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Bo Derek: "10" Into One

On her own two years after her husband's death, Bo Derek, the original "10," is forging a new path.
Alysse Minkoff
From the Print Edition:
Bo Derek, Jul/Aug 00

(continued from page 2)

So why didn't she ever fight back against the critics? Pausing for a moment as her blue eyes clear, she laughs a bit and says, "I've never really been too concerned with setting the record straight about any misconceptions about me. Also, you learn very quickly that you may try to set the record straight, but it usually just sounds like sour grapes."   She laughs off the insinuations that she was a vapid airhead. "I was never out to prove myself one way or the other. I was never sensitive about my intelligence. I seem to have enough of it to do what I wanted to do and I was not out to prove otherwise. Thinking back on it, [my fame] happened so fast that I was unprepared for it. How many people at 20 years old can really articulate how they feel about things? They've never really been asked. So all of a sudden I'm sitting there and Barbara Walters [and all of these other] people are asking me these very deep questions and I don't even know what I thought about those things."   Bo belied the notion that she was controlled by her husband by accepting a role--over John's very strenuous objections--as a mother of two teenaged sons in Zalman King's short-lived 1998 TV series, "Wind On Water."

"He hated that I did 'Wind On Water.' He could not believe that I was still the same person that he had spent all those years with. To him, parts of me were still that 17-year-old girl. Well, I had [teenaged] sons in that project and he never saw me as that. In the series there was a young girl who is wild and spirited, one of my son's girlfriends. And that's the way he saw me, the way he wrote parts for me. So this was a big shock to him; he expressed himself very strongly, but he always did. He never thought it was the right decision to play that kind of part. But I said I didn't choose the project because my part was great for me, I chose to do it because I liked the project and wanted to be a part of it. He didn't like to show it, but he really was quite proud." Bo shot the pilot in March of that year.

Fate soon intervened. John Derek died on May 22, 1998, before he could view the finished pilot episode. But for Bo, working on the series (which was canceled after two episodes after a change in the studio's management) kept her focused during the period immediately following his death.

"Grieving just has a life of its own. I didn't decide to orchestrate it one way or another, I just took it as it came. It's interesting to see who I was a year ago and who I am today. I floated around a lot. I was quite numb and just sort of going with the flow and not really making any decisions or having a direction. I couldn't. I was determined not to design it. I still just take it a day at a time and see how I will react to things. I just instinctively knew that for me that I shouldn't grieve one way or behave one way. The only thing I tried to do was catch myself and not fall into self-pity. I just felt it would be unproductive."   The media was even kind to Bo, if ever so briefly, after John's death. However, within months they had her romantically linked to an ever-changing array of eligible and not-so-eligible men, many of whom she says she had never even met, such as Paul McCartney and Keifer Sutherland. Recently she has been linked with media billionaire Ted Turner, but she denies any romantic involvement.

Shrugging off the nonsense with good humor, she muses about what John's reaction would be to her moving on with her love life. "Would John have liked that I'm dating? Would John have approved? No. He would have preferred that I jumped off a bridge or something, I'm sure, because that's very dramatic and wonderful."

Suddenly serious as she embraces the complexities of her mate she adds, "I know that like most people, part of him would want me to go on and have happiness; but then another part of him would say, 'No. I don't want her to be happy ever again. I want her to go with me.' These complications are what made him interesting and his honesty about them are what made him interesting to me. They are not petty; they are just human. I was lucky that when he died, we were in love and happy and didn't have any guilt or things we hadn't said to each other. I don't think that happens very often."

What is clear is that, possibly for the first time in her adult life, Bo Derek actually wants to, has to work. If not for the economic benefit, then as a way through the grieving process. Since her husband's death, Bo has discovered her own ambition. She knows what she wants.

"I have such an opportunity now in acting, for at least a few more years, that I want to focus all my energy on that right now. Producing is something I can always do later. I've been doing decent work since I've started back to work and so I'm ready. Producing is distracting, and I love it. I absolutely love having a crisis and an insurmountable problem and fixing it by the start of the next day's shooting. But now I really want to concentrate on acting."

Her enthusiasm and respect for the process is readily apparent. Television guest appearances have kept Bo working and opened new avenues. "Guest starring on 'The Drew Carey Show' was a ball. I had never done anything like that before. I got into rehearsal and they were shocked that I had never done a sitcom. It was really fun and I enjoyed it very much. And 'Family Law' was wonderful, too."

She now hosts a weekly program on American Movie Classics called "The Hollywood Fashion Machine," in which she introduces films with an emphasis on fashion. "I enjoy the business aspect of television," she says. "A budget is a budget. A schedule is a schedule. I think some of the best filmmaking and storytelling now is done on television. I just can't believe they get it done on those schedules because it's as good as any film that is being made."

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