Dragomir Mrsic -
From Hood to Hollywood

The fear of never amounting to anything” drove Dragomir “Gago” Mrsic to carry out the biggest bank robbery in Swedish history. That same drive made him perfect for his role as Mrado in Easy Money. Now, Tom Cruise and Bourne-director Doug Liman have taken him under their wings. But is Gago still scared?

Dragomir Mrsic

Every morning, Dragomir Mrisc says “Thank you.” He is grateful for receiving a new day, for his health and the fact that his mother kept him. She didn’t have an abortion, despite the suggestion of concerned family members and friends, because her husband and the father of the baby worked as a cook at the Grand Hotel 1,500 miles away in Stockholm while she was still back in the small mountain village in Bosnian Serbia with their two other children. Conflicted, she sought counsel from a fortuneteller, who insisted she must keep the child in her womb because “He would be different. Special.”

Dragomir, who goes by the nickname “Gago,” also repeats a mantra of sorts silently in Serbian to himself every morning–something he has done since he was a little boy struggling with fears of “never becoming anything.”

Every morning, Dragomir Mrisc says “Thank you.” He is grateful for receiving a new day, for his health and the fact that his mother kept him. She didn’t have an abortion, despite the suggestion of concerned family members and friends, because her husband and the father of the baby worked as a cook at the Grand Hotel 1,500 miles away in Stockholm while she was still back in the small mountain village in Bosnian Serbia with their two other children. Conflicted, she sought counsel from a fortuneteller, who insisted she must keep the child in her womb because “He would be different. Special.”

Dragomir, who goes by the nickname “Gago,” also repeats a mantra of sorts silently in Serbian to himself every morning–something he has done since he was a little boy struggling with fears of “never becoming anything.”

This morning he wakes up in a mini-suite at The Langham, a five-star hotel in London. He’s probably best known to date for his role as Mrado, the Yugoslavian hitman in Easy Money 1 and 2. His otherwise curly shock of hair is shaved down to 2 millimeters and he’s sporting a thick mustache. It’s the last day of September 2012 and the following day is the first day on set of All You Need Is Kill, directed by Bourne-identity filmmaker Doug Liman and starring Tom Cruise, Bill Paxton and Emily Blunt. He’s not ecstatic over his shaved head and detests the mustache, but that’s how Liman wants his “Kuntz,” Gago’s character in the film. “I have a gold tooth too, I look totally sick,” Gago laughs.

The first time Gago crossed paths with Tom Cruise was 30 years ago, watching a bootleg of Risky Business with his buddies in a crushed-velvet sectional sofa in an apartment in the projects of Stockholm. That he would one day meet Cruise in person, let alone make a movie with him, wasn’t even a hope. Gago mostly remembers the chicks and the Porsche from the movie. That was well before he had become the Nordic Champion in Taekwondo. It was before he had escaped three times from various holding cells for various crimes. It was also before he became known for his part in the Gotabank robbery, or the so-called “100-million dollar heist,” which he, along with two childhood friends, would be convicted of years later. (The heist was also the first case in Sweden to use DNA as evidence.) He and his accomplices traveled the world with robber cash and later he served three years and six months in Hall, one of Sweden’s biggest maximum-security prisons.

Gago sits down and meditates when he showers. It’s a ritual he started more than 20 years ago in the Stockholm jail, where they got a 15-minute shower – the day’s only luxury.

“And I haven’t stopped since, but now it’s at The Langham in London,” says Gago , making a sweeping gesture toward the castle-looking hotel that’s located between Regency Park and Oxford Circus. His suite at the five-star hotel is on the Warner Bros.’ dime.

Gago doesn’t claim a specific religion but says he has his own personal beliefs. At the Stockholm jail, he tried to tell himself, Everything is going to be all right, even if it’s bad.” He imagined the water running down through the pipes in the jail and out into the sea together with his bad energy. It gave him a certain sense of freedom and helped him think positively.

“Water is for me, like Bruce Lee said: ‘Be formless, shapeless like water. Now, you put water into a cup, it becomes a cup. Put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot… Be water, my friend.’”

“To me ‘be shapeless’ means to be able to adjust after the situation at hand, that you are dedicating yourself 100 percent to something,” he says.

In the hotel room, his WeSC and Adidas-sponsored clothes hang neatly in the closet and folded into the dresser, while thick stacks of revised All You Need Is Kill manuscripts with “Dragomir Mrsic 158” stamped in red sit stacked on his desk. On a shelf, there is a photo of his family, who visit him regularly, and on the bedpost hang items sent with him by his 10-year-old son Max, for good fortune: Max’s little boy briefs, a handmade doll and two Lego figures.

“We made the doll when I visited Max’s sewing class in school. The undies are his favorites; we usually try to buy the same.”

The little Lego men are Max’s absolute favorites – Bruce Lee and the a bad guy from the movie Enter The Dragon.

Despite the fact that the 43-year-old father-of-two has had dramatic life experiences, it’s through a beginner’s lens he drinks in everything that happens when producing a film with a budget of about 200 million dollars. But he’s not nervous.

“I’ve done time (in prison) with murderers, terrorists, rapists and the drug-dealers’ drug-dealers. What’s the worst thing that can happen? That you get sent home by Tom Cruise and Doug Liman?

All You Need Is Kill, abbreviated as AYNIK, is the biggest production at the Warner Bros. London studio since the last Harry Potter film. It’s a futuristic story, based on a Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, where the main character, Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Cruise) leads an international military force into battle against aliens, but is killed the first day on his job/post. From there on we are rolling in a time-loop, while Cage is resurrected to carry out the same battle, over and over again, getting better each time.

On the fist day of filming, there were gifts from “Cage” in everybody’s trailer. In Gago’s box was a nice bottle of whiskey, magazines and American Spirit tobacco and tobacco rolling paper.

“Kuntz smokes and rolls his own cigarettes,” Gago says of his character, “So I do, too.”

The film team has good camaraderie, like Gago’s previous experience on the set of the Swedish blockbusters Easy Money (Snabba Cash) 1 and 2 back home, but that’s not necessarily something to be expected in the film-world.

“There are sets where people don’t even say ‘Hello’ to each other. That’s not how it is for us.”

By November, when Gago has worked with Tom Cruise for three months, he’s had time to observe and reflect. “Tom may be a super star but he is now also my co-worker. He jokes with us, he listens to what you say; we have met each other’s children.”

Gago’s 12-year-old daughter, Juliette, confirms this by proudly holding up a photo of herself and Tom Cruise on her iPhone screen.

“Dad embarrassed me,” she says and giggles. “He told Tom that I wanted to marry him.”

Fortunately Tom quickly reversed the uncomfortable situation by asking her if she would do him the honor of having their photograph taken.

There have been mixed opinions about Tom Cruise since his debacle on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2008, and the fact that he is a Scientologist. In 2012, his wife, Katie Holmes, left him, demanding and receiving custody of the couple’s daughter Suri, something the world press ate up. But Gago shuns professional celebrity gossipers and tabloids.

“That is so annoying. Everyone has all sorts of theories about Tom Cruise and his life. The truth is that he’s a very nice and considerate guy. He cares about everyone in the film, even the ‘small’ people. And speaking of small, he’s not as short as everybody says. He doesn’t have any frigging special boots – he’s my height!” Gago is worked up. The fact that he isn’t that tall either feels a little extraneous. “He has done planes, cars, wheelchairs, samurais and played pool. He’s done everything and he’s done it well.”

When Tom Cruise visited Stockholm on December 11 for the first time ever (to promote Jack Reacher), he made room for a night on the town with Gago. The quick pit-stop to Gago’s gym, Extreme Training, the following day unfolded into an hours-long visit, much to the joy of both young and older gym members.

Why did Tom Cruise want Gago in All You Need Is Kill?

“Dragomir was cast in the film before we saw Easy Money. All You Need Is Kill is a demanding film physically and we needed actors who are athletes as well. Dragomir is giving 100 percent, is great in the film and has become a friend,” Cruise says via e-mail.

Gago unfolds the long and motley story about his childhood. Summers in Serbia. What it was like in Fittja, the Swedish projects where he grew up during the 1970s and 1980s. How he earned a yellow belt in taekwondo as a nine-year-old and began training for Master Lee Von Sup. How he got into crime. Becoming a Nordic Champion in taekwondo at 18.

It takes a few evenings, which we spend at his favorite establishments near The Langham. He loves his stay in London, despite the fact that it’s mostly about working out, reading the script, eating and sleeping well. And in just a few weeks, he’s become a regular at several restaurants and bars, joking with people, offering cigarettes or compliments on a nice mustache. At an upscale Italian eatery, where I have a glass of red wine and he an espresso (he drinks copious amounts of coffee per day) a beggar approaches. Gago doesn’t have any cash and asks me to put a few pounds in the dirty hand. “I don’t care if it goes to the next fix or whatever, it could have been me,” he explains of the gesture.

Gago’s mother was a cleaning lady and worked all the time. His dad was an alcoholic. The older brother a heroin addict. The older sister a heroin addict, too.

“So when I was a kid I was petrified that I wouldn’t amount to anything. What if I become homeless? What if I couldn’t get a job?”

And even if Gago escaped the beatings, his dad’s temper constantly erupted and there was always some kind of screaming and fighting at home. His father was a convicted murder and had served his time back in Serbia, way before Gago was born and the parents met. “But it was always there in your mind,” Gago says of his dad’s murder conviction. The siblings were in and out of rehab, there were overdoses, regular visits to the emergency room and at one point Gago’s Nordic Champion taekwondo gold medal disappeared, likely to pay for his brother or sister’s drugs.

As a kid, Gago often hid and played by himself. When he got older, he stayed away from home, mostly by hanging at the taekwondo club.

Gago developed an enormous drive. He focused 100 percent on everything he did–working out, school. His favorite subjects were gym and mathematics. In contrast to many of his friends, he never skipped class and later graduated from junior college with 3.6 GPA of a possible 5.0. But it was the taekwondo that won his heart. He came home from school every day, ate the sandwich his mother, Radojka, had left in the fridge for him, threw his workout bag over his shoulder and took the subway to practice – a one hour commute each way. He did not drink alcohol until he was 21 and wasn’t “a troublemaker.” He just didn’t have time to go downtown Stockholm and hang out and get into fights as so many other teenagers from the projects did during the 1980s.

“I never looked for fights. But, if someone picked a fight with me, I didn’t back down. You have to defend yourself. I also never hit or beat those laying down, like some people did. My fights were usually pretty short-lived. One, two punches, and it was over.”

I never looked for fights. But, if someone picked a fight with me, I didn’t back down.

Gago often thinks of the fortuneteller’s words to his mother, that he was “special.” He didn’t necessarily take it as a gift, but a form of responsibility. It is surprising to some, but he views his tough childhood as something positive. It gave him his spark, the might to make a difference. He feels he was supposed to become “different.”

“For me it’s always been enormously important to do my best no matter what you are doing. If one has good intentions and gives everything he or she has, well then you also have the chance to succeed. At anything. I happened to focus my energy on the wrong things for a while, but if I was to be convicted of something it might as well have been the robbery that wrote Swedish crime history.”

But the deeper we slip into his youth, the clearer it becomes that he didn’t “happen” to focus his energy on the wrong things. He made the carefully considered decision to become a robber, accpeting the consequences, prison or worse. He was 19 years old.

“(A friend) asked if I wanted to ‘work’ with him. He had already done a couple of big ‘jobs’ (robberies and safe-crackings) with some older dudes.”

At this time, Gago socialized and trained with a group of people who media and authorities pegged the Eagle Gang” because of their matching tattoos of the Hapkido symbol . Other members of the group have since used those same words – ”it was a career choice” – in their autobiographies.

”I knew a little bit already,” Gago says. ”When I was like 14 or 15, I had heard about some guys, much older than us, who had robbed a department store in Fittja and scored more than 5 million SEK. ’Wow, five mils! I thought’ and remembered how the security guards came and picked up the cash in gym bags. No weapons, no security whatsoever.”

Why did you decide to become a robber?

”Money is one thing, I wanted to have all that everyone else had during the 1980s. Adidas sneakers, no fucking cheap knock-offs. And the thrill, of course. Imagine us–a bunch of top athletic mixed martial arts fighters seeing films like Made in LA, which was based on Heat, Master’s of Crime and Point Break.’If they can do it, so can we, I thought back then.”

As a 19-year-old, stealing from people who worked hard, earning a living was not okay, but the rest was fair game, Gago reasoned.

”Armored car security guards are trained to give up the money immediately when threatened. It’s part of their training that he or she can get robbed and then they are supposed to give up the money and push the alarm afterward. ’Don’t do anything that jeopardizes your safety, the money is insured.’ And that’s what I knew as a youngster. I knew if I said ’Give me all your money!’ they would, even if all I held was a fake gun, because that’s part of their job.”

Gago’s goal was never to become a career criminal, or a gangster boss. His goal was to become a career robber. To him, it’s an important disctinction.

What is the difference?

“For me it’s like this. You work with two, tops three, people. That’s what differentiates a real robber and someone who’s just talking a big game. Not to disrespect anyone, but a real robber doesn’t change his game and start dealing in drugs instead if there aren’t any jobs. A robber does everything himself, and that’s why they have the best status in prison. Back then I’d rather work as a cook in a restaurant for two years, waiting for the right gig. You stick with what you know, your expertise, like any other profession. A career criminal does whatever it takes. The career robber has the discipline, they are in good physical shape, they can blend into most environments and they are dangerous. They are ready to shoot to kill to pull off their thing.

Where you ready to do that?

“Back then I was.”

The Gotabank robbery of Nov. 5, 1990, which Gago much later would be convicted of, is the largest stickup, value-wise, to ever be carried out in Sweden. It’s been called the 100-million heist by media; according to the police, the take was “only” 80 million.

The robbers didn’t get much cash, only about $100,000 was loaded into that armored car held up on its way into the bank garage—most of which was government bonds and bank checks. Despite the fact that government bonds can be can be frozen because they are usually numbered, there are different opinions on exactly how much the robbery yielded and what could be sold abroad or used as collateral in both legit and shady business transactions.

Gago refuses to speak about specifics, even though the heist has reached its statute of limitations and he’s already been convicted of, and served time for, the crime.

“I’ve never agreed to speak about that robbery in detail, and as a principle I only speak about things that I can personally stand for. In this particular case, there are others involved, and I don’t discuss stuff like that.”

One thing that tied them to the 100-million hit was DNA – strands of both Gago’s and another robber’s hair were found in a ski-mask recovered in the tunnels under Stockholm, which police learned was their escape route. Another reason they were busted for the Gotabank robbery was the simple fact that they could not account for where they had gotten money for around-the-world airline tickets. According to police, Gago and his accomplices boarded a flight from Copenhagen at 22.30, two days after the heist. The price: 57,578 SEK for all three. Nobody confessed and it would take nearly seven years before Gago, was convicted, and started serving his time. The appeals process went on for two years as it snaked its way all the way up to Supreme Court. Gago escaped several times from jail and was on the run when the Supreme Court ruling came. Guilty, he decided that it was time to grab the bull by the horns and turned himself in.

What did you do during those years?

“Traveled around the world. Was on the run from the authorities. Was found not guilty of another robbery. Lived life, really.”

Where did you get the money?

“Well, let’s just put it this way: A good robber should only have to do about five jobs and then he’s done. Otherwise it’s not worth it. The money (from one job) should last at least a few years, or three times as long as it takes to plan. You may be stalking a car, staking out a bank and so on, and that can take anywhere from two months to three years.”

Gago arrived at Hall, one of Sweden’s high security prisons, on the hot summer day before Princess Diana died in 1997, and served his sentence.

What was it like doing time in prison?

”It wasn’t so hard once I’d made up my mind. But that’s true, it was boring and really fucking hard not to be able to decide over your own life.”

The fact that Gago was one of Sweden’s best MMA fighters and convicted of such a high-profile stickup automatically gave him a certain rank inside prison walls.

”Everyone knows what your are coming in for, if you are a robber. You may have a ’colleague’ who is there before you, and you’ve been in jail for x number of months, there has been a trial, and in my case, it had been all over the news. If you are a snitch, you get beat up; If you are a sex offender, you get beat up.”

If it was the money and the prestige that drove Gago to become a robber, it was the reality of the consequences that made him re-evaluate his career choice. His girlfriend also wanted to start a family, and his biggest fear was becoming a jailbird.

When did you decide to quit?

”I was of the attitude that I’d never end up in prison in the first place, but I did and once there I thought, ’Fuck, this is reality!’ Add the fact that of 10 people in prison, seven or eight are mentally ill.”

On top of it, one of Gago’s partners and childhood friend had started shooting heroin while in prison (which later ended in suicide.)

”It wasn’t very hard to decide that I wanted more of life than ’this.’ And if you want more, you just have to grab yourself by the collar and make sure you don’t end up there again. And the next time, it wouldn’t be less than four years. It could be eight or life. I didn’t want to be there ever again. Simple as that.”


Papillion 1973 American prison drama.

–It’s a long film and you really get inside the characters. Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman are masterly. They want to get away from there. Loose teeth. Count waves. Eat ‘roaches. They don’t give up. An immortal film to me.

Black Cat, White Cat 1998 French-German-Serbian romantic comedy.

–It’s artistic and beautiful and I love the characters. They are using real Gypsies and the music is fantastic. I have the soundtrack on my ”Yuggo”-playlist at the gym. Everyone has to listen to it, but I think people have started liking it.

Big Blue 1988 French-American drama.

–An incredible story – to believe in something and be able to give, and let go of, everything to pursue what you want and feel.

Smutsiga fingrar (Dirty Fingers) 1973 Swedish thriller.

Dirty Fingers was about drugs. Super creepy. (Gago makes big, scared eyes.) I saw it when I was just a small child and it made a big impression on me. There’s a whistling in there that I still know by heart.

Scarface 1983 American drama.

–Unforgettable. Maybe a little predictable, but it was the very first film I ever saw in a movie theater. We had gate-crashed into Film City and came in just as [Tony Montana] says: ”All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one”. The film had a certain significance for a certain period of my life.

We start talking about Easy Money, a film trilogy based on novels dubbed Stockholm Noir, which also illustrate the misery of a life of crime, just like Heat and Scarface, Gago explains.

”That’s what I like about Easy Money. It doesn’t just glorify criminals, it shows the ugly under-belly of that lifestyle, especially my role.”

Things don’t end well for the Serbian hit-man ’Mrado,’ in the story and in reality; that’s usually how it goes. Few convicted violent criminals later become actors. The scar-faced Danny Trejo (Sons of Anarchy, Heat and Blood in; Blood out) known for playing bad guys on film, spent 11 years in prison for various crimes, including robbery, and is the only other example that shows up in a Google search.

”It either leads to death or drugs if you stay too long in the criminal world. Nobody has done well after staying in too long. It doesn’t usually lead to what I am doing right now.”

Once released from prison, it was time to change his line of business.

”What am I besides a robber?” Gago motions a pistol with his hand. ”Then someone said that I was a great leader and a good trainer and that’s when the idea of becoming a gym teacher and a sports consultant was born.”

Gago applied and was accepted to one of Sweden’s better athletics schools. Simultaneously, he also got licensed as a personal trainer with the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOC) and the national troup of taekwondo.”I took a lot of courses through SOC,” he says. ”That was when I started understanding that there are fair people in this world, people who could look beyond your past, where you had been, and give you a second chance.”

Among others, Gago got the chance to train Roman Livaja, who came in 4th in Taekwondo in the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000.

”Who doesn’t want to be a personal trainer [with the SOC] and travel around the world, meeting all the big athletes? To me, this was a dream come-true.”

And despite the fact that people called and complained, questioning how the Swedish Olympic Comittee could hire him considering his background, Gago remained at his post.

Glenn Östh, sports director with SOC, remembers the commitment well though it was many years ago, because it’s unusal the world of professional athletics mix with people with such an ”unfortunate” background.

”We supported Dragomir financially and trusted him, and he handled his duties flawlessly. If we, in any way, have contributed to him returning to society on a better path, that pleases us a great deal.”

By the end of 2004, Gago met the businessman Johan Jansson, with whom he shared his dreams of a gym where he could combine mixed martial arts and regular physical training and weight lifting.

”MMA makes you flexible, but you are still missing those real physical exercises,” he explains.

They started brainstorming. Jansson had a perfect locale for a gym in Östermalm, Stockholm’s ritziest neighborhood–home of the stock exchange, the Royal Theatre and exclusive restaurants. Jansson didn’t care about Gago’s background, and they decided to open the gym together. It was nerve-wracking and exciting all at the same time for Gago, who’d never owned a business and didn’t know a single soul in this most upscale part of Stockholm. Before opening, Jonasson went to Thailand to celebrate the Holidays.

”And then came the tsunami… It was tough.”

Gago pauses. You can see in his face that it was tough. Jonasson and his whole family were killed in the tragedy that claimed more than 200,000 lives, 543 of whom were Swedes, with 122 of those under the age of 15. The gym was under renovation, the business plan wasn’t quite completed and Johan Jansson was the one with all the contacts. But Gago decided to brave it and go ahead with opening Extreme Training by himself.

”I owed him that,” he says.

That was 2005. Many long, hard shifts later, Gago has helped all sorts of people improve or perfect their shapes: business men, icehockey pros, soccer players, and movie stars including Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara for their roles as Lisbeth Sahlander in both versions of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

”It’s basically through the gym, I’ve gotten all my contacts,” Gago says.

It started with Gago playing himself.”I did those small things, Exit [2006] and Gangster [2007], but that was mainly buddies of mine asking if I could do them a favor.”

One night while we are sitting in the luxurious bar of The Langham, where the wine glassess stand on 30 centimeter high stems and the drinks are mixed in silver cocktail shakers, Gago shares the tale of how he accidentally ended up in the film industry. He splurges by drinking two beers and a bourbon that I insist on not drinking alone, even if he does have to get up at the crack of dawn the following day. Gago and his colleagues are picked up between 5 and 6 am each day by a chauffeur who drives them the one-hour stretch to Warner Bros.

One of the many people in the film industry who began working out at Gago’s gym, was producer Malte Forsell, the man behind Call girl, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Dancer in the Dark and Evil. Forsell would ask him to help find extras from time to time. Once they were looking for ”Yugoslavian”-looking dudes that would work well as ”bad guys” on screen. ”Maybe yourself?” Forsell asked.

It yielded in a small part in a popular Swedish crime series, a role in Josef Fares’ dark drama Leo, and then the role that would make him visible outside of Scandinavia – as hitman Mrado, in Easy Money 1 and 2.

”It wasn’t like ’Wow, I’m gonna become a movie star.’ It was still buddies/friends who asked if I could help.”

In Leo, Gago portrayed a brutal character who first hits on someone’s girlfriend, then threatens her and ends up shooting both her and her boyfriend, who survives.

”He is a fantastic actor – has an incredible presence and brings out something authentic on screen. He’s very responsive and his loyalty for the film is unbeatable,” says Fares, who directed Gago in Leo.

Dragomir Mrsic

When Gago was contacted about a role in Easy Money 1, which was directed by Daniel Espinosa (whose next film would be Safe House with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds) he still did not seriously consider himself an actor. But that was because he was insecure and didn’t dare to. ”I thought it would be fun, but wondered if it really was possible for me to ever become a part of the cultural world, considering my background, you know.”

Fredrik Wikström Nicastro, 34, a producer at Tre Vänner, a large Swedish production company, made all three Easy Money films.

”Dragomir has helped us with research and the authenticity in the script and he has also helped us find actors and extras with Yugoslavian backgrounds. He’s been like a spider in the cob web, actually. A fantastic resource for the films.”

Gago attributes his engagement to his fears.

”I’ve acted my whole fucking life in different things since I was a child up to my acting career. To me, it’s all very real, not just a role I am playing for a couple of weeks,” he explains. ”I’ve seen actors talk about what they are going to do after work, and then walk in and deliver a line as a murderer or something really sad. I didn’t play Mrado, I was Mrado.”


Elisabeth Englund
Retired prison nurse

– I would calm him down when his temper almost made him derail. He was one of my darlings. We spoke alot about the future. Depending on the situation, I mean the willingness of the inmates to open up, your job is not just to be a prison nurse, you also become like a mom. And, just like a mom, I could also grab them by the ear and dress them down, when needed. ”If you keep on like this, you’re never going to make it when you get out,” and so on.

Bill Paxton
Co-actor in All You Need Is Kill. (Alien, Titanic, Apollo 13, Big Love).

–All I can say is that my relationship with Gago has bloomed into a full-blown bromance! He’s an exceptional man in every way. I belive he is on the verge of becoming a huge international star.

Fredrik Barnekow
Global head of SEB Enskilda Equities, regular at Gago’s gym Extreme Training.

– We are friends these days, after me training under him for a number of years. If you have a demanding job, it’s extremely nice to clear your head, the way you do working out at Gago’s. It’s more than just exercise. He has served his time. Paid back his dues to society by doing time in prison. I judge a person based on how he or she is now.

Babak Najafi
Director of Easy Money 2.

– Some people get into the film industry to make extra money or because they want to become celebrities. That’s not Gago. It’s very evident how important this is to him. He is extremely grateful for what he has and now this with his acting.

Easy Money, or Snabba Cash, which means ”quick cash” in Swedish, revolves around three characters of vastly different backgrounds, Mrado, Jorge and J.W., drawn together by their criminal activities. It has captivated audiences across Europe and received brilliant reviews in the U.S. with none other than Martin Scorsese presenting the subtitled film at its premiere in Manhattan in 2012. Now there is an American version of Easy Money in the making, just like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. (Nicastro is co-producing this American remake, which is in development with Warner Bros. in Los Angeles.)

So far, Gago is the only actor of the Easy Money cast who has won an international award (Best Actor, 2010 at the Flanders International Film Festival Ghent for his interpretation of Mrado), while Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, Safe House) won Guldbaggen, the Swedish equivalent to an Oscar, for best male role as J.W.

After Easy Money, Hollywood took notice of Dragomir Mrsic, but it wasn’t until All You Need Is Killthat Gago actively began seeking film roles.

Although it’s been 15 years since Gago was busted for the Gotabank robbery, his past shadows him. It resurfaced in bold headlines in Swedish tabloids during the Swedish premiere of Easy Money 1 in January 2010, and it also affects his family.

”Is your dad a robber?” a girl in school loudly asked Gago’s son, Max, one day in 2012. Max started crying and was unconsolable. He was in third grade and had recently learned the truth about his dad’s past. Max was shocked and thought he would loose all his friends.

”Mom, Dad and Juliette had a secret for me for many, many years, until I turned 10,” explains Max, six months after the big conversation. ”They didn’t think I was old enough to know until then, and then they told me that my dad had been a gangster.”

Gago received an emergency call from a teacher and left the gym, driving in record speed to Max’s school. But when he arrived, the storm had blown over.

”Just so you know it, I think it’s really cool,” another little girl, Max’s friend, had said, comforting him.

Gago drove Max and his girl friend home, as the little girl grilled him en route

”Did you drive against red?” ”How much money did you get?” Gago imitates her questions in a little-girl voice.

”And there I am in the car, in a full-fledged interrogation by a nine-year-old who looks like a little angel,” he says, laughing. ”Yeah, what do you say?”

It wasn’t until just a few years ago that Gago began feeling really good about his life and could handle such reactions from his surroundings with ease. The family is his everything.

”Nothing beats family life,” he says. ”Ingemar Bergman said the opposite, that the art came before his family. That’s not how it is for me. My children are the best thing I’ve ever done.

If his relationship to his own parents and siblings have been complicated over the years, he speaks warmly about how his dad taught him how to play chess and he calls his mother ”cer,” which means daughter. When Gago’s maternal grandfather passed away he told his mother that he took the role as her father. Today his parents are retired, his older brother is still wrestling with drug addiction, and just before Christmas, his sister died after a long-term illness. Gago has felt a certain responsibility for his parents and older siblings ever since he was a little boy and when he got a family of his own, he invested everything he had in giving Max and Juliette all he never had as a boy – from long walks in the woods to ”playing Zombies.”

”I think we all are shaped by our surroundings, to a certain extent,” he says, thinking about what it was like in the project where he grew up as a teenager.

”Maybe it would have been different if I had been home playing with my Smurfs in Östermalm.”

Max wants to become an actor when he grows up. He wants to do action movies, just like his dad. He’s already started in a coming Swedish TV-series with a role as a boy who gets kidnapped. Juliette wants to become an actor too, but she’s more interested in performing romance and comedy. Max and Juliette’s mother, Isabel Alonso, Gago’s partner, is the person who brings out the good in him, Gago says. They met through a mutual friend in 1991 and have been together for 21 years.

”He is a very good father and we have a lot of fun as a family,” says Isabel who stays behind the scene while her man is on-stage. ”It’s a dual feeling having a man who is an actor with a rising star,” she admits. ”It’s really awesome that he is so appreciated and that he is so good at what he does. People come up to us all the time and say things like ’Oh Mrado!’ In that way, I am happy to share him, but it’s a little difficult when you also have to share the private time. I haven’t had time to get used to all this yet.”

It’s 2013 and Dragomir focuses on the future. Several international producers and directors have been in touch about interesting projects, one in of which is set in Croatia. In Sweden, there are negotiations for a TV series, where Dragomir plays the lead role and is helping with the script. He is also involved as a producer and script developer in a Swedish movie about a helicopter heist and plays a zombie in the independent film Zon-261. It’s full speed ahead and Gago is loving it. He’s never been happier and says he wouldn’t change a thing in his past because then he wouldn’t be the person he is today.

Do you often think of your past?

”We all have our demons that we have to wrestle with every day to move on, it’s different for everybody,” he says. ”In my case I think every night about what I am doing to make my family and the people I love, feel good and safe.”

Do you feel guilty about some of the things you have done in the past?

”The important thing is not what you have done,. What’s important is what you have learned from it,” he says. ”I have no regrets.”


Family: Partner Isabel Alonso, daughter Juliette, 12, and son Max, 10.

Background: Convicted of the 1990 Gotabank robbery, the biggest robbery in Swedish history. Runs the gym Extreme Training in Östermalm, Stockholm since 2005.

Film Career: Smaller parts in films Exit and Gangster. Was celebrated for his role in Josef Fares’ Leo and enjoyed a big breakthrough as the hitman “Mrado” in Easy Money.

Current: In the futuristic action film All You Need Is Kill with Tom Cruise, Bill Paxton and Emily Blunt. Producer: Warner Bros. Director: Doug Liman (the first three Bourne films, Mr. & Mrs. Smith.)

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