"It was a horrible marriage," Nielsen said about being married to someone who was 17 years older than her.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on September 23, 2020. It has since been updated.
If there is one thing that Danish actress Brigitte Nielsen could change from her past, she would choose not to walk down the aisle to marry one of the biggest names in Hollywood. It didn't matter that waiting at the altar, ready to exchange vows with her, was Sylvester Stallone.
"At the time, they were... very much in love," said Irwin Winkler, a longtime friend of Stallone's and the producer of Rocky. However, things quickly changed in their relationship and after just 19 months of being married to each other, they filed for divorce, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Their first meeting took place when Stallone was staying at a Manhattan hotel, and Nielsen paid a bellboy $20 to slide her promo shot underneath his hotel room's door, according to The Guardian.
Written down on the promo shot were the words, "My name is Brigitte Nielsen…. I’d really like to meet you. Here’s my number," as quoted by Entertainment Weekly.
Stallone rung up the number that was jotted down in the message and when he met the Nielsen, he said, "I’ve got to get to know you better." That was the beginning of their romance that progressed so quickly that their wedding took place after just months after the day Nielsen slid the photograph under his door at the hotel.
Stallone and Nielsen separated less than two years since they got married spurring up a storm, and Nielsen was the one who faced the brunt of it. Some headlines would accuse her of marrying Stallone just for his money, some would say she used him to catapult forward in her career, and some even claimed that she cheated on the Rocky actor.
However, Nielsen later came out with her side of the story, claiming that she actually had doubts about marrying Stallone while he was desperate to have her hand in marriage.
"The biggest misconception while I was with Sylvester was the fact that everybody thought I married him because of money. They didn’t understand that he begged me to marry. He begged me!" Nielsen said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, as reported by HuffPost.
She recalled how she was in two minds about marrying him and how she felt like their relationship was moving too quickly. "I remember thinking, 'This is too early. This is not right,'" she recalled. "At the same time, everybody was going, ‘Who wouldn’t want to marry Rocky?'"
Now, when she looks back at how things turned out, she is aware of what she should have done at the time but it is something that she can't undo and can only regret.
"If I would go back in time, I shouldn’t have married him. And he shouldn’t have married me!" the Rocky IV actress said. "It was a horrible marriage," Nielsen told The Guardian about being married to someone who was 17 years older than her.
What Nielsen does not do is blame Stallone for their marriage having come to an end. The actress confessed that she was not perfect either. "I don’t want to sit here and come across as an angel. I probably was also a pain in the butt at times... But it really just wasn’t for me, and it became very ugly, like some divorces do," Nielsen told Oprah Winfrey, according to HuffPost.
For someone of Stallone's stature and fame, it wouldn't be too hard for his public image to recover from a divorce even when it was the talk of the town. But for Nielsen, it was different. Not only was her character questioned but her career in Hollywood was also significantly derailed. "When I left Sylvester, all doors closed on me. I was basically blacklisted," she said. "Thank god I had so much work, speaking four languages — Danish, German, English, Italian,” she says. “Being able to work in all these different languages basically made me survive."
With the paparazzi on her tail, she decided to leave behind her life in America and went to Europe. And there, she continued to build her life and career.
Decades have passed since life turned "ugly" for Nielsen after her divorce with Stallone. But they both have made peace with whatever happened and reunited on the set of Creed II.
As she reached the set on the first day of shooting, Nielsen felt "incredibly emotional."
"My heart was beating very fast," she told People. More than 30 years had passed since she played the character of Ludmilla Drago in Rocky IV (1985), and she reflected on how life had drastically changed. "In 1985, I was married to Sylvester and this time I am the ex-wife," she said. But things had settled between them, and Stallone is in a long-lasting marriage with Jennifer Flavin while Nielsen is happily married to Mattia Dessi.
Nielsen said it was "amazing" to be back on set with her ex-husband for Creed II and said, "We are two professionals and we kept it that way. He stayed in the American corner and I stayed in the Russian corner. We were on opposite sides but it was pleasant."
Source: Getty Images | Photos by (L) Chris Jackson and (R) Frederick M. Brown