Sylvester Stallone was undoubtedly one of the biggest movie stars in the entire world in the 1980’s – joining Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis as the first three actors to demand $20 million per movie.
Nowadays, those three can’t come close to that amount. Call it age or call it a fatigue of seeing them in movies over and over again; those movie stars just aren’t in high demand any longer.
But while Sylvester Stallone was still in his prime there’s a crazy story about a near-death experience he had while on the set of “Rocky IV” that you’re going to want to hear about.
When Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in “Rocky” in 1976 it was an instant smash hit that ultimately won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing. It actually shocked the world because it won over “Taxi Driver,” “Network,” “Marathon Man,” and “All the President’s Men,” which were all released that year.
It is almost inarguably the greatest year for movies in the entire history of film; although one could make the argument for 1994, which had “Forrest Gump,” “Quiz Show,” “Pulp Fiction,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
But what do the studios and producers do when a movie like “Rocky” makes $117 million in the box-office, especially in 1970’s when adjusted for inflation would be nearly double that in today’s standards? You franchise it and make sequels; many of them if they continue to perform.
Fast forward to the iconic 1985 fourth installment, “Rocky IV,” – which might be the most underrated of the entire series – and made a staggering $127 million domestically and another $172 million overseas.
If you need a memory refresher of the plot; Rocky Balboa currently holds the world heavyweight boxing championship and his longtime friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants one more shot at glory so he fights an enormous Russian, Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren), and is tragically killed in the beginning of the movie.
Lundgren is a big guy in real life. He’s enormous actually.
And Stallone revealed recently at the Cannes Film Festival the time when Lundgren hit him so hard that it almost stopped his heart.
Stallone said, “Dolph Lundgren walked in, and I hated him immediately. I had to find a superhuman being as an opponent, someone who would be overwhelming.”
Stallone said he was “perfect” as his sociopathic Soviet rival.
Stallone revealed, “This is what I would imagine they would create as an athlete — someone who is literally perfect. Indestructible. Shoulders, calves, forearms, giant butt, neck, back, everything.”
But while filming is when things got nearly fatal for Stallone.
The “Rocky” star revealed, “He hit me so hard he almost stopped my heart. I told him, ‘Why don’t we just do it? Just try to knock me out. Really cut loose as hard as you can.’ That was a really stupid thing to say. Next thing I know, I’m on a low-altitude plane to the emergency room, and I’m in intensive care for four days. And there are all these nuns around.”
Amongst the other things Lundgren is exceptional at other than his side; he is a world-class karate champion and he’s also a bona fide genius.
In 1982, Lundgren graduated with a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney and then was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983.
That’s when a Hollywood producer noticed Lundgren while he was a bouncer at a nightclub and the rest is history.