Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Sylvester Stallone’s Most Vicious ‘Rocky’ Scene Sent Him to Intensive Care

Sylvester Stallone’s Most Vicious ‘Rocky’ Scene Sent Him to Intensive Care

Sylvester Stallone has been a top-action star for decades. However, his most serious injury wasn’t a crazy stunt. It was in a Rocky film.

Of course, the Rocky films are Stallone’s ultimate calling card. 47 years ago, Rocky launched Sylvester Stallone to superstardom. This acclaimed movie, written by Stallone, won Best Picture at the Oscars. It inspired five sequels that showcased the unwavering determination of an underdog fighter. Recently, the franchise led to the spinoff Creed.

For 1985’s Rocky IV, the veteran star was once directing and writing, with Sly having a huge amount of creative control. This installment boasts Balboa’s most fierce foe yet, the Russian juggernaut Ivan Drago. The character was brought to life by the imposing 6’5″ Dolph Lundgren.

Dolph was perfectly cast in the part. However, Stallone may have miscalculated by asking the young actor to “go for it” during their climactic bout. Although Lundgren was a formidable physical specimen and a two-time European karate champion before pursuing acting, Stallone still urged him to abandon caution and restraint.

“[I told Dolph to] just go out there and try to clock me, for the first minute of the fight, it is going to be a free-for-all,” Stallone told The Hollywood Reporter in 2020. Of course, the direction was ill-advised. Lundgren gave Stallone a punch that sent him to the canvas.

Sylvester Stallone Joked that Nuns Were Called to His Hospital Bed Following Botched ‘Rocky IV’ Scene

“Dolph Lundgren put me in the hospital for nine days,” Sly recalled. “I knew I was in trouble when I showed up and nuns met you at the ICU,” the Rambo star quipped.

Stallone detailed that the punch “caught the ribs and hit the heart against the ribcage”. Lundgren, however, denied any blame, which is understandable since he was simply following Sly’s direction. “All I did was obey orders,” Dolplh recalled. “He was the boss. I did what he told me. We came back and the producer was like, ‘Hey Dolph, you’ve got two weeks off — Sly’s in the hospital.’”

(Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

Despite a near-death experience, Stallone’s creativity remained unscathed. He bravely included the body blow that almost took his life in the final version of Rocky IV, likely evoking vivid memories each time he revisits it. In 2021, Stallone took on the task of re-editing this timeless sports drama into Rocky vs. Drago: The Ultimate Director’s Cut, replacing original footage with 38 minutes of new scenes.