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The Rocky movies have been something of a, well, rocky franchise. The original Rocky was a deeply involved character study of an underdog boxer that earned multiple Academy Awards. Rocky IV was more about Cold War flag waving. Having said that, the movie does get a very strong emotional reaction from co-star Dolph Lundgren, who says the scene where Ivan Drago emerges to fight Apollo Creed always gets to him. According to Lundgren...
I remember when we shot the Apollo Creed fight. Yeah, it was at the MGM Grand in Vegas. They had me down in this elevator that was going to go up, part of the stage show...When I came up the elevator, I was stunned. That's the one moment in Rocky IV where you see Dolph Lundgren, at 27, because that Drago mask kind of fell off and I'm just there going, 'What the hell happened,' you know? And that's kind of a beautiful moment. I always get a little emotional when I see that, because I see that young kid."
Rocky IV was the movie that introduced the world to Dolph Lundgren, but at the same time it was also the movie that introduced Dolph Lundgren to the world. Lundgren had technically made his acting debut a few months earlier when the James Bond movie A View to a Kill came out, but when Rocky IV hit the screen he made a massive leap to playing the opponent of Rocky Balboa in a much larger role.
It all had to feel somewhat surreal to Lundgren, and based on comments the actor makes on the special features attached to the Creed II Blu-ray release, it absolutely was. The actor says the look on his face as he came out into the MGM Grand wasn't acting anymore, it was his actual feelings as he saw this massive crowd that had come to watch him film the boxing match between himself and Carl Weathers. You can watch the sequence play out in the clip below.
It's been a while since I've seen Rocky IV but I'd forgotten how much of a deer in the headlights Ivan Drago looks like here. He's clearly out of his element, which is an odd thing to see from a character who's supposed to be an unstoppable machine. He shows basically no emotion for the entire film, but he''s clearly off balance here. It turns out that part of the reason for that is that this isn't really the reaction of Ivan Drago, it's the reaction of Dolph Lundgren.
Rocky IV would help launch Lundgren's career in action movies throughout the 80s and 90s before coming full circle and seeing him return to the role of Ivan Drago in Creed II, a movie which shows us a side of the character we never saw the first time around.
Creed II is available now on Blu-ray and Digital HD.