In light of Sylvester Stallone’s recently-released Director’s Cut of Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago, it couldn’t be timelier with his good friend Dolph Lundgren releasing his own directed action film, Castle Falls.
The film explores the motivation behind three desperate parties attempting to retrieve 3 million dollars stashed away in the abandoned Castle Heights Hospital. We journey with ex-MMA fighter Mike Wade (Scott Adkins), who lives out of his truck and is hired for temp work on a construction demolition crew. Meanwhile, prison guard Richard Ericson (Lundgren) receives disheartening news that the medical insurance won’t cover his daughter’s cancer treatments and he must find a way to make the payments. One of the inmates under Ericson’s supervision, Damian Glass (Robert Berlin) tasks his brother and crime boss Deacon Glass (Scott Hunter) to recover the hidden money in the empty hospital building. With the Castle scheduled to be demolished within 90 minutes, the emotional stakes thrust as the clock counts down with the three sides intertwining in a frantic race to be the one that reclaims the prize before the detonation. Castle Falls is written by Andrew Knauer and directed by Lundgren.
When Below The Line spoke with Lundgren about his latest film, he described why he chose the script and specifically the Ericson character, discussed the relationship between him and Scott Adkins on screen and the fight scene between the two. Lundgren also reflected on the significance of the re-release of Rocky IV.
Below the Line: What drew you to this script and the Ericson character?
Dolph Lundgren: Originally, Ericson was a bad guy. He wanted the money for himself, but I came up with an idea of giving him some very deep motivation, which is family. The best motivators are usually either family or money. I picked family and put him on the same level as Mike, actually more desperate than Mike. I wanted to play something deeper for my character, than just wanting the cash. Mike is the main character, he is one who has a transformation, and is a different person at the end. In the beginning, he is more egotistical or is more by himself and at the end he realizes that it’s really about sharing, and life is about doing things for other people. Ericson is the co-lead, and I think his motivation is stronger than Mike’s in a way.
BTL: Can you talk about the chemistry and the relationship between you and Scott Adkins on screen?
Lundgren: I’ve worked with him a few times on a couple of the Soldier movies and Expendables. He’s a great guy and a good fighter. Part of our relationship was I was a director, and I wanted him to try to embrace his character on a deeper level. We spoke a lot about that, give him a chance to act, and play a real person with subtext and all that. We also interacted on the action, especially the fights where he is very good. He was instrumental in some of the choreography and how to shoot it. It was a good cooperation to show collaboration.
BTL: What about the fight scene between you and Scott, when you guys first meet? How long did that take? Can you break that down?
Lundgren: It was fun to do. It was hard work, especially for me, because I was also directing. I’m older than him, and I had a bunch of injuries. During the fight, I ruptured my bicep tendon on my left arm, so I had to deal with that. But it was fun to do a fight myself without having to double. I don’t know how many long screen fights I’m going to do again, maybe one or two. That’s certainly quite challenging to do with someone like Scott, who is good enough where he can shoot long sequences of it without coverage and cuts. We must really prepare and have to move fast. It’s not done much anymore. We usually use doubles, face replacement, there’s CGI, and all the superhero movies are done that way. It was a nice feeling to do it the old school way.
BTL: What is your martial arts background?
Lundgren: I started doing Japanese Karate when I was about 15 in Sweden. I did that and became a blackbelt, and I fought in the European Championships a few times. I was the Australian champion when I lived there. I was full-on training hard when I got into the Rocky IV process. Once I got the movie, I stopped competing in Karate. I’ve done it pretty much ever since, so right now I’m a fourth-degree black belt. Most of my friends are sixth degree, but they have their own dojos, and that pursuit is a little more leisurely, but also helps the organization sometimes with exhibitions.
BTL: What is Scott’s martial arts background?
Lundgren: I think Scott started Tae Kwon Do when he was young in his early teens. I think he did some kickboxing and then he got into movies. He may have started as a stunt guy, I’m not sure.
BTL: How did you escalate the tension with the money, the bomb, and the three characters as the bomb was getting closer and closer?
Lundgren: First of all, we have to show why we’re doing this. The desperation and the motivation was Ericson’s daughter was very sick. Mike sleeps in his car with no money. The bad guys are wanting power and they want the money because it’s been stolen from them. When we have the motivation with the few characters and then the situation that it’s cash in this building that’s going to be blown up the next day. Most of the film starts about an hour and a half before detonation, the movie is 90 minutes. It isn’t real time, but it’s almost real time. We shot this in 17 days, which is pretty tough. The unity of time and place that we’re in one place, and we’re moving almost in real time helps quite a bit.
BTL: How did you know much screen time to give to each character? We have Ericson, Mike, and the bad guys.
Lundgren: Some of it is in the script, and then some of it we decide in editing. It was difficult in the first half of the script because we’re trying to establish everybody who they are. Their relationship is complex because it has to do with this guy in jail and his brother that has to do this job for him to get the money back. Then Ericson finds out because he is a guard and Mike just stumbles on the money basically. I was trying to leave that web for the first half of the picture and hope that the audience is going to be interested, even though there’s not a whole lot of action. I didn’t have unlimited resources. I kept the action back for the second half, so that it finishes big. That was my plan.
BTL: Rocky IV just got re-released with your good friend Sylvester Stallone. Any thoughts on that new version?
Lundgren: I think it’s great that he spent a year putting this together and that he had the energy and interest. Obviously, I’m interested to see what he’s done. That movie stood the test of time, it’s modern somehow. That’s why it’s cool to get the younger audience to experience it now. It was very well made. There was something about the time it was made. That I was cast to play a role, the political situation, and the institution that makes it a classic. We’ll never know what’s going to be a classic movie. There are so many projects, it takes maybe 20 years later to become a classic.
Castle Falls is currently available to watch on Digital and On Demand, and it might still be available to see in a few theaters.
Photos courtesy of Shout! Studios.