Hailed in Entertainment Weekly’s 2000 Hot Issue as a mature female sex symbol, transplanted Dane Connie Nielsen also revealed that she could act in the Best Picture-winning blockbuster Gladiator (2000).
Raised in Copenhagen, Nielsen trained to be a singer and dancer, as well as an actress. She began performing at age 15, with her mother, in local shows and headed to Paris when she was 18, to pursue her career in earnest. After stints in Italy and South Africa, the multi-lingual Nielsen finally landed in New York; she made her English language film debut as a terrorized passenger in the made-for-TV thriller Voyage (1993).
Nielsen really began to attract Hollywood’s attention, however, with her performance as the sizzlingly seductive, redheaded daughter of Satan (Al Pacino) in the supernatural potboiler The Devil’s Advocate (1997). Along with smaller roles in the drug addiction drama Permanent Midnight (1998) and Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (1998) (as the gorgeous mother of Max’s friend Dirk), Nielsen landed her first starring role in 1998, as a planet pioneer who nurses Kurt Russell back to health in the science fiction actioner Soldier. Following roles in the low profile thriller Dark Summer (1999) and the higher profile Brian De Palma sci-fi saga Mission to Mars (2000), Nielsen notched a critically acclaimed hit with Ridley Scott’s sword and sandal epic Gladiator. As the emperor’s sister Lucilla, Nielsen got to hold her own against Joaquin Phoenix’s scenery-chewing Commodus while falling in love with and quietly championing Russell Crowe’s steely Maximus, proving that she could do more than just look good in Gladiator’s Roman chic. Moving ever-closer to widespread recognition, Nielsen played a member of a family who attracts a menacing photo clerk (a dark turn by funnyman Robin Williams) in the taut thriller One Hour Photo. Alternating between smaller independent films and big-budget Hollywood extravaganzas, Nielsen turned up in Demonlover before turning back to the bright lights of Tinseltown with Basic and The Hunted (both 2003). Nielsen has one son.