Richards reigns

Richards reigns

By Michael Pickard
August 2, 2023


Hollywood star Denise Richards discusses her latest television role, in financial drama Paper Empire, and looks back on a career that took off with movies including Starship Troopers and James Bond feature The World is Not Enough.

Across a 30-year career that has taken in feature films, TV dramas, telemovies and reality shows, Denise Richards might have faced every challenge Hollywood was willing to throw at her. That was until she signed up for her latest project, financial drama Paper Empire.

“It was a very different experience because I never got a full script for any of the episodes,” she reveals. But it was the passion of the show’s creator, writer and director Robert Gillings, that sold her on the show. “It was a unique and different experience so I am very curious to see the episodes because I didn’t see a whole script.”

Sometimes Richards would get her lines for a scene the night before shooting. But buoyed by her chemistry with series lead Robert Davi, she knew they could make it work. “When you’re coming on to a project and you fly in and then the next morning you’re playing husband and wife, you’re like, ‘OK, let’s make this work.’ And thank God, he and I hit it off. We get along quite well and I love working with him. He’s so great.”

In a series where “crypto is an evolution that turns into a revolution,” Davi plays Laurence Fintch, who seems to have it all figured out on the way to becoming the world’s greatest financial fraudster through the use of his cryptocurrency technology. But after an FBI pursuit, Fintch ends up in jail, where hatches a plan for a daring breakout.

Denise Richards with Robert Davi in Paper Empire

Richards plays his ex-wife, Bentley, who has grown used to living a life of luxury off the back of Laurence’s wealth and isn’t very happy when it’s taken away from her. But though she’s angry that she’s lost her lifestyle, she’s still upset at losing him too.

“There obviously is a huge side of her that loves that lifestyle, and she’s also angry at him that he put her in this position of losing everything and then she’s having to pick up the pieces while he’s away,” the actor explains, speaking to DQ to promote the series before actors in the US went on strike last month. “But I wanted to play her with empathy and also show that she really loved him. She wasn’t with him just for the money.

“He would always take care of her and make sure she’s OK, not just financially, but emotionally. So I wanted to bring that to the character. I didn’t want her to come off so superficial and just about the money, but also to really love the man she has been with – even though she loves the money too.”

Working with Gillings, Richards was able to collaborate with the writer-director and bring her own ideas for Bentley to the show, which is about to start filming its third season despite being made independently, without studio or broadcaster backing. “Sometimes we would say something on set and then he would be inspired and write another scene based off of that, so he was really great with all of us,” she says.

“It was very challenging for me as an actress because I didn’t know [what would happen in the series], but sometimes we don’t know what happens in life. It’s OK to not know what’s going to happen, so I’ll just take it moment by moment. So it was actually a very fun and different and challenging process, and I loved it.”

Richards plays Bentley, ex-wife of Davi’s crypto fraudster Laurence Fintch,

Richards’ recent credits include films such as The Line, Wickensburg and Love Accidentally, while she is best known for features like Starship Troopers, Wild Things, Drop Dead Gorgeous and James Bond outing The World is Not Enough. She has also become a familiar face among The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the unscripted reality show in which she initially appeared during seasons eight and nine, and she’s now set to return for its upcoming 13th run.

When it comes to choosing her next projects, “for me, it’s about the material,” Richards says, noting that she sees no difference between working in film and television anymore. “Streaming has changed the entire industry. My kids and their generation do not watch regular television. It’s all streaming, so you have to evolve with the times and I love that there are so many more ways of being able to entertain.”

Richards also acted in long-running US soap opera The Bold & The Beautiful between 2019 and 2020, clocking up almost 200 appearances as Shauna Fulton. Keen to follow in her friends’ footsteps and work on a soap, she signed up after talking to executive producer Bradley Bell – before seeing a script – and was immediately confronted with the fast pace of making a daily series.

“I flew back to LA on the red-eye and had to be on set at 10am for my first really big day on The Bold & The Beautiful, and I had over 50 pages of dialogue,” she remembers. “Now I can memorise pages quickly; I don’t know how, but I’m blessed. But I was so nervous. I had such anxiety about my first big day. Somehow I made it through. But you go back-to-back-to-back shooting it. There are no breaks.

“But it was fun. I like the pace of it. I love the camaraderie, and a lot of the crew and the actors have been together from day one. My jobs have always been where I go from film to film or different shows, so to be on a show where I actually got my badge to get into the gate, I was so excited.”

The actor alongside Patrick Muldoon (left) and Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers

Despite her busy acting schedule – she has at least eight projects in various stages of production – Richards is now also stepping behind the camera to produce a movie with her Starship Troopers co-star Patrick Muldoon.

“We’re putting something together and I am working with some other people with other projects,” she says. “It’s fun to find material and to be able to do that side of it. And then I’m also in development on my own reality show with my girls, which is going to be a lot of fun.”

Twenty-six years after Starship Troopers first hit cinemas in 1997, Paul Verhoeven’s film about a group of friends recruited to fight in an intergalactic war with giant alien bugs remains among her best-known work – and the role Richards herself considers her breakout moment. She played Carmen Ibanez, an aspiring starship pilot.

That same year, Richards also starred alongside Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon and Neve Campbell in thriller Wild Things, playing Kelly Van Ryan, a wealthy high-school student who accuses her guidance counsellor of rape.

“I shot Wild Things four months after I wrapped Starship Troopers – and they couldn’t be more different from each other,” she says. “I believe that’s what started my career, and I always say to people who are aspiring to write, direct, act or produce, or even jobs that have nothing to do with the entertainment industry, it only takes one job to change your career. So if it’s your passion, keep doing it and don’t give up. Don’t listen to the noes, because that one yes can change your career and your life, which can be really wonderful.”

One of Richards’ biggest roles came in Bond film The World is Not Enough

Starship Troopers, Richards says, is one of the fondest memories from her career because of the camaraderie on set among the young cast, many of whom were at the same stages in their careers.

Another standout moment was her major role in 1999’s The World is Not Enough, in which she played nuclear physicist Dr Christmas Jones opposite Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. “It’s such a phenomenon, and the experience I had on that movie was incredible, to travel all over the world and go to all the different premieres and to see the generations of people who were such huge fans of the film, even as the James Bond character changed over the years,” Richards says. “They’re still loyal and they stay with it. It’s an iconic franchise, so to be part of that was incredible.”

With Paper Empire among a slate of content on which Richards is working, not to mention her return to Real Housewives, the actor looks set to be a presence on screens for a while yet – and she’s also vying to be a part of another cinematic franchise.

“My husband would love for me to be in a Marvel movie,” she says, “which I would, too. So I’ll put that on the record. And then I’ve always wanted to work with Quentin Tarantino. I would love to do that.”

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