Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ask Me (Another) Question: Universal Soldier w/DOLPH LUNDGREN

I gotta tell you, it's a bit of a trip and I hope someone has video of it but to be standing in front of a crowded theater and be joking with one of your child to adulthood idols, I can't even describe it.  I've got a big mouth but every time I'm on a microphone people can't hear me.  So I had Dolph himself shoving the mic in my face and telling me to speak up, good times.  While introducing the flick we learned that Andrew Davis was fresh off directing Gene Hackman in The Package and wanted to turn Universal Soldier into an elaborate, political, European set revolution story that saw Unisols Luc Deveraux and Andrew Scott in bit parts.  Baumgarten balked and Davis said the young producer was about to get fired.  The next day, Davis was gone.  Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin produced 30 pages of treatment in 2 days and the movie was back on track.  Dolph talked about making his character a bit off the wall and discussing with Emmerich his ideas like throwing grenades and squawking like an Indian or celebrating like a baseball pitcher.  His impression of Emmerich chain smoking then saying "very interesting, I like it" in a German accent was hilarious.  Dolph did an English accent next when telling a story about the first day shooting with Jean-Claude Van Damme.  The scene called for The Bulging Belgian to kick a gun out of Dolph's hand and on the first take, JCVD kicked hard and the gun went flying.  Dolph was a little shocked at the full bore take but shook it off.  Next take, same thing.  That's when Dolph's English karate instructor simply said, "knock him out" if it happened again.  That message was relayed to stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong whose eyes got wide as did Van Damme's when he was told.  Next take?  JC delivered a pillow tap of a kick.  The rest of the shoot went great and the two have co-starred in an additional 3 films.

We had a section of seats reserved for Dolph and Craig's party while Dammaged Goods had an entire row behind them.  Sitting behind Dolph while watching the opening of Universal Soldier?  There's only a few things left I need to accomplish in my cinema fan life.  You could tell he enjoyed the movie, the warped sense of humor and brutal 90's violence as he laughed and whispered to his friends as the memories came back.  The print was a bit soft at the start but got better throughout.  The story of two soldiers in Vietnam who kill each other but are brought back to life by "hyper accelerating dead flesh" 25 years later as super soldiers part of the Universal "Unisol" Soldier program then face off once again when their memories return, Unisol is a prime example of what made the 90's action era so great.  The film looks big with great production value from the rain soaked jungles of Vietnam (a converted golf course in Arizona), the Unisol introduction scene at the Hoover Dam with high falls and rappelling face down the huge dam to the giant, mean looking, expanding Unisol truck to the destruction of just about every location via machine gun fire, explosions or bar fights, Universal Soldier packs a punch but still has room for laughs and even a quiet dramatic beat or two.

Universal Soldier is definitely one of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph's best films.  It's a real movie with a decent budget and a talented crew.  Germany's Roland Emmerich was hungry to show what he could do in America and really pushes it as the film is more or less an exciting, prolonged chase scene.  Beyond that, the film contains one of JC's best performances and maybe Dolph's greatest in his career.  Van Damme is youthful, innocent and funny while Dolph is just plain crazy and sickly hilarious.  From the necklace made from human ears to the sudden bursts of violence balanced with evil yet comedic brooding, Dolph delivers a fantastic performance.  The supermarket scene where Sgt. Andrew Scott talks about "kicking or kissing ass and busting heads" has always been one of my all time favorite moments in this or any film.  I had to jump out and catch the D-train so I missed their epic rain and fire filled clash but escorted Dolph back into the theater and got to watch him watch Van Damme kick him into a combine and throw the switch.  Again, hilarity.

Geoff and I had discussed some talking points since we really wanted to make the night and Q&A a tribute to Dolph's inspirational life and awesome career.  They took the stage and were recorded for the Humans From Earth podcast and Dolph was simply wonderful.  Funny, smart, animated and gracious.

- Stallone was so famous around Rocky IV that he needed a police escort.
- When Dolph's boxing boots were the wrong color scheme, Stallone flipped out, called the Adidas factory in Germany, had them open over the weekend, make new boots and ship them to Vancouver for Monday's shooting.
- On way into Rocky IV, was on the arm of Grace Jones, after the film people are looking at him and now she's on his arm.  Life changed completely in 90 minutes.
- Back in the day directors didn't have video village of monitors and just had to know what they were doing and Emmerich was a great director.
- John Woo sat behind 8 monitors chain smoking and direction consisted of walking up to Dolph, getting really close, then walking away.
- Back in his day, you had to do more yourself and could only have a stunt double for long shots.  Today, a good actor with a good stunt coordinator and 4 doubles can be an action hero.
- Cites Stallone, Chuck Norris, Arnold, Clint Eastwood and Robert Mitchum all had real life experience and played characters closer to their personalities and skills as "tough guys".
- Sly had made Drago a sympathetic villain and the call to play All-American hero He-Man was difficult and a lot of pressure.  Almost froze wearing costume that was the size of a stamp and couldn't go out in public because of his mullet hair extension.
- Has liked working out since a teen and it's part of the business, also keeps him young.
- Likes producing, on it from day one and get to shape the project unlike a director or actor who sometimes just get the call and show up.
- Skin Trade came from reading an article years ago about a van full of women being brought to America from Mexico, abandoned and suffocated to death.  Wrote the script never thinking it would be made but just finished in Thailand and in post production.
- Sex Trafficking is 3rd biggest criminal enterprise in the world behind drugs and guns.
- Craig Baumgarten came up to discuss more about Skin Trade and the great cast: Tony Ja's first English speaking film, Michael Jai White, Ron Perlman and Peter Weller.
- Weller had a comical fit on last day of shooting as all of the stars were on set and Weller came late and got the smallest trailer.

Dolph said he would do some signing so we didn't need to whisk him away.  As soon as the Q&A ended, wow, a rumbling herd rushed Dolph so we moved to the lobby where things could be a little more orderly.  Dolph was great as he signed and took photos for quite a while.  Getting him out of there was a bit nuts as there was still a mob after him and I was one of those guys who walks in front of celebs clearing the way and saying stuff like "get back" or "we're done" and "don't get hit by a car".  All in it was a crazy, fun, memorable and educational night that I still haven't quite processed yet as I had to be back at work the next morning at 8:30AM.

Thanks Dolph, Craig, Lori, Grant, Christian, Tammi and Geoff.  Victory!  We'll do it again soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment