A lot of film directors would probably say that they suffer for their art, we don’t think any directors suffered as much as Sylvester Stallone did though when on the set of Rocky IV, he asked Dolph Lundgren to hit him for real and Lundgren responded by nearly punching his heart out of his chest.
If you’ve never seen Rocky IV, the basic premise is that the eponymous Rocky challenges man-mountain and occasional Master of the Universe, Ivan Drago to a boxing match after the latter – a 6 foot 5 inch tall Russian superman – beats Rocky’s friend and mentor half to death in the most one sided boxing match in history since Bruce Lee tried to wash his car with a brick.
In the film’s climax, Rocky manages to narrowly defeat Drago in the 15th round after spending almost 45 minutes weathering punishing slow-motion haymakers to the grill. In an effort to make the hits in the final fight look as realistic and bone-crunching as possible, Stallone proposed to Lundgren that they spar for real to get some really good shots for the film. Something Lundgren was a little hesitant to do since he’d already gotten in trouble for accidentally punching Carl Weathers three feet through the air when he got carried away while filming their scenes together. After some convincing, Lundgren agreed to not hold back and as soon as shooting began, he rocketed his fist directly into Stallone’s chest, putting him down for the count instantly.
As it would later turn out, Lundgren had hit Stallone with enough force to make his heart crash against the inside of his own chest causing it to swell up and nearly kill him. As Stallone has pointed out in dozens of interviews since, his injury was virtually identical to that of people who’ve been in car crashes and had their chest slammed against the steering wheel. Meaning that Lundgren clocked Stallone with force comparable to that of a fucking car.
But here’s the best part, when Stallone was lying in hospital recovering from his punch wounds, his insurance company refused to pay his hospital bills because they didn’t buy his story that his injuries had been caused by a human fist. In fact, according to a 2006 interview Stallone gave with Entertainment Weekly, his insurance company agreed with doctors that his injuries looked more like they’d been caused by being hit by a truck, which didn’t change the fact Stallone still needed life-saving surgery and was a millionaire who had no reason to lie to save a few bucks, but whatever.
It was only after Stallone sent over unedited footage of the “fight” between himself and Lundgren, in which you could clearly see Lundgren land a crippling blow to the chest, that the insurance company realised “holy shit, this guy took a punch from fucking He-Man” and agreed to honor the claim. Apparently Stallone also responded to the allegation that he was lying about being hit by a truck or something by asking if his insurers had ever actually, you know, seen Dolph Lundgren’s arms? After having this salient piece of information pointed out to them and after having footage of Dolph’s full force body shot sent to them, Stallone’s insurers suddenly decided to stop being dicks and paid out.
And that’s the story of how Dolph Lundgren once punched someone so hard that their heart nearly exploded and how an insurance company refused to believe it until they were sent the unedited footage. Footage we should add, actually made it into the final cut of the film because according to Stallone “the first 15 seconds” of the fight between Rocky and Drago is the footage they captured that day, meaning technically, Ivan Drago won that fight because literally one of the first punches thrown on screen nearly killed the fucking actor it was aimed at. But hey, that’s Hollywood.