Scandalous divorce with Stallone and surgeries in a reality show: glory and fall of Brigitte Nielsen, sexual icon of the ’80s

She was 1.85 meters tall and boasted a statuesque figure that led her to parade for firms such as Armani, Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier, as well as to pose on several Playboy covers (Bob Riha, Jr. / Getty Images)

Rocky IV. Apollo Creed faces off in the ring with a murderous-eyed Russian. The scene slows down in that last blow: Rocky Balboa’s friend falls dead weight and under the ring, Iván Drago’s wife makes a grimace of satisfaction. At that decisive moment, brigitte nielsen embodies the perfect villain in a low intensity Cold War, in the best style of an eighties Hollywood.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’ve never been given a role where I can play a good person,” he said years later when the fury of his fame had almost died down. In a nod to the public, the blonde evokes each low-angle shot of those kilometer-long legs, extremely short hair and a carved body that heated up the screen more than three decades ago. Nielsen ignited action audience fantasies and drew public scrutiny for its affairs with leading men from the entertainment world, a scandalous marriage with Sylvester Stallone, addiction problems, surgeries in front of the camera and motherhood after 50.

Precocious model, sex symbol and media figure, the Aryan beauty who looks at the camera from above, turns 59 today.

Imposing 1.85 tall. More than a fact, it was the compass that marked Brigitte Nielsen’s course towards the world of entertainment. “When she was 11 years old she was taller than my teachers, she had a lot of bullies at school. She never wanted to be a model but it was something that came to me”.

The model and actress had an affair with Arnold Schwarzenegger, married Sylvester Stallone and rumors also link her to Sean Penn and Luis Miguel (Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
The model and actress had an affair with Arnold Schwarzenegger, married Sylvester Stallone and rumors also link her to Sean Penn and Luis Miguel (Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

In Rødovre, a small Danish town near Copenhagen, Gitte Nielsen was born on July 15, 1963. The daughter of a librarian and an engineer, there was nothing to suspect that her destiny was in front of the flashes, but her presence was so conspicuous that she very soon captured the attention of the fashion industry. “When I was 16 years old someone thought I should be a model and I couldn’t believe it”.

In the golden age of supermodels, Nielsen began posing for renowned photographers such as Greg Gorman and Helmut Newton. His statuesque figure paraded down the haute couture catwalks of firms such as Armani, Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier, as well as on several Playboy covers.

By the time he was in his mid-20s, he had already made a name for himself and its sci-fi appeal opened the doors of the Marvel franchise for him. The comic book giant had her eye on her for a photo shoot where she would play the character “She-Hulk,” a female version of the muscular green monster. Towards the end of the ’80s, the career of the platinum Amazon continued to rise; her next jump would be to the big screen.

She herself offered Sylvester Stallone to participate in the film "Rocky IV" and played Ludmilla Drago, the wife of her Russian boxing nemesis
She offered herself to Sylvester Stallone to participate in the movie “Rocky IV” and played Ludmilla Drago, the wife of her Russian nemesis in boxing.

It was in Denmark that some producers spotted her for a camera test in front of director Richard Fleischer. “I am not an actress”He tried to dissuade them. They still insisted that she appear at the casting. “I didn’t know anything about movies, when they told me that the star was arnold schwarzenegger I said: ‘Who?’; ‘the muscular guy, you’re going to meet him’”. Her interpretive quality seemed the least important, so much so that she easily won her first leading role as the warrior Sonja.

In 1985 it premiered the red warriorhis film debut sharing the bill with the star of Terminator. The film was an undisputed box office and critical flop, but marked the beginning of a series of tumultuous romances on and off screen. Between the adventure scenes and the sword fights, the attraction between the protagonists did not take long to appear.

Nielsen was married to musician Kasper Winding. Schwarzenegger began a relationship with who would be his wife, Maria Shriver. “I quickly discovered that away from the cameras Arnold was charming. You couldn’t ignore it when we were running around half naked in our battle gear!” The sexual tension led to a torrid affair that lasted as long as the shooting: “There were no restrictions, no promises, nothing, and it was a great moment in my life.” With a little more modesty, the former California governor would say that romance made him realize how much he wanted to marry Shriver.

The Danish actress played Ludmilla Drago, the wife of Sylvester Stallone’s character’s rival, who in real life was his partner.

Nielsen was not afraid of scandal, nor was infidelity. Still married to her first husband, she met her celebrity crush in a hotel and did not hesitate to take her first step. In a New York suite Sylvester Stallone received a note: “I’m a new actress on the rise and I’m in town promoting a movie.” The exuberance of the Dane quickly won him over. She not only offered him a role in her next movie Rocky IVbut in a matter of weeks, he divorced Sasha Czack to propose to her.

In the set played Ludmilla Drago, the wife of her Russian boxing nemesis. Off-camera, her marriage to Stallone got off to a rocky start during their honeymoon in Hawaii. “Sly brought about 15 people with us: agents, lawyers, a whole entourage. She was devastated.” The link that lasted just under two years was passionate and had an abrupt end. “She was 22 years old, she was a Danish Viking who wanted to explore, but we were surrounded by people and bodyguards all the time. She told him: ‘You can’t buy me’ so I quit and never recovered”.

In 1987 they separated by mutual agreement, although the actress admitted that her ex took revenge, harming her career. “I don’t want to say that she told people not to hire me, but for three years no one wanted to talk to me,” she noted in her biography. Beyond the rumours, the truth is that Stallone rewrote part of history when he presented his final director’s cut Rocky vs. Drago in 2021 (a remake of the original film, Rocky IV). In the 40 minutes that passed through the editing island, Nielsen’s performance was practically erased from the map.

Brigitte Nielsen and Mattia Dessi got married in 2016
Brigitte Nielsen and Mattia Dessi got married in 2016

With the divorce, his career began a downward curve: some films in Europe and B-class productions on television and cinema. She also dabbled in music without much success under the stage name Gitta, perhaps in an attempt to return to her origins. The scandals continued. His list of famous love affairs continued to reverberate in the media: a night with Sean Penn? A meeting with Luis Miguel in Monte Carlo?, were some of the rumors that the blonde starred in. She walked down the aisle three other times with Sebastian Copeland, Raoul Meyer and Mattia Dess, her current partner. Her addiction problems were also in the eye of the storm when they found her in a park “drunk and disoriented”, as the press titled.

Between the controversy of her real life and fiction, Brigitte was an ideal candidate for the world of reality. Participated in the German version of the island of celebrities and in a British edition of Big Brother. In 2008 she underwent a face lift, liposuction of the thighs, hips, botox and breast implants on the show. From Old to New. At 45 years old, the actress wanted to recover her physique that led her to the peak of her fame by force of a scalpel. She never strayed too far from the spotlight, but it was only in 2014 that she returned to fiction with a series of film and television projects.

The Danish woman is 59 and has five children: five years ago she became a mother again with the birth of Frida, her first daughter with Mattia Dessi (Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)
The Danish woman is 59 and has five children: five years ago she became a mother again with the birth of Frida, her first daughter with Mattia Dessi (Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)

In 2018 she had her revenge when she was called to act in the film creed II, once again playing the infamous Ludmilla Drago. She 31 years later she saw her face again with her ex-husband, Sylvester Stallone. The meeting?: “We are two professionals. He stayed in the American corner and I stayed in the Russian corner. We were on opposite sides but it was nice”. The real surprise of the shoot was her fifth pregnancy after 10 years of in vitro fertilization treatment. “My heart was beating very hard. I was so nervous and tried to hide it under the ivory suit, and I succeeded.” She was in her seventh month and tried to keep it a secret, but the news soon began to circulate both on set and in the media: at the age of 54 Nielsen became a mother again with the birth of Frida, her first daughter with the Italian model Mattia Dessi.

Withdrawn from the scandals, Brigitte Nielsen maintained sporadic appearances in documentaries, independent films, and television interviews. She doesn’t seem to miss the cameras either: “I never wanted to be an actress, I think I would have liked to work in a bakery,” she declared on more than one occasion. She flirts a bit with Larry King and moves on to the next topic. In each interview she speaks with the levity of someone who does not speculate. When asked about his age, he replies without hesitation: “Getting old sucks.”

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Scandalous divorce with Stallone and surgeries in a reality show: glory and fall of Brigitte Nielsen, sexual icon of the ’80s


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