The Swedish actor-turned-director Dolph Lundgren is offering fans a modern action film with an old-time Western theme in Missionary Man. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan spoke with the veteran tough guy about his latest shoot-'em-up movie.

Lundgren directed and stars in the film, which he says offers plenty of action.

"We shot in Dallas, south of Dallas in a small town, and the picture is kind of 'anywhere USA.' Instead of horses we've got motorcycles, but there are plenty of cowboy hats and guns and native Americans, so it has that kind of feel of an old Western," he explained.

Lundgren has appeared in more than 30 films, but got into movies almost by accident. An engineering student, he had a series of scholarships to universities in Australia and the United States. Awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was dating a girl in New York who was a singer. She introduced him to the world of entertainment, and he began to study modeling and acting.

Lundgren was a karate expert. That and his Nordic looks helped him land a part in Rocky IV in the 1985 installment of Sylvester Stallone's boxing saga. Lundgren played the evil Russian fighter Ivan Drago

"Before I knew it, I was a well recognized face all over the world. I'm just a Swedish kid. I didn't even know what happened to me. One day I'm hitting a bag in the gym and the next day I'm traveling around the world being asked questions about the Cold War and such. So it was quite a change for me," he said.

Then came more action films. He played the warrior called He-Man in Masters of the Universe, based on a character from a popular cartoon show. In the 1989 film Red Scorpion, he played a Soviet agent, and was a high tech killer in Universal Soldier in 1992.

Lundgren has played Russians in several films, and says that forged a special bond with fans in Russia. "I've been there quite a bit in the last couple of years. They do look at me a little bit like their own. They're a little surprised when they realize I don't speak Russian that well, but it's a very warm relationship," he said.

Lundgren has directed three films, including The Mechanik in 2005, in which he played a former Russian agent caught in a gang war. He enjoys the action genre and says that, like it or not, action roles are what he is offered.

"You know, it's called show business, and if you make money playing one kind of role, then people want to put you back in that role, whether it's playing a priest or playing a bad guy or playing a cowboy or a cop, whatever it could be. In my case, I ended up doing a lot of action movies, a lot of physical roles," he said.

He enjoys directing, but says that role of overseeing a project, with its budgets and timetables, is very different from acting, which involves opening up emotionally in front of the camera.

Lundgren has remained active in martial arts, and made an appearance at the recent U.S. karate championships in Los Angeles. "And I was standing there and looking at these kids up on the podium, and it really struck me how much it meant to me in my life, the fact that I was fortunate enough when I was a kid to get that discipline and to have those role models instead of getting in trouble like I could have, like so many other kids. I do it for myself, for my physique, but also more so for my spirit, and trying to stay sane in a crazy business that show business can be," he said.

Lundgren says the movie business is crazy but rewarding, and he expects to star in more action films, and do some more directing, in the future.