When shooting the film, Sylvester Stallone decided that for the shooting of the fight, he and Dolph Lundgren should hit one another for real, so as to increase the intensity of the scene. After doing three takes of Rocky taking shots to ribs, Stallone felt a burning in his chest, but ignored it. Later that night, he had difficulty breathing and was taken to a nearby emergency room. It was discovered that his blood pressure was over 200, and he had to be flown on a low-altitude flight from Canada to St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, where he remained in intensive care for eight days. What had happened was that Lungren had punched him so hard in the chest, Stallone's heart had slammed up against his breastbone and began to swell, cutting off the blood supply and restricting the oxygen flow throughout the body.
If you look carefully at the very opening scene (the American glove and the Russian glove colliding), you can see that a split second after the gloves collide and a split second before they're covered by the explosion, the Russian glove breaks in half and falls to the ground.
It took Dolph Lundgren about six months to win the part and was first turned down by the casting directors for being too tall. Later, he got the chance to send photos and meet Sylvester Stallone who told him he had a good chance to get the part, but advised him to gain twenty pounds of muscle.
The "hit the one in the middle" exchange, long part of boxing lore, actually did happen during the Max Baer-Max Schmeling heavyweight fight in June 1933. Baer was knocked groggy by a Schmeling right hand in the first round and told his corner, "I see three of him out there." Ex-champ Jack Dempsey, who was in Baer's corner for the fight, responded with the famous line, and Baer went on to score a tenth-round knockout.
In the Italian dub of the movie, Ivan Drago's line "I must break you", was translated as "I break you in two" ("Ti spiezzo in due", complete with fake Russian accent). It became by far the most famous quote from the movie in Italy, and it entered into common language as a much used slang phrase.
Carl Weathers nearly quit the film when Dolph Lundgren tossed Weathers into the corner of the boxing ring. Weathers shouted profanities at Lundgren while leaving the ring and announcing that he was calling his agent and quitting the movie. Only after Sylvester Stallone forced the two actors to reconcile did the movie continue. This event caused a four-day work stoppage while Weathers was talked back into the part and Lundgren agreed to tone down his aggressiveness.
Paulie's Robot was created by the International Robotics Inc. in New York City. The robot's voice was the company's CEO Robert Doornick. Roger Ebert surmises the robot is an android of some type, complete with artificial intelligence. The robot is identified by robotic engineers as "SICO" and is/was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and toured with James Brown in the 1980s. In an interview with the Ain't It Cool News website, Sylvester Stallone revealed that he first saw the robot at a party and was amused by it, so he decided to include it in this movie so that audiences could get a look at it.
While this film was Dolph Lundgren's break-out role, it wasn't his first appearance on the big screen. He had a minor role in the James Bond film A View to a Kill (1985) as one of General Gogol's bodyguards.
The training scenes set in Russia were actually filmed in Wyoming; the farm is located in Jackson Hole, and most of the exterior shots were filmed in the Grand Teton National Park. The fight itself was shot at the PNE Forum at Hastings Park in Vancouver, British Columbia.
This is the first film in which Gonna Fly Now is not sung, although a few bars of the song are incorporated into Vince DiCola's score. Rocky V (1990) also only features part of the song in instrumental form. It wouldn't be until Rocky Balboa (2006) that the song, lyrics and all, would reappear.
During a practice round, Sylvester Stallone told Dolph Lundgren to "really go at it" like how normal boxers do for 15 seconds. He ended up with a swelling pericardia sac around his heart and had to be rushed to the emergency room by plane. His insurance company thought he was faking it, saying that his injuries looked more "from head-on collisions when the steering wheels hit you in the chest". Stallone replied,"have you seen Dolph Lundgren?! That's a truck! That's a steering wheel! That's a head on collision!" His insurance company honored the claim soon after that.
Numerous fans have stated that they find this film to be confusing in terms of the title belt, and what exactly happens to it when Rocky is in Russia. This is most likely because the scene explaining what would happen to the belt was cut from the film, and replaced with a newspaper montage. Initially, between Apollo's funeral and the Rocky/Drago press conference, there was to be a scene in which Rocky visits the U.S. boxing board. Whilst there, he is told that they will not sanction the fight, and if he goes ahead with it, he will not be allowed to carry the title. This scene was cut prior to release as it was felt to slow up the film too much, and it was replaced with the much briefer newspaper montage.
After realizing how Rocky's previous opponents (Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang) had loud and animated personalities, Dolph Lundgren came up with the ideas of making his character, Ivan Drago, very stoic, not move too much and just "be there with an intimidating presence". Sylvester Stallone incorporated these ideas by not giving the character too much dialogue and making big close ups, especially in the eyes.
James Brown is seen performing the song "Living In America" in ceremonies prior to the Creed-Drago match. The song was released as a single from the movie's soundtrack, and would become Brown's first Top 40 single in ten years, as well as the last of his career.
Sylvester Stallone has been quoted as saying the enormous financial success and fan-following of Rocky IV once had him envisioning another Rocky movie devoted to Drago and his post-boxing life, with Balboa's storyline running parallel to Drago's. However, he noted the damage both boxers sustained in the fight made them "incapable of reason" and thus instead planned Rocky V (1990) as a showcase of the dangers of boxing.
Europe's 1986 hit 'The Final Countdown' is often falsely stated as being in this film, due in no small part to the song's similarity to Vince DiCola's score. In actuality, this song was released AFTER Rocky IV's theatrical release.
According to Peter Cetera, he originally wrote his best-selling solo single "Glory of Love" as the end title for this film, but was passed over by United Artists, and instead used the theme for The Karate Kid, Part II (1986).
The Russian-language lyrics to the "State Hymn of the USSR" that opens Rocky's fight with Drago, actually include the Stalin-era refrain: "Znamya Sovyetskoye, Znamya narodnoye, Pust ot povyedye k povyedye vyedyet!" (Soviet banner, popular standard, from victory to victory let it lead.) Nikita S. Khruschchev had ordered it changed to "Partiya Lenina, sila narodnaya, nas k toryestvu Kommunistva vyedyet!" (Party of Lenin, strength of the people, to the triumph of Communism let it lead us.)
'Tony Burton', who has a brief scene in this film playing chess against a Russian opponent, is an accomplished chess player in real life, having once defeated master chessman and director Stanley Kubrick on the set of The Shining (1980).
The Creed/Drago fight takes place at the MGM Grand hotel/casino. The MGM Grand was sold to Bally Entertainment Corporation and renamed Bally's Las Vegas. A new and much larger MGM Grand was built, opening in 1993. The new MGM makes an appearance in Vegas Vacation (1997.)
When Rocky first arrives at his temporary home in Russia, Paulie complains that there's no antenna and states "what about the Rose Bowl game?!" However, the match is scheduled for December 25th and the Rose Bowl would take place on January 1st. So Paulie would not miss the game after all.
The script development was the subject of a famous copyright lawsuit, Anderson v. Stallone. Timothy Anderson developed a treatment for Rocky IV on spec. After the studio decided not to buy his treatment, he sued when the resulting movie script was similar to his treatment. The court held that Anderson had prepared an unauthorized derivative work of the characters Sylvester Stallone had developed in Rocky I through III, and thus he couldn't enforce his unauthorized story extension against the owner of the character's copyrights.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
In order to sell Drago's killing blow to Apollo, 'Carl Weathers' (I) made it a point to land face first and feign a twitching motion after hitting the ground. He was so convincing that the on set physician feared he'd actually been injured.