Bare-chested in leather trousers and on the arm of Grace Jones, Dolph Lundgren was about to give his strict military father the fright of his life.
Back in the actor’s native Sweden, ex-army officer Karl Lundgren thought his son was in the US studying chemical engineering.
In reality, he was partying at notorious New York club Studio 54 and enjoying sex orgies with megastar singer girlfriend Jones and her supermodel pals including Janice Dickinson.
And a photo of him in his kinky-looking gear had just made it to his dad back home.
Dolph, now 60, told The Sun: “He opened the paper one day and saw me. I guess he fell off his armchair and thought, ‘What the hell?’ ”
Speaking about his wild threesomes — and fivesomes — before ’80s classic “Rocky IV” turned him into a superstar, Lundgren said: “That happened on occasions, with or without Grace. Sometimes she would bring a girlfriend home and then I’d have to get up for work the next day and that kind of thing. I’d say at the most it was four or five girls, perhaps.”
He added: “It’s great in theory, but when you have to get up and fight Sylvester Stallone in the morning, it’s not such a good thing.”
The 6-foot-5 star, who is reprising his character Ivan Drago next month in the new blockbuster Rocky movie “Creed 2,” first met Jones when she hired him as a bodyguard.
At the time she was touring Australia, where he was working as a bouncer while pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Sydney.
And he had the credentials — away from his studies, he was a martial arts ace, having won the European karate championships in 1980 and 1981.
After Jones finished her tour, he was due to head in 1983 to Boston, where he had been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to continue his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But when he and the Jamaican-born star became lovers, he decided to follow her to New York instead.
It was there he enrolled in acting school, boosting his income by modeling and still working as a bouncer by night.
He landed his first small movie part in 1985 in the James Bond film “A View to a Kill” alongside Grace and, at that time, they became regulars at Studio 54, partying with A-listers including David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol.
Studio 54 made for strange celebrity bedfellows
Lundgren explained: “It was an adventure — it was a total break from my past and my parents and their upper-middle-class and academic life in Sweden.”
Lundgren says drugs were commonplace in New York at the time, and although he claims he didn’t get too involved, the same cannot be said for “Slave to the Rhythm” singer Jones and her entourage.
He said: “Back then everybody in her circle was doing heavy drugs — cocaine, crack and smoking weed. I didn’t know anything about drugs, I was just training at the time. This was before drugs were a menace to society, it was just rich people who were having fun at Studio 54. They weren’t breaking into cars stealing s—t and killing people, so nobody cared. You could do drugs openly in a restaurant in New York in the ’80s and nobody would say anything, not even the waiters. It was fine at the time.”
But Lundgren’s life was about to change forever when, the same year as his bit part in the Bond film, he was cast in his first major role in “Rocky IV” alongside Stallone.
His Russian character, Drago, became one of Hollywood’s most famous movie villains after he beat Rocky’s friend Apollo Creed to death in the ring. The killing causes Rocky to come out of retirement to avenge Apollo’s death — after some intense training involving chopping down trees and throwing heavy logs. Justice then prevails when the American underdog beats the Russian steroid junkie against the odds.
The movie grossed $300 million at the box office and made 28-year-old Lundgren a superstar from the moment the film premiered in Los Angeles in November 1985.
He was shocked by the sudden change in his status, as was girlfriend Jones, who had unsuspectingly gone along to walk the red carpet with him on opening night.
Lundgren explained: “I literally walked in the theater as her boyfriend with people trying to shoo me out of the way to take pictures of her and, 90 minutes later, when I walked out, people were trying to take pictures of me instead. It was one of those things that happens once in a while in Hollywood, somebody totally unknown becomes famous overnight. Other women showed up, she got jealous and she couldn’t handle it. People wanted me to go to openings. It was a lot of strain and, within six months, the relationship was over.”
And it wasn’t long before Lundgren’s film career was in tatters, too.
He failed to build on his Rocky success, with many of his subsequent movies going straight to video.
His tough times continued after his marriage to Swedish jewelry designer Anette Qviberg in 1994. He found himself drinking heavily and drifting apart from his two daughters, Ida and Greta, who are now 22 and 16. The marriage eventually ended in 2011.
It is only recently, thanks to therapy sessions, that he has understood his inner demons.
It stems from his troubled relationship with his father.
Lundgren said: “My dad was very hard on me. He had a bad temper and he took it out on me and my mum up until I was 12 to 13. My therapist says some people hijack the trauma by becoming a fighter, a soldier or, in my case, an actor. But when the ordeal you’re in is over, the trauma is still there and it’s called escape behavior, which means you’re trying in your life to escape something inside you and you can’t. Then you start drinking, extramarital affairs or violence, sports, or drugs for some people. I’ve had some of those problems. Therapy has been great for me and I’ve started meditating. That healing has helped me a lot and made me feel better.”
Turning his life around, and reconnecting with his daughters — one of whom, Ida, is now an aspiring model and actress — coincided with his rebirth as an action star.
And that was again down to old pal Stallone, now 72.
The action legend asked Lundgren to appear in 2010’s “The Expendables,” which he was directing and had co-written. At the time, Stallone’s career was also in the doldrums.
Lundgren, who is currently dating US actress Jenny Sandersson, 24 years his junior, said: “I remember Sly told me, ‘I was the third lead in “Spy Kids 3D”‘ — and it opened in San Antonio and I was on the red carpet thinking, ‘This is the end.’ ”
“The Expendables” expanded into a hit franchise and, even better, in 2015 Rocky was back in “Creed.” It earned Stallone an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor and now “Creed II” is on its way — with Lundgren finally making his own comeback as Drago.
It is expected to open in the UK at the end of this year, around the same time as another big role, as a king in superhero film “Aquaman.”
Meanwhile, Lundgren also landed a new role as host of ITV4 show “Take the Tower,” where he tackles a bunch of wannabe action stars on various challenges in South Africa.
“Creed II” sees Drago training his boxer son Viktor as the young man gets ready to fight Apollo Creed’s son Adonis, played by Michael B. Jordan.
Thirty years since “Rocky IV,” feelings still run high against villain Drago — to the extent that Lundgren was frightened when he went along to the premiere of the first “Creed,” which he was not in.
He said: “I was sitting in the audience with my girlfriend and the movie’s about to start and I’m thinking, ‘S—t, I’m the guy who killed his father — they’re going to lynch me here.’ A lot of the audience were big Apollo fans because of Michael B. Jordan — I thought they were going to hate me but they didn’t.”
And the audience will see a very different Drago in the new film.
He said of the villain’s life since losing that famous fight against Rocky: “He’s had a rough time. He’s lost everything — his country, his wife, his respect and he’s been living as an outcast when we find him. The only thing he has that’s worth anything, apart from his drive for redemption, is his son who is another heavyweight fighter. This is Drago’s chance for revenge for what’s he’s gone through.”
And will Drago and Rocky renew their epic rivalry in the ring?
Lundgren said: “You’ll have to see the picture, but there is a surprise in that realm I would think, yes. That’s all I can say.”
“Take the Tower” airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ITV4.
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