Sylvester Stallone Says Dolph Lundgren’s Rocky IV Punches Nearly Killed Him

Sylvester Stallone remembers directing Dolph Lundgren to go extra hard during their iconic fight scene in Rocky IV, which sent him to the ICU.

Sylvester Stallone found out the hard way how powerful Dolph Lundgren’s punches were while filming Rocky IV  — one blow sent him to the intensive care ward in the hospital.

In The Making of Rocky vs. Drago, a behind-the-scenes documentary about his work preparing the director’s cut of the 1985 film, Stallone described filming the pivotal scene, as reported by IGN. Rocky IV featured title character Rocky Balboa in a grudge match with Soviet boxing champion Ivan Drago, played by Lundgren. Rocky is out to avenge the death of boxing mentor and friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) at Drago’s hands in an exhibition match that turned brutal very quickly.


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Stallone, who served as the film’s director, said the near-fatal mishap occurred early during shooting. “The final fight was the first thing we shot. My entrance, his [Lundgren’s] entrance, and the introductions and then the fight,” he said. Stallone directed Lundgren to go at him hard during the first round, to demonstrate that Drago is an imposing figure. He continued, “And then, I got really injured during the fight and I had to be flown into intensive care in California … from Canada, and I stayed in intensive care for four days.”

Stallone said, “He pulverized me. And I didn’t feel it in the moment, but later that night my heart started to swell. [H]e bruised the pericardial sac, which is usually when the heart hits the chest, kind of like in a car accident, when your heart hit — when your chest hits the steering wheel. Well, my blood pressure went up to 260 and I was going to be talking to angels. Next thing I know I’m on this emergency, low-altitude flight to St. John’s Hospital. I’m in intensive care surrounded by nuns. Then, after that, I had to go back and finish the fight. Crazy, huh?”

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Stallone inevitably included footage of the near-fatal blow in the finished cut of the film, saying, “How could you take that out?”

The documentary was released to promote Rocky IV: Rocky Vs. Drago – The Ultimate Director’s Cut, which marks the 35th anniversary of the film’s debut and includes 40 minutes of added footage. The official synopsis states, “The fight scenes are more intense, the music is more powerful and the drama is heightened as world heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa (Stallone) must defend his title once again. This time against his most formidable opponent: Ivan Drago (Lundgren).”

The Director’s Cut had a one-night-only theatrical release on Nov. 11 and is now available via video on demand.

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Source: YouTube, via IGN

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