“I must break you.”
It’s one of the most memorable lines in the entire Rocky/Creed catalog — right up there with “Yo Adrian!” and “Ain’t gonna be no rematch” — delivered by hulking blond Swede Dolph Lundgren playing punishing Russian bruiser Ivan Drago in 1985’s beloved sequel Rocky IV, which turns 35 today.
In actuality, Lundgren did almost break Rocky Balboa, or rather Sylvester Stallone, the actor who created the iconic boxing underdog and has played him in eight movies now. After shooting the climactic Cold War-flavored showdown, Stallone ended up in intensive care for eight days. One particularly crushing punch from Lundgren slammed Stallone’s heart against his breastbone, causing his heart to swell, which lead to labored breathing and high blood pressure. Stallone has said he could’ve died without urgent medical attention.
“This was back in the day when you didn’t have CGI, so everything you did had to be in-camera. You wanted a good hit, you had to make it look good in-camera. And if you wanted blood to come out of your mouth, you had to actually put it in your mouth and spit it out as you got hit,” Lundgren explained in a 2014 Role Recall interview with Yahoo Entertainment (watch above, with Rocky IV starting just past the one-minute mark).
“So Sly decided to do some more realistic boxing scenes where I hit a little harder in the body.” After they wrapped the sequence in Vancouver, Lundgren was back in Los Angeles when he got word that Stallone was in the hospital and production was shutting down for two weeks.
“They say it was my fault,” said Lundgren, who later reunited with Stallone in The Expendables. “But he got hurt.”
Stallone has also revealed in years past there was some bad blood between Lundgren and Carl Weathers, whose heavyweight champ Apollo Creed is killed by Drago in the film’s early rounds. Weathers was distraught by Lundgren’s aggressiveness in the ring, and at one point walked off set, leading to a four-day work stoppage.
According to Lundgren, though, the hard feelings only went one way.
“I like Carl,” Lundgren said. “But I’d worked out with Sly for five months before the picture. So I knew him pretty well. And I was a fighter, a karate champion from Europe and I think when Carl showed up, he was like, ‘I’m gonna have to fight this guy? He seems like he’s the real thing.’ I didn’t dislike anybody on that set but I think he got a little scared of me.
“Then I had to kill him, of course.”
Stream Rocky IV is currently streaming on Amazon.
Watch Part 2 of our Dolph Lundgren Role Recall interview:
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