Also Credited As:Denise Sheen, Denise Lee Richards
|Denise Lee Richards on February 17, 1971 in Downers Grove, Illinois, USA|
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Denise Richards was born outside of Chicago in suburban Downer's Grove, IL, on Feb. 17, 1971. She and her younger sister spent their early years in the area before her parents moved the family to San Diego when Richards was in her early teens. The future swimsuit model thrived in Southern California, where she was a high school cheerleader and encouraged to pursue modeling. Following her graduation in 1989, Richards moved straight to New York City, where she shared an apartment with half a dozen other aspiring models and began finding work. Her fresh-faced look eventually landed a deal with Bonne Bell cosmetics, but she also traveled around the world on mainly swimsuit shoots. Her 5'6" height was short by modeling standards and runway work was not in the cards, so Richards decided to branch out into acting. She returned to Southern California and began capitalizing on her sex appeal in film and TV projects where acting skills were not a necessity, appearing on such shows as "Saved by the Bell" (NBC, 1989-1993) and "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000). She received a bit of a profile boost for an appearance in an episode of "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998), where her distracting cleavage led to the end of a potential TV deal for Jerry and George.
Richards made her feature debut with a cameo in "National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon I" (1993) and resumed a busy schedule of forgettable guest spots on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC, 1993-97) and short-lived nighttime soaps like "One West Waikiki" (1995) and "High Tide" (1995) before landing the recurring role of beauty contestant Brandy Carson on Fox's "Melrose Place" (Fox, 1992-99). At this point in her career, Richards had served as little more than set-dressing or a stock "dumb model" type, but it was enough of a pedigree for director Paul Verhoeven, who decided to cast relative unknowns in the leading roles of his sci-fi actioner "Starship Troopers" (1997). Richards' saving grace was the fact that Verhoeven was apparently going for a cheap, B-movie look where wooden acting was part of the package. The film was a surprising box office hit that even charmed a moderate number of critics, giving Richards the street cred for another leading role in John McNaughton's sexy cult thriller "Wild Things" (1998), co-starring established actors Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell and Matt Dillon. It was really this role - with a little help from her topless threesome scene - that put Richards on the map as a sex symbol to be reckoned with.
After "Wild Things," which despite its tawdry subject matter still impressed critics, Richards landed a shot at cheesecake infamy when she was tapped to be the next Bond girl, essaying munitions expert Dr. Christmas Jones in "The World Is Not Enough" (1999). However, she proved to one of the least convincing doctoral candidates in film history, and her performance inspired Entertainment Weekly to declare her the "Worst Bond Girl of All Time." Richards retreated to the comfortable territory of below average acting expectations, playing a beauty pageant contestant in the flop "Drop Dead Gorgeous" (1999), and skipping theaters and heading straight to video with the lame horror thriller "Valentine" (2001). Richards may have all but disappeared from the public eye, were it not for her romance with and subsequent 2002 marriage to notorious playboy Charlie Sheen after the two co-starred in the straight-to-cable film, "Good Advice" (2001). Richards returned to theaters as the White She-Devil of the modest hit comedy "Undercover Brother" (2002) and she and Sheen appeared together again in the broad comedy hit "Scary Movie 3" (2003). After making a brief cameo in the well-received romantic comedy "Love Actually" (2003), Richards appeared in a best-selling nude pictorial in the pages of Playboy magazine.
She snared the lead in the lightweight Lifetime telepic "I Do (But I Don't)" (2004) opposite Dean Cain and tackled still more dramatic fare with a starring role as a broke grad student tempted into prostitution by a hooker (Daryl Hannah) in the low-budget "Whore" (2004). Her straight-to-video romantic comedy "The Third Wheel" (2004) turned far fewer heads than her highly publicized, dirty-laundry airing split with Sheen in 2005 while Richards was several months pregnant with their second child. The couple would go on to reconcile, but later break up for good in 2006 when Richards hit Sheen with accusations of emotional abuse and threatening behavior toward her, as well as an ongoing addiction to porn and hookers. Only days after the scandalous filing appeared online on thesmokinggun.com - initially making her the sympathetic figure - she appeared in public with Richie Sambora, lead guitarist of the arena rock band, Bon Jovi. It was this openly affectionate outing with the musician, who was still married to but separated from actress Heather Locklear - Richard's former best friend and neighbor, no less - that caused an overnight shift in public perception. Suddenly, Richards was painted as the villain, even tipping the scales of sympathy toward her notoriously troubled husband after the Sambora relationship leaked.
Incredibly, the limited actress was handed a starring role in the road comedy, "Elvis Has Left the Building" (2005), and cast on the short-lived UPN soap drama, "Sex, Love and Secrets" (2005- ). She also was half responsible for the dismal Canadian comedy "Blonde and Blonder" (2008), for which the teaming of Richards and Pamela Anderson was a box office draw to the tune of $42,000 dollars on an $8 million dollar budget. Unbowed by this very clear message from moviegoers, Richards was anxious to get in front of the camera again in 2008 as the star of her own reality show on E!, "Denise Richards: It's Complicated." She immediately found herself in a court battle with ex-husband Sheen, who objected to the idea of his young children being forced into the spotlight. Richards defended that the toddlers had already expressed an interest in show business and eventually won the battle. After a shaky season one, rumors abounded that "It's Complicated" would get the ax, but it was ultimately survived one more season, making a star of her no-nonsense father, Irv, if nothing else. In early 2009, Richards was announced as one of the contestants on season eight of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), only to find herself eliminated after the second week of competition.
Returning to series television, Richards had a supporting role on the short-lived comedy "Blue Mountain State" (Spike, 2010-11), which depicted the life of sex, booze and hazing on the campus of a fictional university. The actress played the sex-crazed and rather unstable ex-wife of the school's championship-winning football coach (Ed Marinaro). The same year the show was canceled, Richards released her memoirs, The Real Girl Next Door (2011), which detailed her life before, during and after Charlie Sheen, and was a New York Times bestseller. On the big screen, she co-starred with Leelee Sobieski and Matthew Davis in the porn-themed indie romantic comedy, "Finding Bliss" (2010), before appearing in the direct-to-DVD comedy "Cougars, Inc." (2011). Meanwhile, Richards reached an agreement with Sheen over the custody of their children, and they appeared to have reconciled their differences as they were seen vacationing as a family. When Sheen experienced his epic, possibly drug-induced meltdown of 2011 and his subsequent battle with Warner Brothers after being fired from his hit sitcom "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003- ), Richards stood back quietly, watching her ex-husband implode. Because he was widely seen as out-of-control, living with his two porn star "goddesses" and granting incoherent interviews to rant about "tiger blood" and ex-boss Chuck Lorre, Richards made it quite clear that he would not be granted access to their two daughters - an act of war in Sheen's eyes, who lashed out at her publicly. By the following year, Sheen was seemingly back on track emotionally - enough so that the exes once again spent time with each other, their girls and even Richard's newly adopted daughter, Eloise. Richards even had a guest starring role on Sheen's new sitcom, "Anger Management" (FX, 2012- ), as well as appeared in Tyler Perry's "Madea's Witness Protection" (2012).