Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen were not the first but were certainly one of the most talked-about celebrity couples of the 1980s. The “Italian Stallion” actor and the statuesque Danish bombshell model and actor were tabloid fodder from the moment they starred in 1985’s “Rocky IV” together. Their whirlwind romance lasted almost two years, which were full of intense media scrutiny and salacious headlines, from red carpet appearances to sensual fashion spreads and more.
The true nature of Stallone and Nielsen’s pairing not only shows their ups and downs as a couple, but also mirrors the ways in which they have navigated their post-couple lives in the spotlight both similarly and separately. While their relationship didn’t stand the test of time on the silver screen or in Hollywood, this celebrity duo became a focal point of popular culture that still sees remnants of its relevance decades later in today’s media.
When then-21-year-old Brigitte Nielsen discovered Sylvester Stallone was staying at a Manhattan hotel in 1985, she wasted no time in shooting her shot with the actor. According to Entertainment Weekly, Nielsen slid a signed portrait of herself under his hotel room door with a note that read, “My name is Brigitte Nielsen … I’d really like to meet you. Here’s my number.” Stallone, a noted ladies man, responded right away. Once he laid his eyes on the blonde bombshell in person, his response was reportedly simple: “I’ve got to get to know you better.”
Nielsen’s methodology paid off, as the two began dating on the set of “Rocky IV.” Nielsen was cast as the villainous Ludmilla Drago opposite Stallone’s titular hero in the film. Their courtship progressed quickly, and the duo were married on December 15, 1985 at the Beverly Hills home of film producer and Stallone pal Irwin Winkler.
They left their then-partners for each other
Before their whirlwind courtship, both Brigitte Nielsen and Sylvester Stallone were married with children to other people. At the time of their midtown meetup, each was either on the brink of divorce or had just recently separated from their respective partner. In 1983, Nielsen married her first husband, Danish musician Kasper Winding, who is also the father of their son Julian. They divorced just a year later.
Stallone had been married to photographer Sasha Czack since 1974, and the two shared sons Sage and Seargeoh. Despite Stallone’s promises to be a “family man” after years of fooling around, he left Czack in 1985 to reportedly make things official with Nielsen.
After Gitte and Sly split, both have since had numerous marriages and children. After a few years of gallivanting with supermodels, Stallone married his on again-off again flame Jennifer Flavin in 1997. The pair share three daughters, Sophia, Sistine and Scarlet. Nielsen also had many famous flings, including one particularly infamous coupling in the mid-aughts with colorful rapper Flava Flav. In that time, she gave birth to three additional sons — Killian, Douglas, and Raoul Jr. — before ultimately settling down with husband Mattia Dessi in 2006. She gave birth to daughter Frida at the age of 54 in 2018.
They made another (critically panned) movie together after Rocky IV
Right after the release of “Rocky IV” to modest box office returns, Brigitte Nielsen and Sylvester Stallone began work on another less-than-blockbuster film together. This time, it was “Cobra,” an action-packed cop crime drama that has an 18% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In typical fashion, Stallone doubled as both titular character and screenwriter, basing his script off of Paula Gosling’s novel “Fair Game.” Nielsen played model Ingrid, the leading lady/damsel in distress taken into protective care by Stallone’s character. He claimed the film was an homage to films like “Dirty Harry” where the lawman is challenged more than the lawbreaker.
However, critics weren’t exactly on the same page as Stallone with their thoughts on the film. In a review for the Chicago Tribune, lauded media critic Gene Siskel described the film “as if ‘Rambo’ retired from military duty and put on a detective’s plain clothes.”
The film was released on May 23, 1986, and grossed $48 million at the domestic box office, which was less than his more acclaimed features like the “Rocky” series and “Rambo.”
Brigitte Nielsen was in a years-long feud with Stallone’s mother
Sylvester Stallone’s mother, Jackie Stallone, and Brigitte Nielsen took on the role of contentious in-laws with gusto. Both were known to speak ill and often of the other in the press, with Jackie once calling former daughter-in-law Gitte the “poorest example of a female I’ve ever known.” Meanwhile, after tabloids started reporting that the Stallone matriarch wasn’t a fan of her son’s relationship, Nielsen claimed her mother-in-law was the overall cause of their eventual split. Jackie countered that her psychic abilities predicted the marriage’s failure.
In a turn of events that could only happen in Hollywood, the two former adversaries did eventually mend their relationship through the help of “Celebrity Big Brother UK.” More than 20 years after they last saw each other, Mother Stallone surprised Nielsen and the rest of the housemates by walking in during a live broadcast. Upon hearing Nielsen’s surprised squeal of “Oh my God, Jackie!,” the matriarch replied in what became one of the most-quoted moments in the show’s history: “Yeah … Jackie.”
Even though Mrs. Stallone didn’t last long on the program (she was eliminated after four days), the two were able to find common ground and mend some of their issues. When Mrs. Stallone died in 2020 at the age of 98, Nielsen paid tribute to her in an emotional Instagram post, calling her “Extremely strong, full of energy and [a] very unique woman under so many aspects, till the very end.”