Appearing in: Rocky IV
Born and educated in Copenhagen, Brigitte Neilsen began modeling as a teenager after literally being “spotted on the street” because of her striking height, red hair and amazing bone structure. For three years she traveled throughout Europe, posing for fashion photographers and displaying new lines of clothing in some of the continent’s most important fashion shows.
Soon, however, Nielsen tired of the strenuous routine and constant competition, and began searching for new challenges. On a brief trip to Milan between auditions for television roles, she received a telephone call from Dino De Laurentiis who had seen her on the cover of Photo Magazine in a picture by Marco Emili. De Laurentiis invited her to audition in Rome for the title role in his fantasy/adventure film co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Red Sonja. Over the following month, Neilsen trained for her film debut role with swords and on horseback. Once filming had begun, she realized that her experiences as a model had prepared her for the rigorous filmmaking process finding that acting is very similar to modeling.
MEETING SYLVESTER STALLONE & ROCKY IV
Hoping to appear in one of Sylvester Stallone’s upcoming blockbusters, she sent her photo to him, and after a meeting was arranged between them, they were soon seen everywhere together despite the fact that Sly was still married to his wife of 17 years, Sasha.
With Rocky IV about to go into production, Stallone added an extra role for his girlfriend, writing the part of the sexy Soviet especially for Brigitte. While the role of Ludmilla Drago didn’t seem to require much working out, that didn’t stop Nielsen from putting in as many hours in training as Sly did. In fact, she and Stallone spent almost all of their off-camera time lifting weights, doing sit-ups and going through other rigorous exercises in preparation for Rocky IV.
She and the actor/director started pumping iron at breakfast, continued after lunch and then kept up the pace into the night. “With Sylvester,” she said at the time, “it’s get up early, you start on the Nautilus machines. Then sit-ups. Maybe several hours a day.”
“WHO WOULDN’T WANT TO MARRY ROCKY?”
Although in years since Nielsen has said that she felt their marriage came too soon and that they weren’t truly suited for one another, the couple wed in December, 1985, just a month after Rocky IV’s premiere. Brigitte was just 22, Sly was 39. They had known each other a mere six months. They were divorced nearly two years later, finally ending a truly rocky marriage torn apart by scandal after scandal.
In a 2014 interview with Oprah: Where Are They Now?, Neilsen explained that “the biggest misconception while I was with Sylvester was the fact that everybody thought I married him because of money,” she says. “They didn’t understand that he begged me to marry. He begged me!”
Nielsen continued film work throughout the 1990’s despite the fact that she felt essentially blacklisted by Hollywood after parting from Stallone, appearing in such films as 976-EVIL 2: The Astral Factor (1991), Galaxis (1995) with Sam Raimi, Compelling Evidence (1995) She’s Too Tall (1998) with Corey Feldman and George Hamilton, and Doomsdayer (2000). In recent years she became interested in the music world, performing a duet with the drag-queen Rupaul entitled, “You’re no lady” (2002).
Today, Brigitte lives in Switzerland with her current husband and four children.