How Sylvester Stallone Almost Died While Fighting Dolph Lundgren in 'Rocky IV'

Rocky 4 Punch
'Rocky IV'Credit: MGM/United Artists
More proof that Stallone is just made different from other directors/writers/action stars.

Best known to many for giving us the most ultimate training montage of all time, Rocky IV still stands as perhaps the best (if not at least the most memorable) of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky film series, the fourth sequel in what is now an eight-film (and counting) franchise.

Rocky is truly an indie filmmaking success story as an unknown, yet hungry, Stallone was able to turn his underdog boxer script into a real-life rags-to-riches tale. However, it wasn’t all fun and games for the auteur star, as he recounts in a recent excerpt from the behind-the-scenes documentary, which accompanied his new Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago director’s cut, released on YouTube.

Check it out.

The Time Stallone Was Knocked Out

Even for the most seasoned of pros, filming fight scenes can be quite tricky and, at times, quite dangerous.

Stallone found out firsthand just how powerful a full-send punch was from his on-screen heavy Ivan Drago (famously portrayed by Dolph Lundgren in his career-defining role).

"The first thing we shot [was] my entrance, [Lundgren’s] entrance, and the introductions and then I got really injured during the fight and I had to be flown into intensive care to California from Canada," Stallone says. "[Lundgren] pulverized me. And I didn’t feel it in the moment but later that night my heart started to swell. 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. I’m in intensive care surrounded by nuns and then after that, I had to go back and finish the fight."

Stallone was hit so hard that he had to be airlifted to a hospital hundreds of miles away so that he could receive the medical treatment he needed to get his heart back to its normal size.

It’s a funny anecdote today about how hard the duo was actually hitting each other, but it’s also a stark reminder that film safety has always been a critical issue.

Rocky 4 On Set
Credit: MGM/United Artists
“How Could You Take That Out?”

Still, almost 40 years after Rocky IV was officially released to commercial and critical fanfare, the 1985 sequel still “hits hard” so to speak in its visceral fight sequences and over-the-top action movie tropes.

It’s also impressive that Stallone is still going strong with a career that’s stretching five decades at this point. Even as he’s handed the ropes (again, pun) to new directors and stars like Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Stallone, Stallone has stayed busy helming action franchises both new and old with his Expendables series and even reviving Rambo for a (supposed) final ride.

As for that nearly fatal hit in Rocky IV, well Stallone admits that of course, he let it into the final cut of the film.

It is after all just further proof of how his career is a great example of taking your hits and getting back up, and as he puts it, “How could you take that out?”     

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2 Comments

Safety must be the first thing on every shooting location and acts. I strongly believe that movies are there to entertain the viewers, and if something bad like this happens and people die, then I don't understand what's the point of such an entertainment.

November 20, 2021 at 1:09AM

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Mary Jain
Photography Enthusiast
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Easily one of my favorite series.

November 21, 2021 at 9:32AM, Edited November 21, 9:32AM

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Tony Cuellar
Video Producer & Director
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