How Dolph Lundgren Almost Killed Sylvester Stallone During Rocky IV

What would Adrian think? We all know that Sylvester Stallone did extremely physical work in the Rocky films, but it turns out that fighting Dolph Lundgren in the fourth film very nearly killed him, both on screen and off.

In a recent interview with Ain’t It Cool, Stallone was asked about his worst on-set injury, and turns out it was a doozy that came from trading blows with Lundgren. He said:


...after the third take of taking body blows, I felt a burning in my chest, but ignored it...Later that night I couldn’t breathe very well, and they took me to the emergency room...The next thing I knew I was on a low-altitude flight from Canada to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, and there I resided in intensive care for eight days...He struck me so hard in the chest that my heart slammed against my breastbone and began to swell, so the beating became labored, and without medical attention the heart would’ve continued to swell until it stopped. Many people that have car accidents die like this when the steering wheel slams into their chest. So in a sense I was hit by ‘a streetcar named Drago’

Well at least he has a sense of humor about it, but jeez Louise. That’s quite the serious condition -- but one that didn’t stop him from doing another handful of Rocky movies, as well as other action flicks, like the Expendables. Puns aside, it’s startling to hear that Dolph Lundgren, who portrayed Russian fighter Ivan Drago, nearly killed Stallone in their fight. I’m eager to see how much Lundgren remembers about the ordeal, especially as we gear up for the next chapter in the saga.

Sylvester Stallone became a household name after appearing Rocky in 1976. Stallone played the titular character, Rocky Balboa, an unsuccessful Philadelphian boxer who seemed to be wasting his life away as a debt collector. Throughout the film we see Rocky’s softer side, including his budding relationship with Adrian (Talia Shire). At the film’s conclusion he faces heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and gets the girl (even though she loses her fancy red hat, and he loses the fight). 

That first movie is referenced heavily in the newest addition to the franchise, Creed, which is being released widely throughout the U.S. today. In Creed, Rocky begins coaching Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), helping him focus his street fighting to fit into the rules and regulation of the boxing world. Creed is the first film featuring the character of Rocky Balboa which Stallone did not also co-write.

After hearing Stallone recount his life-threatening injury from Rocky IV, it’s certainly a relief to have the character taking a more passive role in Creed. Having faced so many tough opponents in his life, it’s time for Rocky to rest easy and help a new boxer reach his level of success. And it’s also time for Sylvester Stallone to not risk his life when playing the role we’ve all grown to love. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.