Interview: Dolph Lundgren Talks the Comedy of the Coen Bros. and the Drama of 'Skin Trade'

Interview: Dolph Lundgren Talks the Comedy of the Coen Bros. and the Drama of 'Skin Trade'

May 22, 2015

Dolph Lundgren is a hard action star to pin down. It's not because he's been in less movies than, say, Jean-Claude Van Damme. It's not because he's had fewer hits than Steven Seagal. It's because while peers like Stallone and Schwarzengger were off making sequel after sequel, Lundgren, who has a master's degree in chemical engineering, was happy to start a family and take on a few movies here and there.

When Lundgren does take on a movie, it's almost always something that stands on its own independent of a big franchise. And the latest project to fit that bill is Skin Trade, an intense action movie set in the very real world of human trafficking.

Lundgren wrote and produced Skin Trade (available now on Video On Demand), which finds him playing a NYC cop who heads to South East Asia to get revenge on the gangsters who killed his family. Whilst there he finds himself teaming up with a Thai cop (played by none other than Tony Jaa) to take down said gang.

Skin Trade is a slick, confident, and often brutal action movie sure to satisfy fans of Lundgren's long and distinct career, and it was our pleasure to recently talk to Lundgren about it, why he doesn't make very many sequels, and how he ended up in the next Coen Bros. movie.

 

Movies.com: Are writing and producing muscles you've wanted to flex or are the projects you want to do simply non-existent until you create them?

Dolph Lundgren: A bit of both. I started out hard with Rocky IV and did a lot of work in LA in the '80s taking care of my career. Then when I got married, I moved to Europe and raised my two daughters and I didn't focus that much on my work. I did make movies, but I didn't focus on it. But lately, after The Expendables which was about five years ago, I've started to take control and make more of my kind of movie, what I like to do and like to see, if I can. Skin Trade is my first attempt at something where I wrote and produced with a bunch of guys. We did hire a director, so there's other visions in there, but a lot of it is mine. It's more satisfying to me than acting my itself.

Movies.com: How would you describe your kind of movie?

Lundgren: That's a tough one. It's hard to find somebody who shares your vision, and unless you want to make a sequel or remake – which are very popular – pitching anything new or different is going to be tough. People are looking at loosing all their money if they're an investor or a distributor, so they play it safe. Even if you've got something like Million Dollar Baby for instance, which turned out to be a huge hit that made a ton of money, you're sitting on a script and you start pitching, "Well, it's about a trainer and his fighter, but she gets hurt and he starts to slowly kill her," people go, "Man, that's a downer." That movie doesn't get made unless everyone shares the same vision.

For me, I was lucky to find some people who wanted to make a movie about the skin trade that had some action in it. I've got another one that's about World War I and it's kind of an adventure drama that I'm trying to get made. You hope that you're passionate about it enough that someone will pick up on it and step up and help you.

Movies.com: When it came to Skin Trade, when did you first come across the issue?

Lundgren: I first thought about it ten years ago when I read an article about human trafficking. A lot of people don't really know what it was. You can obviously figure it out from the name, but a lot of people don't truly know what it means, including myself. I read this article about some girls who were trafficked over the Mexican border and the traffickers got scared of the border agents, so they left the van there and they all suffocated inside it. It was about 30 girls. There's a scene a bit like that in Skin Trade. From there I started working on the script and seven years later I found someone who was willing to put it together financially.

Movies.com: On a movie like this, is casting a case of you calling up some friends? How do you assemble the team.

Lundgren: It's tough. Casting is one of the hardest things to do. If you want to get it made, you have to have some names in there. If you've got five roles, maybe two of those need to be bigger names for the distribution. Then you've got to find out who is available, and so you send out material to agents. And if they like the script, then you find out when they are available. Then you have to figure out how to fit everyone into the schedule, so you end up having to shoot out Actor 1 who has a scene with Actor 2 together, but Actor 3 may have to come in during that and then has to leave because they're contracted to shoot something else. Unless you're The Avengers and can pay people a s**tload of money so everyone puts all other projects aside, it's a total juggling game that is nerve wracking. You need this people. We were lucky. I think people liked the material because it's something real and they could add some drama to it.

Movies.com: One of your favorites of mine is Dark Angel, AKA I Come In Peace. Do you have any fond memories of working on it?

Lundgren: Oh man, I like that movie. It'd actually not be a bad remake, if you think about that. In those days you didn't have all the same CGI tools. Even though they did a pretty good job with some simple devices with the flying disc and all, I think what was cool about it was it actually has a pretty good story and characters. I remember the original script was really far out. I don't remember who wrote it, but I remember in the original the alien was dressed like a cowboy. He killed someone and takes their outfit, then dresses like a full on cowboy in all black. Like Yul Brynner in Magnificent Seven. Then the other good guy shows up and somehow, I don't remember how, he ends up in all white. It was a trip. Anyways, it would make for a good remake.

Movies.com: Are there any movies of yours that you'd love to remake yourself?

Lundgren: No. I'm not in to doing remakes so much. I've done a few sequels, like The Expendables, but that's because they're done one after the other. I'm actually not much in to replaying characters from my past. That's not my thing. Universal Solder is one I did, but no, I'm not thinking about remakes. I'm trying to come up with my own stuff. Dark Angel isn't bad, though, because it's a smaller scale picture and has a pretty cool premise with the drugs and all that.

Movies.com: You steal a lot of scenes in The Expendables and you've done things like a cameo in Workaholics. Is comedy also something you're getting into these days?

Lundgren: It just turned out that way. When you stay around the business long enough, and with the movies I make, they're all larger than life without becoming superheroes. There's a bit of an iconic thing that happens when you've stuck around for 30 years and it does lend itself to comedy because you can make fun of yourself and people's reaction to you. I did a little cameo in this Coen Bros. Picture called Hail, Caesar!

That was weird because it came out of nowhere, but it is playing on a lot of my old movie personas. I mean, their story takes place in like 1948, but it's about communism and left wing writers who bring in this Soviet character. They did it in a very clever way. I usually don't want to play Russians. I've done it too many times. But this one was a classic. I think it kind of tops it all off.

 

 

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