Connie Inge-Lise Nielsen (born 3 July 1965) is a Danish actress. She got her first major role in an English language film with a supporting role in The Devil's Advocate (1997), and later gained international attention in for her role in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000). She has appeared in films such as Mission to Mars (2000), One Hour Photo (2002), Basic (2003), The Hunted (2003) and The Ice Harvest (2005). She starred as Meredith Kane on the Starz TV series Boss (2011-2012).
Nielsen was born in Frederikshavn, Denmark. Her father, Bent Nielsen, was a bus driver, and her mother was an insurance clerk, who also acted and wrote musical reviews. She was raised a Mormon and grew up in a village named Elling. She began her acting career working alongside her mother on the local revue and variety scene. At 18, she traveled to Paris, France, where she worked as an actress and model, which led to further work and study in Italy — at drama school in Rome and in master classes with Lydia Styx, a teacher at Piccolo Teatro di Milano in Milan. She lived in Italy for many years, before moving to the United States, where she still resides.
Nielsen's feature film debut was the Jerry Lewis French film Par où t'es rentré ? On t'a pas vu sortir in 1984, followed by a role in the Italian mini-series Colletti Bianchi in 1988. She appeared in the Italian film Vacanze di Natale '91 (1991) and the French film Le Paradis Absolument (1993).
She moved to the United States in 1996 and made her first appearance in a major English-language film in 1997 as Christabella Andreoli in The Devil's Advocate, starring opposite Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. This first minor breakthrough led to roles in the films Permanent Midnight (1998), Rushmore (1998), and Soldier (1998).
In 2000, Nielsen became known to worldwide audiences as Lucilla in Ridley Scott's internationally acclaimed Academy Award–winning epic Gladiator, starring opposite Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. Since then, she has starred in American films including Mission to Mars (2000), One Hour Photo (2002), The Hunted (2003), and Basic (2003), for which she had to cut off most of her hair. She also starred in the acclaimed French thriller Demonlover (2002), directed by Olivier Assayas. She played the Irish mother to an orphan in A Shine of Rainbows (2009).
In 2004, Nielsen made her Danish film debut in the drama, Brødre (also known as Brothers), for which she won the Danish Best Actress Award, the Bodil, as well as Best Actress at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. She was also nominated for Best Actress at the European Film Awards. In 2006, Nielsen appeared in several episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Detective Dani Beck. She filled in for Mariska Hargitay, who was on maternity leave at the time of filming.
From 2004 to 2012, Nielsen dated Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. They have one son together, Bryce Thadeus Ulrich-Nielsen, (b. 21 May 2007 in San Francisco). She has a son, Sebastian Sartor (born 2 June 1990), from a previous relationship.
Nielsen speaks eight languages: Danish, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish and a little Spanish.