The chemistry between you two was very believable. How was it working with each other?
Dolph: We were first introduced at MGM. I hadn’t signed for the picture yet. I hadn’t read the script. There was an old script that I didn’t want to read, because I didn’t want to get a bad impression. But then they said, ‘you’re going to meet the guy who’s playing your son.’ I hadn’t seen a picture of you or anything…
So, first I came in and there’s [director] Steven Caple with his frizzy hair and beard, and I thought, he looks like a real director. He looks cool. And he had some good ideas. Some stuff to say. And then I looked over and there was this big guy over there. As tall as me. Maybe slightly taller. He came over, and he looked good. He looked powerful. And had good charisma. He made an immediate impression. He seemed like a nice guy, as they say.
And then, I read the script and decided this is a great role for me. And I better start knowing this kid here, so we could get to know each other. We’re supposed to play father and son, and I need to know him better. I invited him to train with me. We did some wrestling lessons together. We rehearsed together. We just hit it off pretty well.
Florian: We clicked right away. Right from the beginning. I had a genuine respect for him anyway, because I was growing up with his movies. Not only Rocky, but Red Scorpion, Universal Soldier… I wanted to be as tough as Dolph.
It was an honour, obviously, to play his son. And then the chemistry worked between us. We did a lot of workouts together. A lot of stuff that strengthened that father-son bond. And I think you can tell that on screen.
What did you do to strengthen the bond offscreen?
Florian: First of all, workouts; Dolph initiated that right away.
Dolph: Yeah, I thought that was the best thing. Because in the gym you can get a sense of people’s personality. You know if they give up easy or if they’re tough or if they’re trying to prove something, or if they’re cocky. I’ve been around athletes most of my life, and I realised he’s a very cool guy, he’s respectful, he’s tough, he doesn’t give up. All good qualities. Once I knew that, then we had to start working on the stuff in the film, some of the scenes, the Russian stuff…
A lot of it was just having trust.
Also, Florian looks up to me in a certain way that I think Viktor looks up to Ivan. So [snaps his fingers], we have that. You have that already on camera. And then I have a certain respect for his athletic ability. I do… Dolph does. So, that’s already there. So, now we just have to put all the bad energy in there… All the conflict.
But drama is based on conflict. If there’s no conflict, there’s no drama. The more conflict, the better the drama. So that’s all good stuff…
Dolph, there is a much more emotional dimension to the character this time, and you are great in the movie, especially with the drama.
Dolph: Thank you. I’ve always had skills for it, but I never get a chance to do it. I’m always running around with a big machine gun taking people out…
I realised when we did the first dramatic scene, I got very emotional just showing up for work. Because I realized, just what you’re saying. Wow, this is a real dramatic role that I always wanted to do. And I got to go back to Ivan Drago to get this done. How strange. What a wonderful full circle in this life. I didn’t have to do anything to get emotional. Just basically, take a breath. Because with Florian’s work and Steven there behind me, it was just easy in a way. And wonderful.
Brigitte Nielsen is in the film – were there more scenes with her that did not make the film? Was it awkward at all?
Dolph: When I read that in the script, I was like, ‘Oh no, Brigitte’! And I saw Stallone when she showed up. He was like, ‘ohh’. He hadn’t seen her for 30 years, I think. And they were married and everything.
She came to my trailer to say hi. And I gave her a big hug. And I was like, ‘Wow what a great idea for the drama.’ I think she had to go through a lot to reach that kind of coldness. She’s a very warm person, you know. And she has to play cold to her son. I know that Steven had to talk to her a lot when they were doing her closeups. I saw that.
Florian: She actually is very, very nice. Super sweet woman.
Sly must have signed off on it…
Dolph: Yeah, he must have. I don’t know how much he was supporting it…
Florian: I was actually there when they made the decision. It was my first day with Steven. I met Sly for the first time. And then Steven told Sly that he was planning on bringing Brigitte back. How does he feel about it? And he was like, ‘If you want to do it…’
Florian, how did you pick your fighting style in the movie?
Florian: They picked the style for me. I think Ivan’s style and Viktor’s style are different. Ivan is more the classic boxer who tries to keep the distance, working with a jab and a straight right hand. Viktor is not setting up so much with the jab. He has a brawler’s stride, something like Mike Tyson’s got. Hulking a lot. And trying to deliver power punches all the time. But what they have in common is that every shot hurts!
Dolph: I knew the style they picked for you. In the movie of course, I’m the one who oversees everything. And I think Ivan picked the style because it’s a very difficult fighter to fight. They have a different style to fight against. Just like Mike Tyson. Very hard to hit. And also, with the hooks and everything, George Foreman fought like that too.
Why don’t you fight Stallone in the movie?
Florian: They took it out… The hospital scene.
Dolph: Oh god yeah… I haven’t seen the movie you see. So… Oh yeah. There was a punch. Maybe because it was too much? Maybe it was a bit too predictable.
We come to the hospital after Adonis gets beat up in the first fight. And I’m down there to get some more publicity for my boy here. We show up at the hospital and Rocky comes down and we come into the lobby and we say…
Florian: It’s our title.
Dolph: Everybody knows it. And he says… something like, ‘I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that if I were you.’ And I have some mean line like, ‘You should be happy.’ And he says, ‘Eh why?’ And I say, ‘This Creed is still alive.’ And then he swings, and I grab him and punch him. And they took that out. Maybe it was a little too cartoonish or something. I don’t know.
Save it for the next movie.
Dolph, what advice would you give Florian?
Dolph: Oh boy… Look, things happen for a reason, and the way they’re supposed to happen. You can only willpower so much of those things. I wouldn’t go back and change my career. I had to do a lot of movies I didn’t want to do. I made some that were great. Some not so great. But you know it is what it is… I would suggest that… Try to work with good directors. I worked with James Wan on Aquaman, and it just makes the job so much easier. If the director is there to support you dramatically then that’s wonderful. Otherwise, a lot of directors in action movies, they just leave that up to you. And they worry about all the fireworks and stuff. You don’t get Gladiator or Unforgiven… You don’t get movies like that with those type of directors.
Florian: I was lucky to have Steven as my first director. He created a very complex character. He always required high intensity from us. He’s a true visionary. I’m very lucky to have worked with him. And let’s see where it takes me.
Is diversifying your roles something you would advise?
Dolph: Yeah, I was playing a lot of roles where the characters were the same for various reasons. And I was young, and I wanted to have a good time, and meet some young ladies. I would just take a script. “Ah this looks good.’ But you know those were different times. It was the ‘80s.
I had a good time. But I think the ‘80s… It was more forgiving in those days in one way. Now it’s a big business… You get a shot and you take it.
Dolph, you did The Expendables with Sly, but prior to that, did your friendship endure from the Rocky film?
Dolph: There was a few years when I probably didn’t talk to him much. About 15 years where we saw each other occasionally. And then I ran into him somewhere and we had a couple of tequila shots, whatever it was. And then he gave me a big poster from Rocky IV, that I have in my house. It’s from Africa. A big one, they hand painted. He just sent it to my hotel at the time… I was living in Europe. And I just came in and it was a huge package there. It was like what the hell? It was from him. It was very sweet of him.
And then a few years later, he called about The Expendables.
Since then, we’ve been pretty close. And I talk to him quite a bit. He’s my closest friend in the business, for sure.
Does this feel like a comeback to you?
Dolph: It feels like finally I’ll get hired to just be an actor. Not just to kick ass… Which I don’t mind doing, but, you know, it got a little old after a while.
Creed II is in cinemas November 29, 2018