A Tiny James Bond Henchman Role Launched Dolph Lundgren's Acting Career

It's practically a Hollywood tradition for actors to appear as background extras or in bit parts before they make it big, and Eon Productions' series of James Bond films have been around for so long that multiple actors who appeared in them when they were still unknown have gone on to greater fame, including Joanna Lumley (who appears in 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service") and Gerard Butler (who turns up briefly in 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies").

Yet Dolph Lundgren's background appearance in 1985's "A View to a Kill" isn't a typical instance of an actor starting out. Lundgren's casting in the role of a KGB henchman was an unplanned, fluke occurrence that not only led to bigger opportunities for him within the acting world, but opened up a successful career path that Lundgren originally had no intention of pursuing.

Lundgren's life changed thanks to a Miss Jones ... Grace Jones

Everyone's favorite piece of Dolph Lundgren trivia involves the fact that he's one of the most intelligent action stars in the world. His study of chemical engineering led to him earning scholarships to a plethora of prestigious schools, including Washington State University, Clemson University, the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and, most impressively, a Fulbright scholarship at MIT.

Yet Lundgren's scientific studies hit a wall upon meeting actress and singer Grace Jones when he was just 24 years old. Having been hired as security for Jones thanks to his prior work as a bouncer to pay the bills, the two struck up a romantic relationship "straightaway," as Lundgren put it in a 2011 interview. Once they became a couple, Lundgren decided to put aside his chemical engineering studies and was whisked off into Jones' world of show business, a choice that set him on a new path which he'd never anticipated.

A lucky opportunity and a chiseled physique gave Lundgren his big break

Not long after Lundgren and Jones moved into an New York City home together, the actress/model/singer landed the part of the villainess Mayday in the seventh (and final) James Bond movie to star Roger Moore, "A View to a Kill," and Lundgren accompanied her while the film shot in various locations overseas.

For a confrontation scene between KGB head General Gogol (Walter Gotell, reprising the role he'd originated in "The Spy Who Loved Me") and the villainous Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), a pair of tough-looking KGB henchmen needed to be cast. 

Both director John Glen and star Moore had observed Lundgren hanging around during filming, and were impressed with the man's chiseled figure. As Lundgren recalled, "Roger Moore used to say, 'Dolph is larger than Denmark!'" Given his availability and natural intimidating presence, Glen gave Lundgren the part of one of the KGB agents, and the actor not only ended up appearing in the scene, but even gets to share a look with Jones during a moment when Mayday attacks Gogol's other agent.

Dolph meets his destiny

After "A View to a Kill" finished filming, Lundgren found himself bitten by the acting bug, and began attending classes and auditioning for movies. When he happened to land an audition for "Rocky IV," Sylvester Stallone was blown away by Lundgren's looks and abilities. As Stallone told EW, "I thought, this is impossible: 6'4" and perfection at every muscle and he can fight!"

Lundgren, who was born in Sweden, won the role of "Rocky IV's" main villain, Ivan Drago (another Russian character, ironically), and his appearance in that film launched him into stardom. While his newfound fame soured his romantic relationship with Jones ("All these cameras wanted me and not her," Lundgren explained), his acting career took off, and the one-time chemical engineering student found himself playing all sorts of roles from baddies to square-jawed heroes like He-Man in "Masters of the Universe."

Lundgren's whirlwind initiation into Hollywood has a "only in the movies" magical quality to it, something that's not lost on the actor. "The whole thing was like a fairy tale," he remarked. "I guess the movies were just kind of my destiny."