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Rocky’s Dolph Lundgren Has A Unique Take On Accidentally Sending Sylvester Stallone To The Hospital

Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone
(Image credit: MGM/UA)

Hollywood is filled with legendary stories from classic productions – some of which are true, and others that are bogus. You never really know which stories you can believe, and even when you hear from the people involved, the sides of the story might be so different, they only add to the overall mythology. Rocky IV co-star Dolph Lundgren has been at the center of one of the juiciest rumors regarding sending the series star, Sylvester Stallone, to the hospital during the filming of the fourth Rocky movie. In a recent interview, he was asked about it, but even he doesn’t know 100% what is true. 

The way that Sylvester Stallone has been telling the story recently, he (as the film’s director) asked Dolph Lundgern to land a few punches, so that the final fight between Rocky and Ivan Drago (Lundgren) would come across as real as possible on screen. But Lundgren – who was in peak physical shape – connected on a couple of really hard punches, sending Stallone to the ICU for a reported 9-day stint. Lundgren was asked about this incident for a fan Q-and-A in The Guardian, and he kind of remembers it differently, saying:

I don’t know. He keeps talking about it, so maybe he’s right. He did go to the hospital, but I don’t know whether it was my punches or the fact that he was so overworked as the director, actor and writer. We shot those 15 rounds over two or three weeks, eight or 12 hours a day, so you’re throwing thousands of punches. If you don’t connect, it looks a bit fake, but it doesn’t mean you want to hurt the other guy. But there were no hard feelings.

We can easily see Sylvester Stallone playing up the impact of Dolph Lundgren’s punches during the making of Rocky IV, because they continue to add to the mystique that Drago was a killer, and the perpetual underdog of Rocky Balboa had no business being in the ring with him. Also, telling the media that you ended up in the ICU because Lundgren connected on real punches is far cooler than admitting exhaustion, though in hindsight, serving as the film’s director while also participating in several days of boxing bouts that look like this makes the exhaustion explanation far more feasible. 

We have had a number of opportunities to revisit Rocky IV, because it celebrated an anniversary in 2020, and then returned to theaters for one night when Stallone brought back a director’s cut of the movie that buffed a lot of the 1980s out of it, and connected closer to the drama of the first two Rocky films. The movie got good reviews, and really seemed to rekindle the legend’s passion for the story that he was trying to tell with that fourth Rocky movie… even if it sent him to the hospital, for reasons we may never finally be able to solidify.

Sean O'Connell
Sean O'Connell

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.