How has fatherhood changed the character of this iconic boxing villain?
Words by Camille Hogg
The representation of fatherhood in film could be considered a study in how roles are changing in real life.
From daddy Darth’s clash with his son Luke in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back to Robin Williams’ protective pop character in Mrs Doubtfire, portrayal of fatherhood over the years has gone hand in hand with how we view masculinity – and sometimes it’s a bit problematic.
In recent years, though, we’ve seen a shift. Gone are the days of the bumbling babysitter or workaholic dad tropes – instead we’re seeing more single dads tackling parenthood, as well as more sensitive role models.
But, when it comes to problematic relationships on-screen, Ivan Drago, famous villain of the Rockyfranchise, knows all about it as he returns in Creed II, released on 29th November. The sequel to the 2015 boxing drama, the new story follows Rocky Balboa and his protégé boxer, Adonis Creed, as they prepare to face off with an old enemy, Ivan Drago.
After the Russian fighter dealt the fatal blow in the ring to Adonis’ father three decades ago – you can see all that in Rocky IV – he’s now returned from exile with his son, Viktor, in tow for the showdown to end all showdowns.
Consumed by hatred, he challenges Adonis and Rocky in the ring, offering up his son in his stead to rebuild the family name. But this time around, Ivan is only a mere shadow of the ruthless Russian killing machine we met in Rocky IV, and the passage of years hasn’t been as kind to him as it has his enemy.
“Basically, my character has been in a [really bad place] since 1985 and lost everything,” actor Dolph Lundgren, who plays Ivan, told Empire magazine.
“The script reintroduces him as a pretty damaged character, emotionally, and somebody who’s suffered a lot physically from a hard life. I can identify with that quite easily – the physical part [and] the emotional part.”
For Lundgren, who found the stereotypical Russian influence of Ivan a little hard to shake off in his own career, it was ultimately a difficult decision to come back and reprise the role.
But the difference this time is that Ivan, at least, has a shot at redemption for his earlier mistakes – and it’s not in the ring. And that’s because three decades has given Lundgren a new perspective on how he relates to his character.
“[He’s] become an iconic character,” he noted to comingsoon.net. “I didn’t want to mess with that image. I didn’t see a way, up until now, that it would work.
“It’s the bottom of the barrel, me and my son. [Ivan] gave me a chance to play somebody who is a complex character, who has a lot of anger and hate and thirst for revenge, but he’s not a bad father. He actually loves his kid, but he just doesn’t know it until later in the film when he starts realising what’s important in life.
“I’m using my son as my tool, but I start to realise that perhaps there are other things in life as well,” he elaborated in an interview with the Toronto Sun.
“Boxing is just a tool to distil it down. It’s like Sly said, ‘You don’t have to know anything about boxing to enjoy a Rocky movie’. That’s why they are so successful. They’re about life and about struggle – all our struggles.”
Also starring: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson and Florian Munteanu. Directed by: Steven Caple Jr. Rating: PG15. Running time: 135 mins