The big picture

  • Sylvester Stallone’s most popular role is Rocky Balboa, over which he had considerable creative control and which allowed him to shape the films to his exact specifications.
  • Rocky IV is a fan favorite of the series despite being the most cartoonish entry. The focus is on fights and training montages that capture the splendor of the 1980s.
  • During the crucial fight scene in Rocky IVStallone instructed Dolph Lundgren to ignore the choreography, resulting in a brutal and realistic sequence that nearly cost Stallone his life.

Sylvester Stallone is one of the most recognizable names in cinema, boasting a repertoire of some of the action genre’s most iconic characters. It’s an impressive catalog by any standard, but his most popular role is certainly the one that made him a Hollywood star – none other than the pride of Philadelphia himself, Rocky Balboa. Stallone exercises significant creative control over the Rocky franchise (which includes writing all five direct sequels and directing four of them), he seems to agree with that assessment. This influence gave Stallone the opportunity to make the series his own personal playground and create these films to his exact specifications. Perhaps the most important tenet was his constant pursuit of authenticity, with Stallone pushing himself (and his fellow actors) to somewhat extreme lengths to deliver the ultimate cinematic spectacle. It’s an admirable goal, but after a horrific accident on the set of Rocky IVit is also one that almost cost him his life.

Rocky IV is a fan favorite of the series

Image via MGM

In a series that, even at its most exuberant, has always kept one foot in reality, Rocky IV is quite an outlier. It’s certainly the comic book entry, and not just because its plot reads like the paranoid ramblings of a Cold War-era patriot desperate for his side to emerge victorious (the unlikely American hero defeated a ridiculous portrayal of the Soviet Union to thunderous applause). ). Instead, the film saw Stallone downplay the down-to-earth, working-class setting of previous installments to focus on what had quickly become the franchise’s main selling points: fights and training montages. No film needs three over-the-top montages set to Stallone’s synthpop playlist (let alone an unedited performance of James Brownis “Living in America”), but when everything is captured with such bombastic joy, who in their right mind is going to complain? Rocky IV is a 90-minute homage to everything that makes these films so appealing, all wrapped up in a time capsule of 1980s splendor. It might be the stupidest of them Rocky Movies, but it’s probably the most fun.

Still, it’s strange that a film that can be characterized this way centers around the most brutal scenario in the franchise’s history – the death of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). His exhibition fight against Ivan “The Siberian Express” Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is a defining moment for the series, the impact of which will reverberate for decades (most obviously with a trilogy of excellent spin-off films centered around his son, Michael B JordanAdonis Creed). It’s also a moment that deeply affects Rocky, filling the once headstrong fighter with guilt for refusing to pull Apollo out of the fight. However, such a complaint proves to be an ideal excuse for him to put on his boxing gloves once again and take on the toughest opponent he would ever face, resulting in one of the series’ most famous fights. The duel between Rocky and Drago is full of tension, but as the fight progresses and Rocky gains the upper hand, it becomes strangely inspiring. Apollo Creed is dead, but symbolically he finally emerges at the top.

Sylvester Stallone told Dolph Lundgren to ignore the choreography

Image via MGM

Stallone and Lundgren’s performances are a notable reason why the scene is so powerful – particularly the sheer ferocity with which they infuse their respective characters. From the audience’s perspective, it’s an exciting fight. However, the same cannot be said for those who experienced it on set. When it came time to film their climactic fight, Stallone – for the third time in a row Rocky film as director – instructed Lundgren to ignore the rehearsed choreography in favor of a more brutal (but realistic) sequence. Unfortunately, Lundgren (who, as mentioned, is a 4th Dan black belt in Kyokushin karate) followed his instructions exactly. While the day passed uneventfully, Stallone realized something was seriously wrong later that evening when he felt a massive pain in his chest. The actor and director was immediately taken by low-altitude emergency flight from the film’s filming location in Vancouver to the intensive care unit at Saint John’s Regional Medical Center in Santa Monica. “I knew I was in trouble when I showed up and nuns met you in the intensive care unit,” Stallone later recalled.

Stallone spent nine days in Saint John’s Hospital, and during that time the extent of his injuries became unpleasantly apparent. An uppercut from Lundgren caused Stallone’s heart to pound against his chest, causing it to swell and his blood pressure to skyrocket. Without immediate medical attention, his heart would have continued to swell until it stopped completely. Doctors told Stallone that his injuries were typically found in car accident victims – a shocking detail that puts the whole situation into context. Luckily (or perhaps idiotically, as you decide), Stallone accepted this revelation with a sense of gallows humor. When asked in the following years what was the worst injury he sustained while filming, he answers: “A tram named Drago” hit him.

Lundgren has also taken a similarly relaxed approach to the incident. When asked in interviews about Stallone’s hospitalization, Lundgren typically denies any responsibility, saying he was simply following orders (“He was the boss. I did what he told me,” he said). The Hollywood Reporter in 2020). Furthermore, Lundgren has also stated that he has no idea whether he is even responsible for Stallone’s trip to the intensive care unit, postulating that it was merely a result of the writer, director and actor’s severe overwork (or, alternatively, that it was so). something was). of insurance fraud). His lax attitude may seem indifferent, but that is an unfair assessment. Lundgren and Stallone’s friendship wasn’t the easiest, but there is a clear sense of mutual respect between them. Neither seems to be clear about this particular episode (as evidenced by Stallone being one of the most vocal proponents of bringing Lundgren back). Creed II), it’s amazing that something that could have ended so tragically ended up having the exact opposite effect.

RELATED: ‘Rocky III’ Added This Crucial Element to the Famous Franchise

The almost fatal blow is visible in the film

Image via MGM

If the average person ended up in the hospital for nine days during a movie shoot, they would probably flee and never look back. However, Stallone is not your average guy. He is one of the most resilient people ever seen in Hollywood. If he could keep filming The consumables With a broken neck, there was no way he was going to let a little thing like a trip to the ICU stop him Rocky IV. As soon as he was released, he was back on set in Vancouver and ready for a few more weeks of bitter fighting (albeit a lot more scripted fighting this time). Curious viewers will be pleased to hear that Lundgren’s uppercut made the final cut, somewhere in the first 30 seconds of the sequence, before the actors moved on to more coordinated fighting. The amount of punches Lundgren deals to his opponent will make it difficult to locate him, but those brave enough to go searching will find their curiosity rewarded (if such a term is appropriate given the circumstances ).

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, authenticity has always been the focus Rocky Franchise. From the original film’s gritty depiction of urban decay in Philadelphia’s forgotten neighborhoods to the presentation style of Rocky Balboa‘S While Stallone’s final fight mimics the aesthetics of a real pay-per-view broadcast, he has always strived to tie his most prized creation to reality. That’s a great foundation, and it’s why the series remains such an enduring source of inspiration and hope, even for viewers who aren’t interested in boxing. His violent depiction of the franchise’s many fights is a central part of this approach, with Stallone making no attempt to disguise how dangerous the sport is. That doesn’t mean he has to come within touching distance of the Pearly Gates to achieve this, but at the same time one can’t help but admire his dedication. Rocky IV is a fan favorite for many reasons, most notably the conflict between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago. Who knew their feud was so intense that it spilled over into the real world?

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