Family & Companions
A breathtaking blonde actress who was once called "the most beautiful woman in the world," Bo Derek was forever immortalized on film by that simple shot heard round the world - running in slow motion on the beach in a flesh-colored swimsuit, cornrows flapping gently behind her in Blake Edwards' comic masterpiece, "10" (1979). More a celebrity than a renowned actress, Derek nonetheless captured the imagination of the public - particularly the male set - for years, while at the same time, inspired ridicule for her and her husband, actor-turned-director John Derek's notorious, borderline X-rated feature films throughout the early 1980s.
Born Nov. 20, 1956, in Long Beach, CA to Paul and Norma Collins, this true "California girl" was the oldest of four children, followed by a brother and two sisters. Christened Mary Cathleen Collins, she was known as Cathleen or Cathy. While growing up, people often told Derek she should be a model - being blonde, blue-eyed with an incredible figure, she certainly fit the formula. Modeling didn't particularly interest Derek at first, until she determined that the money would help her buy a new surfboard. She began modeling professionally at 15, before making the natural progression into commercials. While she was hobnobbing backstage at one of Ann-Margret's Las Vegas shows, Derek met a theatrical agent who insisted she should be in pictures.
Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on how one views the film - Derek turned down the role that made Jessica Lange an overnight star in the 1976 remake of "King Kong." Instead, her first role was in "Orca: The Killer Whale" (1977), and although the movie was less than memorable, she made a deep impression on actor/director John Derek, who noticed her in the film. Even though he was 30 years her senior, John left his then wife, Linda Evans (a virtual twin of his new girlfriend) and married the young beauty. Through much public scorn and few cinematic triumphs, the couple defied their critics, remaining happily married until John's death in 1998.
After "Orca," Derek and her cornrows co-starred in "10," vying with a foul-mouthed Julie Andrews for Dudley Moore's attention. Her appearance in the popular sex farce shot her to instant stardom and pushed her past Suzanne Somers and Farrah Fawcett to hold the crown of sex symbol du jour. Apart from her likeness adorning many a fraternity wall, women were equally as taken with her beaded and plaited cornrow hairstyle in the film - a style not widely adopted previously by white women. Derek changed all that, helping women ring in the eighties with beaded hair braids.
At her husband's svengali behest, Derek made the first of many appearances in Playboy, beginning with a March, 1980 issue - her husband, of course, serving as photographer for the pictorial. The 12-page spread and cover featured all nude shots of Derek sailing, swimming and playing with her pet greyhound. Needless to say, it was a popular selling issue.
Sadly, for making such a big splash in a widely loved film, Derek's post-"10" movies were not well-received by either the public or critics. Derek's next film, directed by her husband, "Tarzan, the Ape Man" (1981) was an extreme disappointment. Not only did critics pound the film and its director for exploiting his wife, the producers of the film were actually sued by the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate over the name of the film - most particularly because John Derek focused more on how many ways to disrobe his Jane (Derek's role), than on Tarzan himself, who was but a muscled footnote.
Derek's husband's continued to dream big dreams, conceiving his next controversial project as a Spain-based love story which would continue to show off his wife's considerable attributes. Upon its release, "Bolero" (1984) received such a harsh reaction from the mainstream media - not just testy film critics - that it essentially ended any possibility of a legitimate feature film career for Derek. Critics and viewers looked carefully at the scenes of actual intercourse to spot a body double for Derek and found none. It was widely rumored that the final love scene wasn't simulated. Rather than allow the film to be released with an X-rating, John Derek chose to release the film unrated instead - an unheard of move at the time.
After such a public drubbing, the Dereks retreated to their San Ynez Valley ranch where Derek spent her time riding her beloved horses. She did not appear in a film again until her husband's production "Ghost Can't Dot It" (1990) some six years later. Despite many a belief in Hollywood that Derek could not act, the actress easily segued to the small screen, guest-appearing on numerous TV shows, including "Family Law" (CBS, 1999-2002), "Queen of Swords" (2000-01), "Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place" (ABC, 1998- 2001). She also made a successful return to the big screen playing against her image in two film comedies: First, playing the evil stepmother to funnyman Chris Farley in the hit comedy, "Tommy Boy" (1995) and opposite Jamie Kennedy and Taye Diggs as Bess Gluckman in "Malibu's Most Wanted" (2003), which some considered her most respectable showing.
Following her husband's death from cardiovascular disease at age 72, Derek spent her healing time quietly riding her horses, contributing to the Republican party, and publishing her autobiography - Riding Lessons, Everything I Learned in Life I Learned from Horses - in 2002. Finally able to put her first love to rest, she met actor John Corbett, best known for his role as Aidan Shaw on "Sex in the City (HBO, 1998-2004). The two began quietly dating and eventually moved in together at the Derek ranch. Derek continued to pop up on television, appearing as Mrs. Kinkirk on, ironically - considering her notorious past film work - on the Christian-themed family show, "7th Heaven" (WB, 1996-2007).
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Film debut in "Fantasies/Once Upon a Time"
Played breakthrough role of Jenny in the Blake Edwards comedy, "10"
Earliest TV appearances included an interview on the NBC special, "Tom Snyder's Celebrity Spotlight"
Producing debut, "Tarzan, the Ape Man"; also acted in the film, which marked the first time she received top billing
First non-US production, the French-made feature, "Hot Chocolate"
Made TV-movie debut in the USA Network mystery thriller, "Shattered Image"; also marked first TV acting role
TV series debut as regular in the short-lived NBC series "Wind on Water"
Was the female lead in the action feature "Sunstorm"
Appeared in several episodes of "7th Heaven" (WB) as Mrs. Kinkirk
Played the mother to Jamie Kennedy's character in "Malibu's Most Wanted"
Cast in the MyNetworkTV series "Fashion House," playing Morgan Fairchild's rival