There are few ’70s images more iconic than that of Bo Derek running on the beach in a flesh-tone one-piece and cornrows in the movie 10. The 1979 film launched the blonde, blue-eyed beauty into the stratosphere, and her striking look remains a popular reference more than 40 years after it first appeared. Today, having just turned 67, Derek remains as radiant as ever. In honor of her birthday, we’re taking a look back at the star’s life in pictures.
Bo Derek in the ’70s
Bo Derek was born Mary Cathleen Collins in California on November 20, 1956. As a teenager, she auditioned for a film directed by John Derek — the low-budget movie had a troubled production history, and wouldn’t be released until 1981. John Derek and the much younger actress controversially had an affair and married in 1976, when she was just 19. They would remain married until his death in 1998, and he directed her in four movies, Fantasies; Tarzan, the Ape Man; Bolero and Ghosts Can’t Do It.
Bo Derek’s first credited role was in Orca, a 1977 Jaws-inspired thriller in which she played a young woman whose leg gets bitten off by the killer whale (yikes!).
Two years later, in 1979, Bo had her breakout role in 10. Directed by Blake Edwards, the movie became one of the biggest box office hits of the year. It was only her second onscreen appearance, and she made a real splash as the woman of Dudley Moore‘s dreams. In a 2020 FIRST for Women interview, Derek reflected on the role, saying, “The first major role I ever had was playing this person who doesn’t exist. Just someone’s idea of perfection. Blake Edwards was a brilliant filmmaker.”
The part catapulted her to sex symbol status, but she never let the success go to her head, telling FIRST, “I didn’t expect to be in the picture business. It just came to me and keeps coming to me and I’m amazed. I worked hard to play a part.”
Bo Derek in the ’80s
Derek went into the ’80s as a star, though none of her films during this time were as successful as 10. In 1980, she co-starred in A Change of Seasons, alongside Anthony Hopkins and Shirley MacLaine, as a young woman having an affair with her professor.
The rest of her movies in the ’80s were all directed by her husband, John. While she served as a muse to the director, their collaborations were, to put it charitably, not particularly well-received. Tarzan, the Ape Man gave her her first leading role, and while it did fairly well at the box office, it was panned by critics.
In 1984, Derek starred as an heiress looking to lose her virginity in Bolero, a ’20s-set period piece that was a notorious flop. Her next movie directed by her husband, 1989’s Ghost Can’t Do It, was a rom-com with fantasy elements that didn’t fare much better.
Bo Derek in the 1990s and beyond
In the ’90s, Bo Derek appeared in a handful of TV movies and played Chris Farley‘s stepmother in the comedy Tommy Boy. She showed up in TV shows like Family Law, 7th Heaven and CSI: Miami and embraced her pop culture icon status by making cameo appearances as herself in shows like Emeril, Bob Patterson and Chuck and movies like The Master of Disguise.
Derek’s more recent output has been an eclectic mix, including campy horror fare, like two Sharknado movies; the Hallmark movie JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift; the Lifetime movie The Christmas Trap; and the short-lived primetime soap Fashion House.
In her FIRST interview, Derek reflected on her later career, saying, “in this transition that I’ve been in lately, where I’m not the star of movies, the phone doesn’t ring and work has really slowed down… What surprised me is that I’m really okay with it.”
Outside of acting, Derek has kept busy as an activist for animals (she even wrote a book about her love of animals, Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I Learned from Horses, in 2002) and she had her own pet care line.
Bo Derek’s husband
Derek has also found joy in her personal life. In 2002, she began dating the handsome actor John Corbett (known for his roles in Northern Exposure, Sex and the City and My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and the pair finally tied the knot in 2020.
Bo Derek may not be appearing on our screens as much as she used to, but we’ll always admire how she’s stayed so down-to-earth (yet still totally glam and gorgeous!) since becoming so famous at such a young age. And we can’t wait to see what she does next.
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