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Dolph Lundgren Threatened to "Knock Out" Sylvester Stallone After On-Set Mockery

"We've had a few run-ins over the years, but what can I say? He's a crazy Italian, you know?"

It was almost life imitating art. In a new interview, Dolph Lundgren said he wanted to "knock out" Sylvester Stallone when they were filming the 2010 movie The Expendables. According to Lundgren, Stallone—who directed and co-starred in the film—gave him a hard time on set and mocked him in front of the cast and crew. Lundgren was very upset by the situation, but it didn't end up escalating further, because Stallone apologized.

This isn't the only tense situation Lundgren and Stallone have had over the years. The two first starred together in 1985's Rocky IV, in which Stallone's Rocky Balboa faced off against Lundgren's villain, Ivan Drago. They then went on to co-star in the Expendables franchise before they both reprised their Rocky roles in 2018's Creed II. Just last year, the two had some drama on social media that they were seemingly able to put to rest. But as Lundgren explained in his new interview, they've "had some good times, some bad times."

Read on to find out more about the two stars nearly coming to blows.

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Lundgren says Stallone yelled at him on set.

In a new interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Lundgren spoke about his relationship with Stallone. "We had some good times, some bad times, kind of like family to some degree," Lundgren said.

One of the bad times came when Lundgren was being directed by Stallone for The Expendables. The Swedish actor said that Stallone berated him on set.

"He was very harsh on me on a scene in Expendables 1 where he kind of yelled at me in front of the whole crew and had me do about 20 takes on the scene," Lundgren recalled. "And he was like, 'My grandmother can do it better than that, what the [expletive] are you doing?' Basically, in front of everybody. There was press there that day, too, international press."

Lundgren wanted to hit Stallone.

Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren at the premiere of "The Expendables" in Tokyo in 2010
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Lundgren said that the cast then went on lunch break, during which time he called his wife, Anette Qviberg.

"I remember I was kind of in tears. I mean, I was really upset," he said. "And I called my wife at the time, and I basically just told her, 'If he says one more word, I'm gonna knock him out and [expletive] this movie. I'm out of here. I'm just gonna punch him out and [expletive] leave.'"

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They were able to move on.

Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren at the Tokyo premiere of "The Expendables" in 2010
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Lundgren said that when he returned from break, people on set could tell there "wasn't such a good vibration."

"And then I had a tap on the back and it was Sly, and he was like, 'I'm sorry about that. Let's just do another take, and let's just keep moving on,'" Lundgren recalled.

He added of their complicated relationship, "We've had a few run-ins over the years, but what can I say? He's a crazy Italian, you know? And I think he knows that I've always respected him and loved him, and I think that's why we're still friends."

Another one of those run-ins happened last year.

Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone at a screening of "The Expendables" in 2010
Dmytro Larin / Shutterstock

In July 2022, Stallone made some Instagram posts regarding a rumored upcoming Ivan Drago spinoff movie. Stallone created the Rocky franchise, wrote all six films, and directed two—but did not retain all the rights. On social media, he lashed out at the producers of the franchise, but also at Lundgren, whom he said went "behind his back" to work on the Drago movie.

"By the way, I once had nothing but respect for Dolph but he NEVER told me about what was going on behind my back with the character I created for him !!! REAL FRIENDS Are more precious than gold," Stallone wrote in a soon-deleted post, as reported by Entertainment Tonight.

Lundgren then responded in his own post and said he and Stallone were working things out offline.

"Just to set the record straight regarding a possible Drago spinoff. There's no approved script, no deals in place, no director and I was personally under the impression that my friend Sly Stallone was involved as a producer or even as an actor," he shared. "There was a press leak last week which was unfortunate. In touch with Mr Balboa – just so all the fans can relax…There ya go."

Lundgren also maybe sent Stallone to the hospital.


Per The Hollywood Reporter, in a previous interview, Stallone said that Lundgren was behind him being hospitalized when they were filming Rocky IV. Stallone told Lundgren to actually punch him during a fight scene. Later that day, Stallone realized something was wrong.

"Dolph Lundgren put me in the hospital for nine days," Stallone said, explaining that a punch "caught the ribs and hit the heart against the ribcage."

"All I did was obey orders," Lundgren later said in a 2015 interview with Inside MMA. "He was the boss. I did what he told me … I came back to L.A., and the producer's like, 'Hey Dolph, you've got two weeks off.' 'Oh nice, why?' 'Sly's in the hospital.'"

But in a 2020 interview with The Guardian, Lundgren wasn't so sure he was actually responsible.

"He keeps talking about it, so maybe he's right," Lundgren said of Stallone. "He did go to the hospital, but I don't know whether it was my punches or the fact that he was so overworked as the director, actor, and writer. We shot those 15 rounds over two or three weeks, eight or 12 hours a day, so you're throwing thousands of punches. If you don't connect, it looks a bit fake, but it doesn't mean you want to hurt the other guy. But there were no hard feelings."

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Lundgren said they've had other issues, too.

Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren at the premiere of "Rocky Balboa" in 2006
E. Charbonneau/WireImage for MGM via Getty Images

Clearly, Lundgren and Stallone have been willing to work out their issues. In the interview with In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Lundgren also touched on some other conflicts they've had. He said there was a run-in when Stallone claimed Lundgren was hitting on his then-wife, Brigitte Nielsen, who played Drago's wife in Rocky IV. Lundgren said he never hit on her, and that he was in a relationship at the time with singer Grace Jones.

He also talked about confronting Stallone over the script of Creed II, which Stallone co-wrote. Lundgren said that while Stallone didn't take his notes on a scene well at first, he eventually came around.

"It was the first time I kind of stood up to Sly," Lundgren said. "Because he'd always been my boss and 'older brother' and I always deferred to him, but in this case I didn't … I think it turned out to be a pretty good scene. He was good about. Afterward he came over and gave me a tap on the back."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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