"I'm definitely more attracted to chaos than to order. The point is, I find the female roles out there very cliché. If we are limited to being only lovers or mothers, we are limiting ourselves." Connie Nielsen
Danish actress Connie Nielsen is widely recognized for her Screen Actors Guild-nominated role of Princess Lucilla, the long-lost love of Russell Crowe's Maximus, in the Academy Award-winning Gladiator (2000). First noticed while playing Satan’s daughter in The Devil's Advocate (1997), Nielsen later gained more attention with her roles in Soldier (1998), One Hour Photo (2002), The Hunted (2003), Basic (2003) and The Ice Harvest (2005).
Connie will soon be seen in the 2006 films The Situation, Tonight at Noon, and Hallam Foe. More privately, the 5' 10” tall Danish beauty is currently dating Lars Ulrich, the drummer of Metallica.
Childhood and Family:
On July 3, 1965, Connie Inge-Lise was born in Elling, Jutland, Denmark, but raised in Copenhagen. The daughter of an actress-writer mother, Connie has one older brother, Ulrich Nielsen (born in 1969). A trained singer and dancer, Connie is also fluent in six languages: English, German, Danish, Swedish, French and Italian. Her hobby is collecting sunglasses and reportedly she has around 200 pairs. Connie currently resides in New York with her son Sebastian (born on June 2, 1990).
"If I start thinking about it that way, I'll get scared. I'll start not feeling free about what I'm doing. And I wouldn't want that." Connie Nielsen
Encouraged by her actress-writer mother to pursue an acting career, Connie Nielsen made her stage-acting debut at age 15, performing in a cabaret penned by her mother. The following three years, she went to Paris to further her acting career. Fluent in six languages, Connie later worked and studied in Rome, Milan, South Africa and New York. She also stayed in Italy for a while and appeared in the Italian film Vacanze di Natale '91 (a.k.a. Christmas Vacation '91, 1992) and the made-for-TV French flick, Le Paradis Absolument (1993). Connie later knocked on America’s door with her first breakthrough appearance in the American made-for-cable movie, the thriller Voyage (a.k.a. Cruise of Fear, 1993, USA Network), playing a terrorized passenger, alongside Eric Roberts, Rutger Hauer and Karen Allen.
“It was so terrible that it came as a relief to one reviewer that there was something nice to say about it. So I actually got a positive mention in Variety." Connie Nielsen (on the movie Voyage (1993)
In 1994, she auditioned for Lawrence Kasdan for a role in French Kiss, but Kasdan did not cast her. He suggested Connie move to the USA instead. After struggling in the USA for three years, Connie made her breakthrough film role as Satan's seductive, redheaded daughter in the supernatural The Devil's Advocate (1997, opposite Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves). She followed it up with a costarring role as the mother of a mute son in Soldier (along with Kurt Russell) and an appearance as a sexy German woman, who falls for a drug-addicted screenwriter (played by Ben Stiller), in Permanent Midnight (both in 1998, also with Elizabeth Hurley). Connie also had a small part as the beautiful mother of Mason Gamble’s character in Wes Anderson's quirky comedy Rushmore (1998, alongside Bill Murray) and teamed with Mia Kershner, playing two disturbed sisters, in the low profile thriller Dark Summer (1999, a.k.a. The Innocents, also with Jean-Hugues Anglade).
The new millennium brought Connie fame, thanks to the portrayal of Princess Lucilla, Marcus Aurelius’ daughter and the sister of a tyrannical emperor (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with Maximus (played by Russell Crowe), in director Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning epic Gladiator (2000, also with the late Richard Harris). Her divergent role received praise, earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture and won her an Empire Award for Best Actress. Being asked about the award-winning film, Connie explained, "The script completely gripped me. There are colossal elements, like the setting and the battles, and yet the story is very intimate in how it brings you into the personal relationships between people, especially in the case of Lucilla. She is caught between the ambitions of her brother and the will of Maximus, with whom she has a past."
Following the Screen Actors Guild nomination, Connie nabbed roles as the lone female member in Brian De Palma’s outer-space saga Mission to Mars (2000, with Gary Sinise, Kim Delaney, Don Cheadle and Tim Robbins) and as a wife and mother who becomes the target of a stalker (played by Robin Williams) in the Sundance-screened feature thriller One Hour Photo (2002). She also starred as an industrial spy in a corporate war in Olivier Assayas’ highly praised suspense thriller Demonlover (2002, with Chloë Sevigny and Gina Gershon). Later that year, she acted opposite John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in John McTiernan's Basic and won the female lead as an FBI agent in William Friedkin's action crime feature The Hunted (also with Oscar-winning actors Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, both in 2003).
"I trained with the FBI in Portland and I also had many conversations with female FBI agents in Los Angeles, as well. That was again something that also came in very handy for Basic (2003), because I'd learned already how to handle a gun and how to behave just physically when you're in a situation, a threat. That was very good to know. I didn't have to do that again." Connie Nielsen (on films Basic and The Hunted, both in 2003)
Recent years saw Connie costar opposite Aidann Quinn in Bille August’s Return to Sender (premiered at The Toronto Film Festival in 2004) and with Benjamin Bratt in John Dahl’s The Great Raid (also with Joseph Fiennes and James Franco, 2004), a true-story based film about the liberation of 500 POWs during WWII. She portrayed a strip club owner, who escapes with a gangster accountant (played by John Cusack), in Harold Ramis’ Christmas crime flick Ice Harvest (2005, also with Billy Bob Thornton and Randy Quaid) and starred as a woman torn between two brothers in the Danish drama Brødre (a.k.a. Brothers, 2005), the latter of which won her Best Actress Awards from the Danish Academy Awards and from the San Sebastian Film Festival.
Connie is currently on set completing her upcoming films. She is costarring in Philip Haas' drama, about a love triangle between a CIA operative, an American journalist and an Iraqi photographer, titled The Situation, Michael Almereyda's Tonight at Noon, and David Mackenzie's adaptation of Peter Jinks' novel, Hallam Foe (starring Jamie Bell).
“Often, when you get a really good script and you receive the new pages, you see that the entire thing has been dumbed down. Films in the 30s and 40s that were huge blockbusters were very sophisticated in their language and the ideas they brought. There were no questions about whether the audience would get it or not. Today, there is a certain fear, or horror, that the audience won't understand. They underestimate the audience very often. And that is because, when you look at the box-office to see that total brain-dead films make lots of money, then that's what the cash machine is telling you to do. In other words, ‘more brain-dead, more money!’” Connie Nielsen
- Danish Academy Awards: Best Actress, Brødre, 2005
- San Sebastian Film Festival: Best Actress, Brødre, 2005
- Empire Awards: Best Actress, Gladiator, 2001