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 four 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.
During filming, Dolph Lundgren and Carl Weathers really did not get along and got into an altercation. Lundgren threw Weathers into a corner of the boxing ring. After that, Weathers shouted profanities at Lundgren while leaving the ring and announced 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.
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 entered everyday speech.
The "hit the one in the middle" exchange, long part of boxing lore, actually did happen during the Max Baer vs. 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.
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.
Over 8,000 people auditioned for the part of Ivan Drago. Dolph Lundgren was first turned down by the casting directors for being too tall but later on, 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. In total, it took Lundgren about six months to win the part.
James Brown is seen performing the song "Living In America" prior to the Creed vs. Drago match. The song was released as a single from the movie's soundtrack and became Brown's first Top 40 single in ten years, and the last of his career.
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.
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).
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 Agrodome in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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.
Paulie's robot was created by the International Robotics, Inc. in New York City. Its 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.
The first Rocky 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.
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.
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.
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. While 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 it would slow up the film too much, and it was replaced with the much briefer newspaper montage.
This is the only Rocky film that doesn't begin with the word ROCKY (and the episode number) scrolling across the screen in some shape or form or the Rocky fanfare. A rare teaser trailer shot before the film was complete, however, features both.
At the press conference for the Drago vs. Creed fight, Drago is wearing his Soviet Army uniform. He wears the rank of Captain, and was awarded a Hero of the Soviet Union medal. This was the highest medal awarded by the Soviet government.
The soundtrack to Rocky IV was nominated and won a Razzie for Worst Musical Score in 1985, despite the fact that it's been regarded as a fan favorite, especially with the inspiring and uplifting training montage.
The State Anthem of the USSR that opens Rocky's fight with Drago was actually the version of the Stalin era, with the lyrics: "Banner of the Soviets, banner of the people, may it lead from victory to victory!" From 1977 on, the two lines became, "Party of Lenin, strength of the people, leads us to the triumph of Communism!"
A special teaser trailer featuring and narrated by Dolph Lundgren was played in theaters prior to the actual film being complete. In it, an eerily lit Drago against a Soviet flag eerily tells the viewer his name and that he will soon be fighting - and defeating - Rocky Balboa. It also features basic shots of Stallone training not seen in the film, and culminates with Drago and Balboa in the ring ready to throw punches (again very basic footage not used in the final film). It is also unique in that it features the 'Rocky Fanfare' which was not used in the film, as well as a traditional ROCKY IV scrolling title which again was not used.
When Rocky first arrives at his temporary home in Russia, Paulie complains that there's no antenna and asks, "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 only film in the Rocky series where Mickey is not spoken about, although he is seen in the montage during the song "There's no easy way out". Also, the only film in the series where Adrian drives a car.
In a 2010 interview in Britain around the release of The Expendables (2010), Dolph Lundgren claimed not to still have some of the Ivan Drago 'stuff' when asked if he still had the shorts because it was stolen in a burglary twenty years ago.
The Creed vs. Drago fight takes place at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. The MGM Grand was sold to Bally Entertainment Corporation and renamed Bally's Las Vegas. Later, a new and much larger MGM Grand was built, opening in 1993. The new MGM makes an appearance in Vegas Vacation (1997).
This was the first Rocky soundtrack album released to be made up mostly of songs from the film rather than the composer's music score. Vince DiCola's music score would not be released in it's entirety until 2010, and also featured his rendition of the Rocky theme not used in the actual film. Although 'War' and 'Training Montage' had been featured on the original 1985 soundtrack album, they were commercial arrangements and did not mirror the version heard onscreen. The only piece of music that had previously been officially released as heard onscreen prior to the 2010 album was 'Apollo's Death' (originally called 'Farewell') as a B-Side to James Brown's 'Living in America' single.
In the French dub of the film, the characters of Paulie and Apollo Creed were much more rude and disrespectful to Russian people. For example, during the Drago vs. Creed press conference, Apollo says, "Looks like his tongue didn't check customs" when Drago doesn't respond to a question. In the French version, he says "Looks like those damn Russian pigs ate his tongue" ("Les petits cochons Russes lui ont bouffé la langue").
At the beginning of the press conference between Ivan and Rocky, a newspaper briefly flashes on screen with the headline "Rocky vs. Drago - for Guilt or Glory?". The accompanying article is from an actual newspaper about the 1985 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. The first couple paragraphs indicate that it was following game 2 with the Cardinals leading the series 2-0. The Royals would go on to win the World Series 4-3. The article would have been published on October 21, 1985 (the day after game 2), just a little over a month prior to the films release on November 27, 1985.
The "hit the one in the middle" scene between Rocky and Paulie goes a little differently in the French version of the film. While Rocky's line remains the same, "I see three of them" ("J'en vois trois comme lui"), Paulie's reply could be translated as "Pick one and kill him!" ("Vises-en un et butes-le!")
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In order to sell Drago's killing blow to Apollo, Carl Weathers 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 had actually been injured.