*BEWARE: This Article Contains A MAJOR Spoiler For CREED II*
Creed II is one of those rare sequels that somehow manages to go back and make previous films in its respective series better than they originally were. While many fondly remember Rocky IV for its endearing 80s cheesiness, the latest entry in this hallowed franchise mines that film for some series thematic heft. The toll of that film’s final fight on the Drago family is felt in very dramatic ways, and you’re sure to watch Rocky IV with a very different perspective next time it’s on TV.
One key part of the Drago storyline in Creed II is the way Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan lost everything after that fight. He lost his the respect of his Russian comrades, he lost the glory he once held as his country’s greatest fighter, and- above all else- he lost his family. His wife, the villainous Ludmilla (played by Brigitte Nielsen in the fourth Rocky), left him once she realized he was no longer her ticket to the top. And she didn’t just leave him, but she also deserted their son Viktor.
Her abandonment of her family after Ivan’s loss to Rocky is pivotal to understanding the psyche and motivations of the film’s antagonists.
And yet, you’d be forgiven if you thought we’d never see Nielsen back as Ludmilla. Despite her shadow looming large over the film’s plot, Nielsen hasn’t appeared in a major motion picture in quite some time. Add in the fact that she and Sylvester Stallone were once married, and the nuptials only lasted 19 months before an ugly divorce.
That’s what makes her cameo in the film such a startling surprise!
Creed II director Steven Caple Jr. recently sat down with Slashfilm, where he outlined what went into bringing her into the fray:
“It was sort of a last minute call before I flew out to film in Philadelphia. We were developing the script and the Dragos layers were coming about. It started to feel like it was missing something. It felt like there was another piece missing and it naturally became Brigitte [Nielsen,] Ludmilla.”
And yes, knowing about her history with Stallone, the director talked it over with the man himself before inviting her:
“When developing it, I asked Sly [Stallone] if it was okay to bring her back. He thought it would be cool because the fans love it, they had a nostalgia feeling and people wouldn’t necessarily expect it. Yeah, we called her. It was just an emotional roller coaster. When I first had the phone conversation with her, she was pretty much excited and crying on the phone honestly because she was honored to be back in the franchise. We brought her out to Philly and had her on set.”
It’s a bit of a shame that he emphasizes that the reason it’s cool is because of the nostalgia it would bring fans. I, for one, didn’t feel any nostalgia. I felt a chill run down my spine, because I knew what seeing her must’ve done to Ivan and Viktor. In her two brief appearances, I was fully caught up and invested in the emotions of the characters, and I thought it brought a lot of weight to the Dragos’ side of the story.
Nielsen opened up to USA Today returning to the franchise, and the role of Ludmilla:
“It’s been very emotional. Ludmilla is a mean, cold, sadistic role that made a big impression on a lot of people. It’s been hard keeping this a secret.”
One cool bit of trivia that may surprise you: Nielsen was pregnant while filming her scenes for Creed II! That’s no small feat at the age of 54. She was able to keep that detail under wraps for the filming because it was early enough in the pregnancy that she wasn’t showing yet.
What’d you think of Ludmilla’s return, and the purpose she served for the story?