Action star Dolph Lundgren and director John Hyams were in attendance at a recent press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to talk about their latest movie, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. The fourth installment in the surprisingly undying franchise has Lundgren reprising his role of Andrew Scott, who along with Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), now operates the Unisol Church of Eventualism, which works to bring in wayward soldiers like themselves to create a new world order.
During the press conference, Hyams and Lundgren discussed the hardest part of shooting the film, where they want to see the franchise go next, what the appeal of the series is and much more.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: John, what was the hardest part of shooting this film for you?
John Hyams: It’s not a huge budget movie so you’re on a tight schedule, and on this movie we had a 30-day shooting schedule. We also shot it in 3D which adds a lot of challenges technically speaking as there’s a whole lot more equipment and variables where things can suddenly go wrong. I think the biggest challenge was that we had to be extremely prepared. In doing fight scenes of such complexity, you can’t just work it out on the set. You need it to be prepared early and have the performers in the gym learning these moves. The best thing about this movie is that we had a cast and a crew that was willing to put work in before we showed up on the set.
We Got This Covered: Dolph, how do you stay in shape these days?
Dolph Lundgren: I do the same type of training with martial arts and weights along with swimming and conditioning. I don’t do crazy stuff where I get injured or become too sore that I can’t work the next day. Most of my training I do in between movies, and even if I wasn’t an actor I’d be doing it. I started studying martial arts when I was 14, and it’s something I still do just to keep sane and feel good about myself.
We Got This Covered: Dolph, this is the third Universal Soldier movie for you. What is the appeal of Universal Soldier and your character of Andrew Scott?
Dolph Lundgren: Well look, they had to drag me out for the third one (Universal Soldier: Regeneration), and for this one I wasn’t too happy doing it because it just felt like I was repeating the same thing again. But then John came up with the very clever idea of making it more of a horror movie, and it was more mysterious and smarter. It was just a different type of movie and more evolved. My character became more interesting because he had more compassion for his fellow soldiers and he’s more human than he was before.
We Got This Covered: John, how did you arrive at the color scheme for this movie?
John Hyams: That’s a good question. The last movie we did was kind of monochromatic with very washed out colors, and it was shot in Eastern Europe during the winter so that informed that. With this one we wanted a landscape that was actually very colorful but not in necessarily a beautiful way, but more of in a sublime, haunting kind of way. Different colors would dominate different settings because the whole movie is about a character taking a descent into his own soul, and through this descent the movie keeps going deeper and deeper to where it’s underground by the end. We’re trying to create this very underbelly world that our character who seemed like a nice normal guy is taken on a descent to hell, so that informed the look.
We Got This Covered: Given the construct of this story and what we see onscreen, do you see this film as passing the mantle of the franchise to Scott Adkins?
John Hyams: It was less a passing of a mantle in my mind and more about introducing this new character and a new flavor to the franchise. As Dolph said, when the discussion was to do another movie, my answer to that was “what for?” It’ll satisfy some paychecks in the process, but what really is the point of the movie existing if we’re doing it the same way? So I thought, let’s bring something new to this, and the last movie posed this riddle of what happened to Jean Claude’s character of Luc Deveraux. So by that very nature he couldn’t really be the protagonist of this movie, and it should be about finding him and Andrew Scott and for these guys to find where they are and what they’re doing. We need a vessel for that and so we brought in a guy like Scott Adkins who to me has more than earned his right to lead something like this, and he is in the perfect place because many people don’t know about him. It is a great way to introduce him and show what he is capable of doing.
Dolph Lundgren: I agree (laughs).
We Got This Covered: Towards the end of the movie there are certain scenes that were clearly inspired by Apocalypse Now. Did that movie inspire this one overall, and were there other movies which influenced the style of it for you?
John Hyams: There are a lot of movies that inspired it for sure. Apocalypse Now is probably my favorite movie ever made, but I didn’t go into this saying let’s do Apocalypse Now. It was more thematically about these characters going into this descent, and when you look at Apocalypse Now it’s no longer just a movie and it has taken over Heart of Darkness as far as our iconic reference for that story of going down the river and visiting the darkness of your soul. Kurtz is more of a mythic literary character at this point, so Deveraux has kind of gone rogue and created his own militia and there’s no denying he’s become a Kurtz-like character. We didn’t avoid that but just embraced that and accepted that this is who he’s become. Thematically it has a lot to do with that but stylistically we were not doing what Francis Ford Coppola did with all due respect.
Our visual influences were a little more in the noir type of world. We watched movies like Jacob’s Ladder, Angel Heart and even Memento, but even the visual palette of Cronenberg movies had this sticky murky darkness to the world we were trying to create that we were more inspired by horror and noir than by action. Also movies like Blade Runner and filmmakers like Gasper Noe who’s made some amazing movies that deal with subjective storytelling like Enter the Void which is one of the great cinematic achievements in history in my mind. So those were some overt thefts really, and Apocalypse Now was more of a thematic direction we were going.
We Got This Covered: Dolph, you went from shooting this Universal Soldier to doing The Expendables 2 in a short period of time. What is like for you going from one action movie to another?
Dolph Lundgren: My characters in each film were different kinds of guys. It was fun because the Scott character was more introverted while Gunner Jensen is more of a Swedish kind of drunk. While Expendables 2 had me giving a comedic performance, this one is more dramatic but I try to bring some comedy to this one as well. Even in the first Universal Soldier movie Scott had some comedic moments without playing broad comedy, and I just try to find those little beats where the audience can get a relief from all the mayhem, murder and brains everywhere. That’s what I thought I could bring to it, a little bit of a light touch.
John Hyams: Dolph’s character of Scott is the one who roots us in the Universal Soldier world because this film clearly goes off the reservation. Even in the last one, he kind of brings you back to what it’s all about. The first movie was very tongue in cheek and there was a lot of comedy in it, and these last two have gotten more serious. But then again you inject this character who is the mouthpiece for all these guys. He’s the guy who’s able to vocalize their existential plight, and in doing so Dolph’s able to bring his kind of spirit and personality and humor to the table. It’s a great release for the audience because they have been taken to a dark place.
We Got This Covered: Sylvester Stallone just announced he’s doing The Expendables 3 and that Nicolas Cage will be in it. Dolph, will you be back for that sequel and what do you think Cage will bring to the movie?
Dolph Lundgren: Well I don’t know if I’m back or not because I haven’t seen a script yet. Cage is a great actor and he will balance the cast out. He could play some verbally driven character and sort of balance all the guys who just run around grunting and killing people like me (laughs).
We Got This Covered: With these last two Universal Soldier movies having been shot in Eastern Europe and Louisiana, where would you like to see the franchise go next?
John Hyams: Bollywood musical!
Dolph Lundgren: Can we go to Hawaii please?
John Hyams: Like many franchises you can go in so many different directions with this thing. It really comes down to what the audience wants and after them the rights holders. If they want to continue in the direction we’ve been going then I’m their guy, but if they want to do something else than they can find someone else and do it differently. I have some pretty good ideas about where I’d go with it which is again taking where this movie ends and the questions that poses and where would that lead you. That’s the point of doing movies which are in chapters because the end of every movie is posing a question and the next one should be answering that and then posing new ones at the end of that.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank John and Dolph for talking with us. Be sure to check out Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, in theatres this Friday.