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In Rocky IV, Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago seemed more machine than man, a carefully engineered object of destruction. Yet despite his stoicism, Ivan Drago was a man, and that man went on to live a life for years after his defeat at the hands of Rocky Balboa and leading up to Creed II. It sounds like that life was a hard one too, with obstacles that he couldn't punch his way out of as Dolph Lundgren explained:
He's been having a pretty rough time. When the Soviet Union fell, he was thrown out of Russia, lost everything and ended up in the Ukraine, where he lives with his son, Viktor. His wife divorced him -- for a richer man, probably
Rocky has gone through his fair share of trials and tribulations in the years since he fought Ivan Drago, and clearly he was not alone. It sounds like Ivan Drago has had an especially difficult life in the decades since 1985. Once the pride of a nation, Ivan Drago was eventually kicked out of his country and things didn't improve from there.
Dolph Lundgren had previously mentioned that Ivan Drago has been living in hell since Rocky IV, but his comments here to ESPN give us a much better idea of what he meant by that. It sounds like his loss to the Italian Stallion was just the beginning, as Ivan Drago suffered major losses in his personal life as well, raising his son on his own after his wife left him.
When asked if this was his same wife from Rocky IV, Dolph Lundgren said it was and explained how his character blames Rocky for his misfortune:
Yes, Ludmilla, played by Mr. Stallone's ex-wife in real life. So, Ivan is in very bad shape, angry and hateful. He wants redemption, and he's going to use his son to get what's his, what had been taken away from him 35 years ago by the Soviet Union and Rocky Balboa.
In Rocky IV, Ivan Drago was married to Ludmilla, played by Brigitte Nielsen, and when the Soviet Union fell and Ivan Drago fell with it, she apparently didn't bother sticking around too long to help pick him back up. It sounds like Drago blames Rocky for much of this too, as his loss to Sylvester Stallone's character was the spark that burned his life down.
So Creed II will find Drago with nothing; no family, no wife and no country; just his son and his hate. He will use that hate and his terrifying son Viktor to seek revenge and redemption, and earn back all that he feels was taken from him.
While Ivan Drago was a great villain in Rocky IV, he was essentially just a tool in a much larger machine bent on domination. His coldness and apathy to the damage he inflicted were products of that; he said "I must break you" as a function of duty, not desire. Basically he was Dr. Frankenstein's monster, not the creator himself. It sounds as though that will not be who he is in Creed II, because years of hardship have made him a very different person and now he wants to break Rocky.
From the outside looking in, Ivan Drago probably thinks that Rocky has lived a charmed life compared to him. And although Rocky was never kicked out of his country and his financial situation was probably not as dire as Drago's, life has given him more than a few black eyes.
Rocky has also struggled, lost a wife (albeit to different circumstances), had a strained relationship with his son and battled his own body. It's easy to see someone as an enemy when you've never been in their shoes but it looks like Rocky and Drago have walked a similar path, even if they can't see it. That makes this story particularly compelling.
Creed II opens in theaters on November 21st. Check out our Holiday Movie Guide for all of the biggest sequels, blockbusters and awards contenders heading to theaters in the next couple months.