Ivan Drago. He was the soulless, socialist automaton of our 80s imagination, threatening to smash America’s Apollo Creedian hubris under his monstrous fists.
This week, the man who played perhaps the most iconic Communist character of 80s cinema (Sorry, moustachioed dudes of “Red Dawn”) reflected on why he left his home country for America in an interview with Adam Carolla. Swedish-born Dolph Lundgren, already a karate champion, came to America as an engineering student. Somewhere between MIT and martial-arts tournaments, he became a body guard for Grace Jones, was photographed by Andy Warhol, and got cast as a virtual unknown by Sly himself. Here he is on “The Adam Carolla Show” (which you should download daily.):
DL: Well, Sweden is so small if you wanna do anything with your life, you gotta get out. You gotta go someplace almost unless you want to start IKEA or something, I don’t know.
AC: Your dad was an engineer, your brother was an engineer. He wanted you to be an engineer.
DL: Well, my dad was the one who said, “Listen if you wanna be somebody, you gotta go to America because here, this country sucks.” There was socialism. He hated it. He was like, “I hate this place. You gotta get out of here.” So, I guess it was stuck in my head when I was a kid, and I ended up doing what he suggested.
AC: What do you pay in taxes in Sweden?
DL: Well, I don’t know. We used to pay 90 percent. 101 percent I think, at some point? (Laughter)
AC: So your dad was like a Rush Limbaugh fan living in the place that makes furniture that you put together with an allen wrench.
DL: He was.
AC: But he was like, “Screw this with all the taxes, you gotta move out and do your own thing.”
DL: Yeah, that’s what he said. Basically it’s a more socialistic society. Socialism, it’s more like, you know, people who have any special talent or any special drive, they try to keep them down rather than encourage that.
So, if your heart’s on fire, they must break you.
In the end, of course, Drago was no match for the indomitable American spirit, unleashed to lift a bunch of boulders and old-timey wheelbarrows and stuff in tight-fitting sweatpants in the USSR’s arctic desert.
Despite his stature and his steroids, and even his electrocardiographic Atari fitness temple, he went down. Now, we know why, thanks to Dolph himself. And, once again, Rocky IV has taught us a nuanced lesson about ourselves and late-Cold-War-era international relations. You can listen to the whole interview, here. It’s so good, Mikhail Gorbachev would start a slow clap for it.
Update: Forgot to mention, Lundgren is in “Small Apartments,” in theaters now.