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Bo Derek rose to fame in the 1980s and took the world by storm. She went from the girl next door to a Hollywood legend. Just as her career peaked, it came crashing down.

Humble Beginnings

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Born Mary Collins in Southern California in 1956, Bo Derek always wanted to be a part of Hollywood. She was first exposed to a life of performing when her mother remarried a stuntman.

First Role

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Bo Derek’s first role was in Fantasies when she was just 16 years old. In order to be part of the film, she had to go to Greece for ten days, which meant skipping school. It was here that the director, John Derek, knew that he had stumbled upon someone great.

Fame Over School

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“I was 16 when I quit high school. I didn’t really mean to quit. I spent about a month going to the beach surfing and sunbathing while I was supposed to be in school: when I got caught, my mom was furious. I started to go back to school, and I was really enjoying it, and then I went to go do this film with John in Greece,” she said in an interview about choosing fame over an education.

John Derek

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While filming Fantasies John and Bo had a wild affair while in Greece, even though he was 30 years older and married. Once the movie was finished and they returned to the States, John left his wife and started dating Bo officially. The couple then moved to Germany.


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Disappointingly, any major motion picture companies due to the film’s risky nature didn’t pick up Fantasies. It wouldn’t be until 1981, seven years later, that the film would be released. This was after Bo Derek had already made a name for herself. Even then it didn’t receive great reviews.

Married Life

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When Bo and John moved back to America they tied the knot. She was just 19, which made John 49 years old. John also took the liberty of giving Bo a makeover. He bleached her hair and had her change her name to Bo Derek.

Feeling Guilty

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When asked about their affair and John’s ex-wife, Bo said, “I just hate myself when I think about doing that. That’s the worst thing you can do. It was very complicated, and dramatic, obviously.” However, that didn’t stop her from marrying John and living a happy life with him.

John’s Ex-Wife

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John had been married to Linda Evans when he first met Bo. Bo admitted on Oprah that she still felt bad about what happened. “She’d been very gracious and kind. I just saw her yesterday, funny enough. We were at a jewelry trunk show for charity. And she was just as fabulous and wonderful as ever. I always feel like sh*t when I’m around her. It’s just ingrained, years later. That will never change,” she said.

Linda Evans

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Linda said in an interview about her husband leaving, “It was the worst thing that could happen to me in the world, to live without John. He was everything to me. I was mad, I was sad. It was a horrible mixture of things. I went through stages, but what’s really wonderful is when you take your mind off of all the men and you put all your energy onto you, and you don’t get caught up in the past and ‘he should of’ and ‘what if’ and put your mind on something else than you can have a great life! I’ve learned that over and over.”

Friends Before the Affair

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Linda and Bo had actually worked together before the affair. Linda guided Bo through Hollywood and how to handle the fame. “I got to know Bo before she even became Bo. I helped her learn to act, helped teach her about the business,” Linda explained.

Still Friends

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Linda and Bo have a good friendship, even after the affair and the marriage. “If John Derek had chosen lousy wives I wouldn’t have been their friends if they weren’t beautiful human beings. It was easy for me to be friends with them because I really liked them,” Linda said.

Rising to Fame

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John decided to put Bo in most of his movies. She received her acting debut in the movie 10. The movie is about a man who is obsessed with a woman he considers to be a “perfect 10.”


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After starring in 10 everyone knew who Bo Derek was. Teenage boys had her poster hanging in their bedrooms. She appeared in Playboy and starred in movies alongside Anthony Hopkins and Shirley MacLaine.

Tarzan, The Ape Man

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One of Bo’s most memorable movies is Tarzan, The Ape Man, which was released in 1981. While it wasn’t a movie known for its wonderful cinematography, it was well known. Roger Ebert used the words “ridiculous, yet charming” and some may even call it garbage.


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While Tarzan, The Ape Man was a blockbuster hit, it wasn’t popular for the right reasons. It was known for its bad acting, which resulted in Bo Derek being typecast.


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Bo Derek starred in Bolero in 1984 in one last attempt to be a superstar actress. It was yet another film directed by her husband. Unfortunately, it was too edgy and received an X rating.

Raspberry Award

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Next to her Golden Globe Award for 10 Bo Derek could put her Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for her performance in Bolero. She didn’t show up on the screen again until seven years later.

Heart Attack

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Just two years after the release of Bolero John Derek had a heart attack. He fully recovered by 1989, which he then started working on his last film, Ghosts Can’t Do It. Part of the movie was based on his relationship with Bo.

Making It In The 90’s

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Bo returned to the big screen in the 1990’s. At the age of 40 she appeared in Tommy Boy and Woman of Desire. While she was working her way back into Hollywood, her husband’s health took a turn for the worse.

John’s Death

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John Derek died from heart disease. After 22 years of marriage, Bo had this to say about her husband, “He was 71, so it was going to happen. I didn’t think it would happen that soon, but it was part of our relationship from the beginning that most likely I would live part of my life alone without him. But it was still a shock, and it happened suddenly. He was in great health, which is nice for him. I am glad he didn’t get sick. I don’t think he would have done very well.”

Starting Over

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At 41 years old, Bo had to keep going on with her life after her husband’s death. She decided it was time to start dating again.


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Just a couple of years later, Bo was completely independent. She had appeared on Family Law, 7th Heaven, The Drew Carey Show, and Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place.

Typecast Again

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Now that Bo was older, she was being typecast as the older mother in B movies. She appeared in Malibu’s Most Wanted and Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.

Love for Horses

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Another passion Bo had was horses. She owned many Andalusian horses and loved to watch them for hours. She even wrote a book Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I learned from Horses in 2002.


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She loves horses so much that she is a spokesperson for the Animal Welfare Institute. She dedicates a lot of her time to stopping the slaughter of horses.

Fighting for Horses

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“I worked on a couple of horse issues in Washington D.C., primarily the federal bill to ban slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas. I got a call out of the blue from Governor Schwarzenegger’s office asking if I wanted to be on the California Horse Racing Board to be a commissioner,” she said.

Debating the Job

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“I said no; I didn’t want to serve on any more boards. I had to get on with my life and my career. But the idea of working on horse issues from the inside of the largest industry was very appealing, and they offered a trial period. I’ve loved it ever since. It’s been almost four years now.”

Supporting Our Military

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Bo’s father served in the Korean War, so she always admired veterans. She has received an honorary green beret and is the national honorary chairperson for the Veteran’s Affairs’ National Rehabilitation Special Events thanks to her work for vets.

What An Honor

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“I am so overwhelmed and inspired by the courage all veterans show, especially those whom I have met through VA’s special events. As an American, I am reassured by VA’s commitment to take care of our veterans. It’s truly an honor for me to part of that mission,” she said of her work.

Still Showing Success

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Presently, Bo Derek is in a relationship with John Corbett and enjoys her work with horses and veterans. Even though she isn’t acting, we still consider her to be extremely successful.