The Truth About Sylvester Stallone And Brigitte Nielsen's Relationship

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.

Nielsen had to get sly to ... well, get Sly

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."

Gitte was often blasted in the press

Gitte and Sly were regulars in the tabloids during their 19-month marriage. Between countless magazine covers and photo spreads, much was said about "Rocky [and] his Rockette" in both a positive and (mainly) negative light. Many of the media jabs taken at Brigitte Nielsen both during and after their marriage showed sexist tendencies, and in some cases, unbridled vitriol.

One example of this is a glitzy Vanity Fair spread shot by famed photographer Herb Ritts in 1985. The piece compared the duo to Tarzan and Jane, pontificating as to whether the vine-swinging ideal of Sylvester Stallone could "find an amazon worthy of his bench press." When describing Nielsen, the article points to her "show-girl legs" as the couple is dubbed "the beefcake and cheesecake of the warrior caste."

After their split, the majority of the media vitriol focused on Nielsen and painted her in an unflattering light. Many outlets were tracking what they assumed was the downfall of the marriage and had written ready-to-publish articles that could be pushed out with nary an edit to capitalize on the breakup. Some publications even went as far as to chastise the couple with barbed comments mainly aimed at Nielsen, making sure to include quotes from reported friends of Stallone. "She is a real conniver and schemer. She made a fool of him publicly. She used him. I don't think he ever thought anyone would get the better of him, and she did. He became a stepping-stone for her career," one source claimed.

Their stories are mixed on who left whom

Post-relationship "he said, she said" is generally common, but in the star-fueled spotlight, that banter is amplified tenfold. Official press announcements stated that it was Sylvester Stallone who filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences." Meanwhile, Brigitte Nielsen claims that she was the one to leave him.

In a 2014 interview with Oprah Winfrey Network's "Where Are They Now?," Nielsen expanded upon these claims by tracking her reluctance back to the beginning of their matrimony. She maintains that Stallone "begged" her to marry him despite her doubts: "I remember thinking this is too early, this is not right. At the same time, everybody was going, 'Who wouldn't want to marry Rocky?'" She expanded by saying that the relationship "really just wasn't for me and it became very ugly, like some divorces do."

Additional rumors of infidelity and greed were spread from both sides of the aisle. Nielsen was accused of using her husband to advance her career, while Stallone was said to have been sleeping with his wife's secretary. Both partners denied the allegations, but the paparazzi-fueled fire burned at both ends surrounding the infamous break-up.

Brigitte Nielsen said she was 'blacklisted' after the divorce

In the same "Where Are They Now?" interview, Brigitte Nielsen claims that her career suffered greatly after the divorce: "When I left Sylvester [Stallone], all doors closed for me. No one wanted to touch me and I was basically blacklisted." The backlash caused her to move back to Europe to regain momentum in her career, where she continued to act, sing, and host variety shows. Her ability to perform in four languages, she said, allowed her to survive. Her claims were supported by her manager at the time, Steven Tempone. Stallone's camp had no comment.

"I was so angry at the time that I cut up my green card," she said in an interview with The Guardian. "I was pissed off. I said: 'I'm not an American -– screw that, I'm out of here!”' Nielsen also noted that in a well-publicized split with one of Hollywood's top forces, "everybody looks at you as a villain. I am almost positive that had I not been in the public eye with this famous man, that would have never happened. But they always thought: after Stallone, who is going to be next?"

Nielsen still talks about Stallone often, for better or worse

In the more than 30 years since their divorce, Brigitte Nielsen has taken to the press to speak on her former husband in varying lights. During a 2019 interview with "Larry King Now," she stated that marrying Stallone was the "worst piece of advice" she ever received. When the legendary broadcaster asked "Was it really that bad?," she responded with a simple but stone-faced "Yes."

However, Nielsen has defended Sylvester Stallone against sexual abuse allegations. After Stallone was accused of assaulting a minor in 1986, Nielsen told TMZ that the allegations were false: "This incident did not occur. Most of the day, I would watch him film, then we'd have dinner and go to our room. No other person was in the room with him, but me." She has also championed her ex-husband for an Oscar, telling X17 Online that Stallone "deserved to win" an Oscar for his "Creed" screenplay, which he had been snubbed for in 2016.

Yet with almost every statement she's made, Nielsen has toed the line between complimentary and disparaging. In the same "Larry King Now" interview, she opted for both simultaneously, saying, "You can say a lot of good things about Sylvester. He's a horrible husband, at least he was with me. But as a writer, as a producer, as a director, I take my hat off [to him]. He really knows how to put things on paper and from the paper put it on screen."

Everything came full circle in 2018's Creed II

Three decades years after they were a couple, Brigitte Nielsen and  Sylvester Stallone reunited on the set of 2018's "Creed II," where both reprised their roles from "Rocky IV." In what could have been a ... rocky ... reunion, the pair were able to not only work together, but also "[bury] the hatchet." Nielsen described the experience as "amazing" to People, saying, "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."

She said things were emotional, but not just because of the reunion. She was also seven months pregnant at the time with her daughter, Frida. With a little movie magic, the team was able to conceal her pregnancy. "We pulled it off and everyone was happy," she said.

Nielsen described the overall experience as a positive one, saying in an interview with "Larry King Now" that "It was a long time ago, and you know with time, everything kind of just smooths out. And because he's a pro. I'm a pro. And we do things like actors should do. We treat each other with respect and dignity and we have a work day ahead of us ... We moved on."