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Warning: Spoilers for Creed II are in play. If you haven't seen the film yet, please bookmark this page, and come back once you're current.
From the opening moments of Creed II, the Drago legacy and the path it's taken since Ivan's humiliating defeat in Rocky IV is set up as an important part of the narrative. But in telling the story of Ivan's decline, and possible resurgence through his son, the film delivered the ultimate cameo bringing it all home to that fourth film, courtesy of Brigitte Nielsen's return as Ludmilla, Ivan's now ex-wife.
Filling in the history of Ivan's fall from grace since Rocky Balboa K.O.'d him in the ring only helps set up Ivan's son Viktor going head-to-head with Adonis Creed as the mother of all karmic rematches. Director Steven Caple Jr. explained how that cameo came to be in a recent interview, noting,
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. 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.
The moment when Ludmilla returns in Creed II certainly lands the surprising punch it's looking to deliver. With the film setting up Ludmilla's abandonment of her former husband and son as a massive, plot-driving sore spot, one would have thought all we'd get is the framed photo of Nielsen holding baby Viktor that we saw in the opening.
But by time she sits down at a dinner meant to celebrate Viktor pummeling Adonis Creed, you could practically hear the crowd gasp. Though, it makes sense that most people would not have expected this moment to happen on the big screen. You see, there's a good reason that Caple asked for Sylvester Stallone's blessing, as he mentioned later in his interview with /Film. That reason is the fact there's some history between Stallone and his real life ex-wife, Brigitte Nielsen.
Though it was a marriage that only lasted shortly over a year, Nielsen and Stallone's courtship was a public relationship that ended contentiously. So when the time came to reintroduce Rocky IV's legacy in Creed II, no one would have thought that Ludmilla would have reappeared in the franchise films. And yet, here we are, with an amazing cameo, approved by Sylvester Stallone himself.
One can hope that should the Drago plotline yield any spin-offs or further developments down the line for a Creed III storyline, Brigitte Nielsen will be brought back to help out with the proceedings. The door is open now, and to not take that chance would rob fans and filmmakers alike of the proper closure to the issue that's still pretty open at the end of Creed II.
Creed II is in theaters now.