WASHINGTON — The “Rocky” sequel “Creed” is winning acclaim at the box office, tracking Adonis Creed, orphan son of Rocky’s famous rival Apollo Creed, who died in the ring in “Rocky IV” (1985).
You’ll recall Apollo’s lavish James Brown entrance was fatally spoiled by Soviet slugger Ivan Drago, who beat Apollo to death and forced Rocky to avenge him in an East vs. West battle for the ages.
Now, Drago has a message for Creed’s son, the same intimidating threat he handed Rocky.
“I must break you,” actor Dolph Lundgren tells WTOP, laughing through his trademark Drago accent. “Sorry kid, you’re very weak for a young kid. Now it’s your turn.”
Of course, Lundgren’s challenge is all in fun. He actually really enjoyed “Creed.”
“It was very good,” Lundgren says. “The director (Ryan Coogler) did a great job, and the lead actor (Michael B. Jordan) is good. (Sylvester) Stallone is very good in it. He plays an old Rocky and he really kind of plays his age, but he’s actually fitter (in real life) than the guy he plays in the movie. But anyway, it was a pleasure seeing it, and I was especially happy because they never showed how the father, Apollo Creed, was killed. I was a bit nervous about that, how he died. I’m the one that did it!”
Sitting at the “Creed” premiere, he had a rather mischievous idea to quote a classic Drago line.
“I was gonna do ‘if he dies, he dies’ to my neighbor as we were sitting there in the seats, but I thought, no, I shouldn’t,” Lundgren jokes, recalling his infamously dismissive response to Creed’s collapse.
What would both characters be doing if they were both still alive today?
“If Apollo would be around, he’d probably be a drunk or something … and Ivan Drago would be in Siberia slaving away in the mines for losing the fight,” Lundgren predicts.
In the 30 years since “Rocky IV,” Lundgren has become an action star, from the Bond flick “A View to a Kill” (1985) to the Marvel superhero flick “The Punisher” (1989) to his role as Gunner Jensen in “The Expendables” trilogy (2010-2014). Most recently, he starred with Mickey Rourke and Chuck Liddell in the World War II flick “War Pigs” about a ragtag unit behind enemy lines against the Nazis.
Lundgren says the DVD or Blu Ray is a fine holiday stocking stuffer for any military buff.
“I love World War II. I’m a big fan, a big buff,” says Lundgren, who grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. “My dad was an Army officer, and he used to lay there in bed and read about different battles and he wrote articles about it as well. He was kind of an expert, and as a kid, I grew up in the ’60s, so World War II wasn’t that far away. … It was kind of in the air more in Europe … I’ve just always been fascinated by it and what it was like and what a huge conflict it was and how it changed the world.”
He says he’s most fascinated by the Allies’ development of the atomic bomb, particularly how Allied paratroopers sabotaged Hitler’s water plant in Norway to prevent the Nazis from building the bomb.
As the nuclear arms race heated up between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. after World War II, Lundgren could have never predicted that “Rocky IV” would become an iconic statement to end the Cold War.
“Being a kid and being in it, I didn’t really understand it,” he says. “I understood a little more when (‘Rocky IV’) came out, because obviously the Cold War was still going on and people were asking me questions about politics. I went to Berlin for the release in Germany, and they took pictures of me jogging by the Berlin Wall. You could see these young East German guards up in the tower looking down at me going, ‘Who is that guy?’ … If you tried to cross in those days, you were shot dead.”
That wall quickly crumbled after Rocky told the Soviet crowd, “If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change,” two years before President Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech.
Sometimes, pop culture images change hearts faster than political stump speeches. So while tensions have escalated between Russian President Vladimir Putin and both American Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago remain a symbol for potential cooperation.
Thus, a future storyline for a “Creed” sequel practically writes itself: In an era of renewed East vs. West tension, orphaned son Adonis Creed tracks down Ivan Drago in the now-defunct Soviet Union to seek revenge against the man who killed his father in the ring 30 years ago. He can even quote hilarious “Princess Bride” hero Inigo Montoya: “You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Alas, that’s a Hollywood pipe dream, as Lundgren has little interest in returning to the franchise.
“Ivan Drago, I think he should rest in peace back in the ’80s. That’s where he belongs, and that’s why I think if he’s never seen again, I think it makes it more powerful when you do see him on film.”
And so, the indelible villain will remain in our cinematic memories, his name literally echoing from the mountaintops as long as Rocky Balboa declares the toughest foe he ever faced: “Drago!!!”
Listen to the full interview with Dolph Lundgren below: