No less an expert than Hugh Hefner dubbed her ”the first sex star of the ’80s.” And the golden corn-rowed goddess of Blake Edwards’ 1979 smash comedy 10 did indeed keep males panting for most of the decade. But that was about it. Bo Derek made film nudity seem both wholesome and mainstream, yet somehow never became more than a sexy starlet, what with her faltering appearances in Tarzan, Bolero, and the truly lamentable Ghosts Can’t Do It. With her guru/husband, John, 30 years her senior (earlier the mentor/husband of Ursula Andress and Linda Evans), she remained on the fringes of Hollywood- both literally (their 46-acre ranch is in California’s Santa Ynez Valley) and figuratively (she and John continued their underwhelming film collaboration through his recovery from a mild 1986 heart attack). Now, at 36, Bo is making another stab at stardom. Her Woman of Desire, a straight-to-video murder mystery costarring Jeff Fahey and Robert Mitchum, is due in August; she just wrapped Shattered Image (a theatrical film with no set release date) with Jack Scalia; and the inevitable infomercial for her new cosmetics line (dubbed, with some wit, War Paint) starts this fall. But Bo says her priority remains producer-director John-or, as she has called him, ”my life, my love, my everything.” Most of your movies were joint projects with John, but none of your new film ventures are. How come? I’m 36 and it’s time to be grown up-I can go off and be an employee and not take it all too seriously. John’s now in perfect health-he’s fine. But (laughs), if he can’t play God, he doesn’t want to play.
Should Hollywood take you seriously? Who knows? But what is Hollywood to take anyone seriously? It’s the weirdest, sickest place in the whole world.
Since you were the reigning sex symbol for a few years, is it hard to watch as others-specifically Sharon Stone, who’s about your age-taking your place? No way (giggles). I was blown away by Sharon Stone when I first saw her on TV. If being a sex symbol were important to me, I guess it would be a problem, but it’s not something I harbor any envy or bad feelings about.
How would you feel now about doing erotic scenes? What’s ”erotic”? I mean, – what do you do after Madonna? The things I did before are nothing now-those scenes were between two people in love. Now, I feel like a prude when I read these screenplays.
And nudity? I do nudity in Woman of Desire and Shattered Image. I have no problems with it. I grew up in Southern California where girls wore these teeny bikinis. I always thought it was strange that if you cover the three magic spots it’s okay to be vulgar and sleep with anybody you want. But take your clothes off…(mock horror) no, definitely not! Your movies have certainly capitalized on your body. Sure. I wouldn’t hire Clint Eastwood and not have him blow people away.
What would your ideal role be? To go to England and be in one of those gorgeous Merchant Ivory productions. I’d be in absolute heaven.