upTomorrow sees the release of Mike Mendez’ Don’t Kill It, a wild and bloody blend of Indiana Jones style adventure, demonic horror and pitch black comedy, pitting grizzled demon hunter Jebediah Woodley (Dolph Lundgren) and hesitant FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe) against a particularly tough-to-tame demon that’s terrorising the locals in the small Mississippi town of Chickory Creek.
Having spoken with Mendez all about the film (which you can read here), SCREAM’s Howard Gorman also caught up with Dolph Lundgren who shared with us why he jumped at the chance to embody this larger than life demon hunter, and the challenges and rewards of working on an independent horror movie…
SCREAM: Don’t Kill It had various actors’ names crop up before the script reached you. When you read it, what did you see in Jebediah that you could see yourself bringing to the role? It’s certainly very different to anything I’ve seen you tackle before.
Dolph Lundgren: I thought there was a nice combination of an action guy and a funny man. I also felt he was a real character. He felt real and he felt unusual and had a lot of idiosyncrasies and behaviour that made him unique. I really like the fact that Jebediah is someone who talks a lot. In a lot of my movies I don’t often get to say that much. It’s usually action and I’ll say a few words and then shoot somebody whereas here, Jebediah had long dialogues that went on for pages so I thought it would be a fun opportunity for me to do something different.
SCREAM: Mike mentioned how you both saw Jebediah in slightly different lights. He was thinking more along the lines of Indiana Jones meets The Exorcist whilst you were thinking of two very different people: Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley.
I had the luxury of rehearsing for quite a long time because the movie was postponed a few times. I think it just naturally comes by working through the scenes many times; you find various levels to it. Funnily, it was actually Mike that added some of the Eastwood aspects in a particular bar scene we see in the movie. I also really liked the fact that my character had a lot of flaws and he wasn’t perfect because it gave me a chance to do something I hadn’t done before.
SCREAM: Obviously, you’re originally from Sweden. In Don’t Kill It your character speaks with a strong Missouri dialect. I’ve been living in Spain for almost 20 years now and there are no signs of me losing my English accent any time soon when I speak in Spanish. When it comes to dialect and accents for a movie, is that something you go beyond the call of duty to make sure you get it just right?
If you think about it, what is an American, you know? How do you sound when you’re an American? Do you sound like Tony Montana, Robert De Niro, Arnold Schwarzenegger? I mean, there’s always this generic, widespread American that you can think of in a TV show or something, but in the movies it’s more about the personality. I’ve been here for over thirty years now so I think most Americans aren’t really sure where I’m from. They don’t know if I’m Swedish or Russian or if maybe I came here when I was really young. Also, a lot of my fans are overseas and even in Sweden a lot think I’m from the States. I’m sure I don’t sound completely American to an American but I mean Arnold was that Governor of California so there you go, you know? Case in point, if the movie is good and you’re not trying too hard to play a character as necessarily being from Connecticut or wherever, and you try and play things a little larger than life, I think you can get away with it.
SCREAM: You’re one of the few action heroes who, whilst continuing to shoot many action movies, always come back to horror time and again. I think Don’t Kill It caters to a really wide audience, but when it comes to deciding on your projects, are you very conscious about remaining faithful to your die-hard action fan base, or have you reached a point where it’s more a case of finding, like you said, something that allows you to challenge yourself to do something very different than you’ve done before?
It’s a combination of all of the above. Some of it is definitely the character and some of it is the type of movie and the Director. But I think that if your attitude is that you want to try different things, almost any project that you pick allows you to try something new. You can always make a choice when you’re planning how to play the character. It might take more energy perhaps but that’s what I’ve started doing now. Lately, I’m always trying to find something fun about a character that I can try and have fun with instead of trying to hit some mark and trying to satisfy other people. I want to have some fun for myself, you know?
SCREAM: Mike has always been a massive Dolph Lundgren fan so he said that he found you quite imposing at first but that it soon became apparent that you had complete faith in his vision.
I’ve done like 60 or 70 movies now so you have a certain instinct about people. Mike started telling me about the character and how he wanted to make it quite violent and bloody and funny at the same time and then I saw his movie Big Ass Spider and I felt comfortable and reassured because I saw I had a Director with a vision. I didn’t want to have to co-direct a movie. I have sometimes had to do that when I had more experience than the Director, but in this case I was able to leave it all to Mike which was great.
SCREAM: For an indie film where you only had 17 days to shoot, some of those set action pieces are just huge and Mike would push as far as he could push to get the biggest body count possible out of such a short shoot. That must have proved pretty chaotic for everyone involved, but highly rewarding once you saw the finished product.
It was very hectic but somehow I think that when you’re in this low budget horror movie realm it’s okay to work like that. It doesn’t have to be so slick because people aren’t really looking for that. The audience are looking for the scary and shocking feeling. Having said that, I think Mike did a pretty good job considering that we only had so many days. It was a tough shoot but I think there was something about the script and the story that was very unusual so I think the audience are willing to accept less production value if the story is good.
SCREAM: I’m guessing a lot of the fun chemistry you shared with Kristina Klebe was more in the moment given such a short shoot?
It was definitely more in the moment. It was something that had to happen because there just wasn’t enough time to rehearse. I mean, I had rehearsed and she had rehearsed so we knew the scenes quite well and we were very prepared, so that made it a lot easier to get the chemistry because you’re already relaxed in your performance and you can really focus on the other actor more.
SCREAM: The wardrobe and the weapons are almost characters in themselves, especially that huge cumbersome net gun of yours. Did you get to decide on what clothing and/or weapons you could use in the movie?
I saw the concept for the wardrobe before we started so I approved that stuff. We talked about Jebediah’s look but it was so rushed in the end that I never approved the final look and only saw it when I got to the set. As soon as I put it on, though, it was just perfect. The costume designer, Toby Bronson, did a great job. Funnily, Toby’s father, Tom Bronson, actually did the costumes for Rocky 4. Tom used to be Stallone’s costumer for 20 years so that was really interesting.
And then there was that cumbersome net gun, yeah! (laughs) They gave me that thing and I was really surprised that it actually worked. (laughs) It was based on something that is actually used for animals in zoos.
SCREAM: To wrap up, can you tell us a little about some of those million different projects you’ve got in the pipeline? Are things moving forward with the historical passion project set in Sweden that you mentioned at Sitges last year?
I’m still pushing forward with that one but there’s no start date just yet. I have another picture that I’m producing and starring in that I’m trying to do this year. I’ve got The Expendables 4 possibly coming up. I’ve also just done a little role in a movie with Van Damme called Black Water. And then we just did some re-shoots for a zombie movie called Dead Trigger. And then I’m also working on the “Arrow” TV show doing a few episodes of that too.
SCREAM: One project you hinted at whilst at Sitges was that you’d been in talks with “two Austrian directors” who had shown an interest in writing a horror movie with you in mind. Am I right in thinking you were referring to Goodnight Mommy’s Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz?
You are absolutely right, yeah. Those guys are writing something with me in mind. I haven’t heard back just yet but I spoke with them and I thought that what they had was a really interesting idea so I’m excited to see what comes of that in the end.
We’d like to thank Dolph for speaking with SCREAM about Don’t Kill It and we highly suggest you check it out when it releases tomorrow, Friday, March 3rd in select theatres and on Digital VOD. In the meanwhile, we’ll leave you with the film’s trailer below…
Words: Howard Gorman – @HowardGorman