Dolph Lundgren gets back in the ring for Creed II
Rocky IV's Ivan Drago returns in Creed II
Dolph Lundgren will probably always be known as Russian boxer Ivan Drago, Rocky Balboa's (Sylvester Stallone) nemesis in 1985's Rocky IV, the most successful film of the franchise.
What most people don't know is that the 61-year-old Swede is a world-class athlete in martial arts, and probably one of the most highly-educated actors in Hollywood, with a masters in chemical engineering and a Fulbright scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
But Rocky IV is what made him famous.
Stallone cast the wannabe actor out of a field of 5,000 contenders, so fans will cheer his reappearance in sports actioner Creed II, the Rocky spin-off franchise currently showing here.
Drago is back in the Michael B. Jordan-headlined sequel, older and more beaten up by life.
After causing the death of Apollo Creed and being soundly beaten in a bout by Rocky in that story, he has spent years planning his vengeance by training his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) for a rematch with Apollo's son Adonis (Jordan) in order to redeem his reputation.
Stallone returns as Adonis' trainer-mentor, and also wrote the script, produced the film and recruited Lundgren to return.
At Creed II's press event at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, Lundgren admitted he never thought he would play Drago again.
He recalled: "Stallone and I got to know each other, did three Expendables movies together, and then he texted me about two years ago - would you like to play Drago again?
"It wasn't until I read the script that I thought, wow, this is going to be fantastic and what a great part for me and what a great gift to the audience to put this thing together. I was really excited to be part of it."
What was it like to reunite on the set with Sly and even Danish actress Brigitte Nielsen, who returns in Creed II as your ex-wife?
The whole thing was surreal in that respect, seeing Sly in his Rocky hat with the sneakers. Especially when we did the scene where we're squaring off in the ring, where I'm staring him down. It's like wow, is this really happening again? (Laughs) And with Brigitte, when she walked in and she gave me a big hug, it was like, wow, 35 years! So yeah, it was kind of beautiful and positive that everybody is still around and doing well. Everybody's still alive! (Laughs)
Any specific training for this film?
I trained a lot because I wanted to be able to stand up to my kid. I got to throw (Victor) around a little bit. There was a scene that was cut out, where we have another scuffle and it was exhausting. I had to drag him around in a headlock for hours.
Any injuries this time?
When you do movie fights, there's always a chance of getting hurt because to make it look real, you have to kind of go for it. I didn't really get hurt by Stallone that much. I got hurt in the gym a couple of times lifting heavy weights. It was no big deal really. For me, the big challenge with film fighting is the fact that you have to make it look real even though it isn't real, and it's very, very strenuous. It's actually much more difficult when you miss a punch. When you actually swing and miss it, it takes more out of you.
How do the father-son themes in Creed II resonate with you?
For me, it's a big theme in my life because my father was a very special man. I looked up to him. He had a lot of problems, emotional issues, he was very violent with me and my mum, so that's what made me a fighter actually. That's why I ended up being an actor. I didn't realise it at the time, but that trauma I was dealing with has been there most of my life.
At some point, I forgave him for it because I realised he had a tough upbringing. When I ended up in Hollywood, I became a chemical engineer just to prove to him that I could get a scholarship to MIT. Then when I became an actor, he realised that I was following my heart instead of doing what he had told me to do. I think he appreciated that, so I forgave him and I still do even though he hurt me a lot too, but life is like that.
What has the fan reaction been like for you? After all, Rocky IV was a while ago.
I am used to some pretty girl coming up to me and I'm thinking, wow, she looks great, and then she says, my mum loves you (laughs). Like, damn, but at least it's not her grandmother yet, so I'm hanging in there.
The writer is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.