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Stallone: Hard Punch Almost Put Rocky Down For Good

May 23, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Sylvester Stallone, whose new film ″Rambo: First Blood Part II″ opened in a record 2,165 theaters Wednesday, says he may have pushed his movie risk- taking to the limit in his latest ″Rocky″ film.

″One more punch and it could have been Rocky down - forever,″ Stallone said in an interview. ″I guess my girlfriend saved my life.″

While Stallone recovered from his boxing injuries, Tri-Star Pictures was taking a mammoth gamble that his box-office draw as an action star remains hot.

″The large number of theaters demonstrates our tremendous confidence in the appeal of the film, the appeal of Stallone, the appeal of subject matter,″ explained TriStar marketing vice president Stephen F. Randall. The film is about rescuing POWs in Vietnam.

Reviews for ″Rambo″ have been mixed, some critics praising it as an allegory, others deploring its violence.

During a Monday interview at his baronial Pacific Palisades house, Stallone said that he might not been around for the ″Rambo″ opening. Two weeks ago he was filming the climactic fight scene of ″Rocky IV″ in Vancouver.

The character Rocky Balboa was matched in a symbolic East-vs.-West bout against the Soviet champion, played by Swedish boxer Dolph Lundgren, who is 6- foot-6 and 245 pounds.

″I wanted the fight to be as spontaneous as we could make it,″ said Stallone. ″So I decided, ‘Let’s go for it.’ Instead of choreographing every punch, as we usually do, I told the other fighter to let it fly.

″We mixed it up pretty good - in fact, I couldn’t see where the punches were coming from. I started seeing three Russians in front of me, and of course I did the sensible thing - I hit the one in the middle.

″I didn’t feel the big punch at the moment it happened. Apparently he hit me in the stomach and shoved my diaphragm into my heart. That night I couldn’t understand the pounding in my chest. I thought maybe the problem was my shoulder; I had almost separated a deltoid muscle so I hadn’t been able to punch with my left hand.

″I had only a few closeups of body punches to film the next day, and I thought I could get through it. But my girlfriend got hysterical and called my agent here. I flew back the next day.″

His girlfriend is Swedish actress Brigette Nielsen, 21, star of the forthcoming ‘Red Sonja.’

Stallone was taken to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, and his publicist announced that the actor suffered from a shoulder ailment complicated by flu. Two days later he was told his heart was bleeding.

His reaction: ″Oh, great, now I’ve got a bleeding heart.″

Filming of ″Rocky IV″ was suspended until Tuesday, when it will resume in Los Angeles. Rest was prescribed, but the actor said he has been allowed below-the-waist calisthenics.

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