Dolph Lundgren didn’t demand anything by starring in Kindergarten Cop 2. Well, there was one thing that was a non-starter.
“The only thing I didn’t want to do is say the line, ‘It’s not a tumor!'” he tells EW, referencing the classic line uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original 1990 film.
Kindergarten Cop 2 has a more modern conflict than Ivan Reitman’s movie. Assigned to recover sensitive stolen data, gruff FBI Agent Reed (Lundgren) goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher, but the school’s liberal, politically correct environment is more than he bargained for.
Known for his slew of action films, Lundgren found the experience of working on the movie refreshing. Why? Because the kids were just kids.
“There were all these 6-year-olds that are actually there,” he says. “They’re not acting or thinking about their characters’ backstory or anything.”
EW chatted with Lundgren ahead of the movie’s home movie and digital HD release on Tuesday. Plus, EW has an exclusive clip, which you can see above, of Lundgren changing up the classic Miranda warning so kids can understand.
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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved with Kindergarten Cop 2?
DOLPH LUNDGREN: I got a call that they were going to make the picture, and Universal wanted to ask me to do it. I said, “I’m not sure,” because I didn’t want to mess with Arnold’s deal, and I know him. Then I read the script, and the script was really funny. It had its own different storyline than the original. I thought, “Oh, 26 years ago, maybe there is time for another one.” A lot of kids who see this one probably haven’t seen the other one. So I decided to do it. Arnold was cool, and we talked about it, and he was very supportive and so forth.
Your character Agent Reed is fed up with the liberal political correctness of the school. Do you empathize with that point of view, or did you just find the humor in it to mock?
Yeah, both [laughs]. There’s humor in it for sure — it was a clever idea by the writer [David H. Steinberg]. That was a new thing that wasn’t in the original, that there’s an old school versus new school approach to life and parenting and all aspects of being a teacher.
I agree a little bit with Reed in some of the stuff [laughs]. Some of the things, I think the modern way is good. Sometimes, you start watching kids be kids, and having them eat certain types of foods and not eating junk food — maybe being too selective on the food scene. When you’re small, it’s better that you get your milk and cookies when you’re kid, because you’re not going to get it later, so you might as well do it then [laughs].
Most people associate your name with Drago in Rocky IV or Gunner in The Expendables. Was it a conscious decision to move away from those strong, hulking types?
It’s funny, because I never intended to be that way. I was that person as a karate champion. When I got in the business, I thought acting was interesting and something I hadn’t done before. Of course, I end up doing 50 movies as a hulk, shooting everybody with a huge machine gun, and clean their clocks. It was sort of a conscious move.
Recently, as I started putting out that energy and being more interested in that, I’ve had other offers; I got another script I’m looking at by some Saturday Night Live people. I guess if you hang around long enough, you can poke fun at yourself easier, and people don’t mind. It’s certainly something I want to do.
Between Small Apartments, Hail, Caesar!, and this, what draws you to doing more comedic work?
I realize I’m pretty good at it, and it’s something I haven’t used. It’s a natural thing if you’re a big guy that physical comedy can be funnier, if you have a stigma like you’re a big action guy; you can use it to your advantage. I think it’s mostly [because] I enjoy it. I can do pretty well in lighter material than I’ve had access to. Even in The Expendables, I try to have a little fun with my character and lighten it up as much as I could.
On a different level, I don’t really feel like I have to prove to anybody I’m a tough guy, I can kick butt: I already did that before I got in the film business. It’s weird that I’ve made all of those epic, kick-ass movies, because I don’t really have a need for it. It pays a few bills, and it’s been good — I’m not complaining. I’ve got a good image to work from. It gets tiring, after all. If you’ve done The Expendables, then you can’t beat that action, and you might as well do something else.
How would you describe your comedic rapport with your costar Bill Bellamy?
We naturally get along together as people. He’s kind of like me: He’s willing to work, he’s a trooper, he doesn’t mind long hours or doing a lot of takes if you have to, or wait around. I think also it was kind of cute that he has a family in the movie, and I don’t; I’m a bachelor who thinks I’m a tough guy who can handle anything. I liked the fact that he can lecture me like a kid, so he’s kind of my teacher, and I’m a teacher to the kids.
As a comic by trade, did Bill help you nail down comedic timing or through beats?
I think he did help me. Action movies are a little more physical, but it’s more subtle, where you have to stay true to the character, but you want to make it a little funny like Clint Eastwood when he shoots somebody. This material is broader. It’s like jumping off a ledge: You get into a scene, you can’t stop and think about it. If you think you’re doing too much, you may not be doing enough. Comedy can always go pretty broad; that was one thing he helped me with. The director as well, Don Michael Paul, did a great job of giving me freedom to have fun.
Was there one funny or memorable moment on set with the kids?
What was sort of cute was the arc of our relationship. In the beginning, they were almost scared of me. I was playing their teacher, I was starring in a movie, they haven’t been in many movies — most of them — and I’m carrying a gun and a badge. And they’re 6-year-old kids. They look at me like, “Oh, he is the man. Here’s our boss.” But the last day, we did the stills shoot, and they’re climbing all over me — like the DVD cover — and they were so cute. They were battling each other over who was on my shoulders, and they wanted to hug me and kiss me. Then when I said goodbye to them, some of them were very, very sad.
I have this photo of me and all the kids. They all signed it — it’s in my office — with their little cute signatures. I look at that, and I always think, “Wow, time flies. Five or 10 years from now, it’s just going to be a memory, and they’re going to be grown-ups, and we’re always going to remember that moment together.”
Your kids are much older than your costars. Was it easy to turn back the clock to interact with kids all the time?
I have a 20-year-old daughter and 14-year-old, and I hardly remember that age, because nature wants you to forget and have more kids. It was all a pleasant memory of how grown up they are already when they are that age. They’re very childish in some ways, because they have no experience, but they have a lot of emotional maturity in many ways. They feel you out, and they can feel your personality very easily. When they were permitted to beat me up and jump on me and throw stuff at me, that was their favorite part of the picture.