It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Dolph Lundgren owes his entire career to Sylvester Stallone. After making his first onscreen appearance in 1985 James Bond effort A View to Kill that starred his then-girlfriend Grace Jones, he was bitten by the acting bug and submitted himself for consideration when he heard Sly was seeking an imposing figure to face off against in Rocky IV.
After beating out 5000 other hopefuls to secure the part of Ivan Drago, Lundgren instantly became a household name thanks to taking second billing in a $300 million box office smash hit, which he parlayed into a sustained career as an action star. However, it turns out that he almost played a role in Rambo: First Blood Part II as well, and was even cast as Sergeant Yushin, the hulking henchman of Steven Berkoff’s Colonel Podovsky, but he exited the project in order to focus on his Rocky IV training.
Despite opting out of one Stallone blockbuster to turn his attention to another, the pair have remained close friends ever since, reuniting first for The Expendables franchise, the opening installment of which marked Lundgren’s first film to score a theatrical release in fifteen years, before they collaborated once again as their pugilistic alter egos in spinoff sequel Creed II.
Rambo: First Blood Part II may not have been the best use of Lundgren’s talents anyway seeing as Yushin is essentially cannon fodder that contributes nothing to the finished product, and it was about as smart a career move as you’d expect from a guy with two degrees in chemical engineering that abandoned a scholarship to the world famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology after just a few weeks so he could chase his Hollywood dream.