Bo Derek was born Mary Collins on the 20th of November, 1958. While she would one day become one of the biggest stars of her day, when she was a teen, Derek wasn’t exactly driven. In fact, the future poster girl and film star seemed perfectly content with doing next to nothing when she was 16.
Just to establish the setting, this was California back in the early 70s, and like every stereotypical blonde beach bunny that came before and after her, Derek preferred spending her days out at the beach, working on her tan with her friends, rather than attending school.
To call her a slacker would be a bit of an understatement, although you could always argue that she was merely doing research. After all, her breakthrough film role, the romantic comedy 10, which hit theaters in 1979, saw her donning a swimsuit and seducing the film’s lead Dudley Moore. It was a combination of her appearance in this otherwise forgettable flick in addition to her image being used on it’s iconic poster that made her a household name.
Join Facts Verse as we take a little journey back in time to see how Bo Derek became one of the hottest poster girls of the 70s and 80s. We’ll address her early years and upbringing as well as the height of her professional career and what she ended up doing after her star had faded.
While covering her life and career, we’ll also be sharing with you dozens of vintage photos of Bo Derek for Adult Eyes Only.
She Frequently Cut Class In High School
Bo Derek’s father, Paul Collins, was an executive for the sailboat, kayak, and surfboard manufacturing company Hoble Cat. Her mother, Norma White, was a make-up artist and hairdresser for the Swedish-American actress, singer, and dancer, Ann-Margaret.
While she was still young, Derek’s parent’s separated and divorced. Her mother ended up remarrying stunt performer Bobby Bass.
While attending Narbonne High School in LA, Derek frequently skipped class. Her academic record, unlike her professional career, was something that she was never very proud of. At one point, she later admitted to journalists, she skipped school for an entire month straight. This ultimately resulted in her landing in a lot of hot water with school administrators and truancy officers, but even that wasn’t enough to keep her in class.
Her mother, whom she lived with after the divorce, worked a lot and as such was gone quite often. Derek would take this opportunity to leave school and hitchhike to the beach.
As time went by and it became clearer and clearer that school was one of her lowest priorities, Derek eventually made the decision to drop out. When asked about this choice later, Derek would say that she never regretted dropping out of high school because if she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have had the life that she did.
Dropping out of school and moving to Europe might not work out well for everyone, but for her, it seemed to do the trick.
At 16, while she was still technically attending Narbonne High School, Bo became sexually involved with actor and filmmaker John Derek, a married man who was thirty years her senior. Not long after they started seeing each other, Derek left his wife, actress Linda Evans, and filed for divorce.
The couple then moved to Germany where John Derek wouldn’t be prosecuted under the state of California’s statutory rape laws.
In 1973, Bo Derek began filming John’s low-budget romantic drama film Fantasies. In that film, she portrayed a young woman of Greek descent. In order to look the part, Bo was urged to dye her hair brown.
Capitalizing on her beauty, John Derek worked several risque scenes involving nudity into the film. To sell his flick to major studios, John re-edited the movie twice. The film unfortunately remained unreleased until 1981, at which point it received several negative reviews.
Bo married John in 1976 when she was 19 years old. By this point, she had already dropped the name Collins and was known professionally as Bo Derek. Previously, she had gone by the stage name Bo Shane.
In 1977, she was cast by director Michael Anderson in a minor role in his horror film Orca: The Killer Whale. In that largely forgotten film, Derek’s character got her leg chomped off by the title character.
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From B-Films To International Sex Symbol
Bo Derek landed her breakthrough role in 1979 when she was selected over Tanya Roberts, Heather Thomas, Melanie Griffith and several others for the role of Jenny Hanley in the romantic comedy 10, which was directed by Blake Edwards and starred Dudley Moore as a man facing a mid-life crisis who find’s Derek’s character to be his ideal woman AKA a perfect 10.
Bo Derek’s appearance in a dream sequence in which she ran towards Moore wearing a skin-tight, nude-colored one-piece swimsuit, transformed her into a mainstream sex symbol. With Derek’s iconic cornrow hairstyle, the dream sequence has gone on to be parodied frequently.
10, while being somewhat forgettable by today’s standards, was a critical and commercial success. In addition to being one of the film’s most celebrated cast members, Derek’s image was also used to sell millions of film posters that became staples of college dorm rooms everywhere.
Derek’s acting was often criticized, and films like Tarzan The Ape-Man and Bolero were mocked for being thinly-veiled showcases of her face and figure. But really, looking back on things, none of that really seemed to matter.
Bo Derek was one of the leading sex symbols of her time. Her early films, for better or worse, told audiences pretty much everything that they needed to know about her. Clearly, she was meant to be seen more as eye candy rather than a serious actress.
Fans couldn’t seem to get enough of her piercing blue eyes, prominent cheekbones, and hourglass curves. Because of her irresistible beauty, Bo Derek has been featured on the cover of Playboy more times than any other celeb who wasn’t a Playmate.
While her looks are what first gained her the public’s attention, Bo Derek still had a great deal of natural talent, and throughout her acting career, she rarely disappointed. Her appearances on the big and small screens were rather sporadic, but to this day, she remains glamorous and thoroughly entertaining.
Bo Derek’s Later Film And TV Career
After appearing in 10, Derek was cast in the 1980 dramatic comedy A Change of Seasons which starred Anthony Hopkins and Shirley MacLaine. In that film, Derek played a college student who had an extramarital affair with her much older professor. The flick was only a moderate success at the box office, and critics reacted to Derek’s performance rather negatively.
Derek followed up that role with her performance in the R-Rated MGM film Tarzan: The Ape Man. This was her first leading role in a mainstream Hollywood movie. As we previously touched on, the majority of the film simply seemed to capitalize on Derek’s physical attributes. Tarzan was torn apart by the critics, but it still managed to become a box-office success, taking in more than $35 million in ticket sales and becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year.
She followed that performance with a role in 1981’s Bolero – a film that, like her previous one, was directed by her husband John Derek, The film was about the female protagonist’s sexual awakening and her journey to find the perfect person to take her virginity. Given the salacious nature of the film and it’s explicit use of nudity, it ended up receiving an X-rating.
Once again, critical reviews of Bolero were unanimously negative. Unlike Tarzan, Bolero’s X-Rating resulted in it flopping commercially. In 1987, Derek teamed up with indie filmmaker Steven Paul to sell the previously unreleased film A Knight of Love, which was set to star her, but that plan fell flat on it’s face.
After taking a five-year hiatus, Derek returned to appear in feature films, first with the fantasy comedy flick Ghost’s Can’t Do It, which saw release in 1989. The film was the final one that she would collaborate with her husband on. It ended up being a failure both critically and financially.
After that fumble of a film, Derek appeared in the television films Hot Chocolate and Shattered Image, which were released respectively in 1992 and 1994. She then appeared in the 1995 comedy Tommy Boy.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Derek guest-starred on shows like Wind on Water, The Drew Carey Show, Family Law, Two Guys A Girl And A Pizza Place, and 7th Heaven.
On the big screen, Derek went on to appear in films like 2000s Frozen With Fear and 2002s The Master Of Disguise. More recently, she made an appearance on CSI Miami in 2012 and had a featured role in 2015s made-for-TV film Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!.
Bo Derek’s Other Passions
Bo Derek’s been a horse lover and equestrian enthusiast since childhood. She owns several Andalusian horses and is a spokesperson for a campaign by the Animal Welfare Institute to end horse slaughter. In 2002, she published an autobiography entitled Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I Learned From Horses.
Besides horses, Derek is also one of the national honorary chairpersons for the VA’s National Rehabilitation Special Events program. Both Derek’s father and her late husband, John Derek, were military Veterans. As such, Derek has long been a proud supporter of veterans, and she has received the highest VA honor from Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Anthony Principi. She’s also been named an honorary Green Bere by the Special Forces Association.
For 18 years, Dereke has been active with the environmental agency WildAid, which provides funding and education for protecting sharks and dissuading people from buying wildlife products. In 2020, she was a guest on the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week special.
At this point, the 65-year-old actress is mostly retired from acting. Following her first husbands death from heart failure in 1998, Derek began dating actor John Corbett in 2002. In 2020, the couple got married, and they’ve been happily living together at their ranch home in Santa Barbara, California, ever since.
That about wraps up our rundown of the life and times of Bo Derek, one of the most iconic sex symbols of the late 70s and early 80s. While her acting has been almost unanimously panned, leading to her winning multiple Golden Raspberry awards, she’s forever carved out her place in Hollywood history with her irresistibly alluring looks.
Did you know that Bo Derek first started dating her late husband, John Derek, when she was just 16 years old, and that they had to flee to Germany to avoid John getting in trouble under California’s statutory rape laws? Let us know in the comments.
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