren is kicking it into even higher gear with "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning," which reunites him with his "Expendables 2" co-star Jean-Claude Van Damme for the sixth (!) installment of their long-running sci-fi series.
All of which got us wondering: What is it about Dolph Lundgren that makes him so cool?
Well, after doing a little research, we discovered the answer: Pretty much everything. With that in mind, we thought we'd present the top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Dolph Lundgren and help reveal the mysteries of the man with the muscles that just won't quit.
To paraphrase Drago from "Rocky IV": We must educate you. So if you learn, you learn ...
10. He's a genius.
Considering what a giant slab of beef Lundgren is — and the kind of musclebound meatheads he frequently plays on screen — it would be easy to assume that Lundgren is as thick as his characters. But that would be selling him far, far short, because in point of fact he's actually a genius. While he claims that the rumors of his I.Q. being north of 160 are exaggerated, his degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering and the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship he received to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest he's just being modest. Plus, he speaks seven languages, though "only" three fluently. Top that, Rocky.
9. He's painfully shy.
Hard to believe, but despite his imposing figure and even more imposing intellect, Lundgren — whose real first name is Hans — was extremely shy growing up. In fact, his social awkwardness was one of the main reasons he got into both martial arts and acting. "I felt I was very inhibited and shy and insecure in many ways," he told SOMA magazine in a 1996 interview. "Sports was one way to make up for that, and I felt there was something about acting, I didn't know what it was, that sort of intrigued me — having to tap into your own personality, into the depths of it, and find out what was really going on."
8. He owes his career to Grace Jones.
You guys remember Grace Jones, right? Well, the bony international model-turned-actress hired Lundgren as her bodyguard, which led to the two becoming an item. That in turn led to Lundgren getting noticed on the sets of her movies, like the 1985 007 adventure "A View to a Kill," where he earned his first small role. And that in turn led to him getting his big break in "Rocky IV" — and his big breakup with Jones, who couldn't handle suddenly being the second biggest star in their relationship. C'est la vie.
7. He hung out with Andy Warhol.
One of the benefits of dating a model like Jones and living in New York during the early '80s was that it gained Lundgren immediate entry into the highest level art circles in the world. After meeting at a party, Andy Warhol took an instant interest in Lundgren, both interviewing and photographing him for one of his many projects. That in turn led to Lundgren becoming a regular on the NYC art scene, where he also rubbed shoulders with Keith Haring and other top artists of the time.
6. He almost killed Sylvester Stallone.
And not just on-screen, either. Sure, everyone knows how his "Rocky IV" character, Ivan Drago, told Stallone's Rocky that "I must break you." But during filming, Lundgren nearly did exactly that to Stallone after Sly had the idea to stop faking it and play it real for the camera, just for a good 15 seconds of film. In a 2006 interview, Stallone revealed that Lundgren pounded him so hard during that 15 seconds that Sly ended up in intensive care at a London hospital for nine days with life-threatening injuries to his heart. How bad was it? The insurance company backing the movie didn't want to pay Stallone's claim because they said the injury was more in line with a head-on car crash. "I said, 'Well, have you seen Dolph Lundgren? That's a truck. That's a steering wheel. That's a head-on collision,'" Stallone told Entertainment Weekly. "They honored the insurance claim."
5. He was an international karate champion.
So, the fact that Lundgren is a bad-ass fighter in real life probably comes as a surprise to nobody. But there is one detail that is rather unexpected: He earned his championships not in boxing, but in karate. A disciple of Kyokushin karate, Lundgren won the European championships in both 1980 and 1981 before taking down the Australian championship in 1982. That's not to say that he couldn't have been a boxing champion as well; in 2007, at the age of 47, he fought a celebrity boxing match against former UFC champion Oleg Taktarov and only lost via judge's decision despite being eight years older than his opponent.
4. He almost co-starred in 'Gladiator.'
"The Expendables" brought Lundgren back to the big screen in America in 2010, almost 15 years after his last major Hollywood picture. But he nearly had an earlier career resurgence with the 2001 Oscar winner for Best Picture, "Gladiator." According to a 2008 interview, director Ridley Scott said that Lundgren had been up for the role of the undefeated gladiator Tigris, who is brought out of retirement to fight Russell Crowe's Maximus, but that "as an actor, he just didn't fit in with what we were trying to achieve." Lundgren, on the other hand, has said that he was offered a role in the film but turned it down. How awesome would that have been?
3. He's an Olympic pentathlete.
Well, sort of, anyway. You see, back in 1994, Lundgren starred in a film called "Pentathlon," which was really big among pentathletes and basically ignored by everyone else. Still, it's not often that anybody pays much attention to pentathletes, so in the hopes of gaining a little leverage for their program, the U.S. Olympic committee named Lundgren the official Team Leader of America's Olympic Modern Pentathlete team for the 1996 Atalanta Games. In that role he acted as a planning coordinator for the squad. Is there anything this guy can't do?
2. He's an accomplished musician.
Remember the question we asked in that last sentence? Well, it was rhetorical, because obviously there is in fact nothing Lundgren can't do. Case in point: He's an accomplished drummer and musician. Not only did he write, direct and star in a film where he played a rock drummer (2009's "Command Performance"), he's also hosted and performed in musical competitions in Europe. Don't believe it? Check out this clip, which became a viral smash in 2010:
1. Just read this crazy story ...
Back in 2009, while Lundgren was away from his home, a group of burglars broke into his house in Marbella, Spain, tied up his terrified wife and began ransacking the place ... until they happened to see a family photo of Lundgren on a mantle. Then, realizing whose house they had just broken into, the thieves dropped everything and fled for their lives, lest Lundgren return home and dispense justice.