Denise Richards was a major sex symbol of her era, and rarely out of the headlines to boot. Her marriage to Charlie Sheen was, to say the least, rocky. But she’s made some iconic movies – The World Is Not Enough and Wild Things among them – and done some stunning photoshoots. Here’s a trip down memory lane.
40. Bikini-clad in Wild Things
The 1998 film Wild Things spawned a million crushes on Richards. She played Kelly Lanier Van Ryan, a woman who took part in, well, some very wild things. Richards admitted in 2019 to the website Yahoo Lifestyle Australia that she wouldn’t actually allow her three daughters to watch the film.
39. Posing for the camera
Before Denise Richards was known first and foremost as an actress, she was a model signed to the Judith Fontaine Modeling & Talent Agency. Obviously, it’s not hard to see why they snapped her up. Apparently Richards’ daughter Sam Sheen is following in her mother’s footsteps and aspiring to a life in front of the lens.
38. In 1990
Denise Richards wasn’t famous yet in the early 1990s. She got television roles, but they were very small ones. For example, she had a part on Married with Children that lasted all of five seconds, and another in Saved by the Bell which wasn’t even credited. But no matter, the camera absolutely loved her.
37. In Doogie Howser, M.D.
Richards starred alongside Neil Patrick Harris in the 1997 movie Starship Troopers. But several years before that, back in 1991, she appeared in an episode of his TV show Doogie Howser, M.D. In an episode titled “Doogstruck” she played a character named Alissa who ended up going on a date with Doogie.
36. Tammy and the T-Rex
One of Richards’ lesser-known movies is the 1994 flick Tammy and the T-Rex. It’s about a murdered high-schooler who is – wait for it – put into the body of a T-Rex by a mad scientist. Richards played the titular Tammy, the girlfriend of the dead student/dinosaur. Maybe it’s a good thing it was forgotten.
35. On the set of Starship Troopers
Richards’ breakthrough film role was in the 1997 movie Starship Troopers, a satire about militaristic fascism. Richards played Carmen Ibanez, the female lead. In January 2018 she remembered to newspaper The Guardian, “I didn’t think about the politics: I was just hoping not to get fired from my first big movie.”
34. Kissing Neve Campbell
The Denise Richards/Neve Campbell kissing scene in Wild Things is still fondly remembered today. In January 2020 the two actresses crossed paths again, and Richards cheekily wrote on her Instagram. “We couldn’t believe we haven’t seen each other since the premiere… picked up where we left off (well you know what I mean).”
33. A 1998 photoshoot
This photograph was taken in 1998, just as Richards’ star was on the rise with Wild Things and other ventures. It showcases everything that made her so attractive in that era: the bright smile, the fashionable clothes, and perhaps most importantly of all the sex appeal matched with a girl-next-door charm.
32. In The World Is Not Enough
Richards got to play a Bond Girl, Christmas Jones, in the 1999 Pierce Brosnan movie The World Is Not Enough. Alas, it didn’t work out too well for her. Critics considered that her character didn’t remotely resemble the nuclear physicist she was meant to be, and her skimpy clothes in the film raised some eyebrows as well.
31. In Drop Dead Gorgeous
As well as The World Is Not Enough, Denise Richards starred in the film Drop Dead Gorgeous come 1999. This was a mockumentary about a group of beauty pageant contestants who begin dying under suspicious circumstances. It was absolutely slammed by critics on release, but now it’s considered a cult classic.
30. A winning smile
Two of the reasons Richards became as big as she did were her beautiful skin and dazzling smile. Both are on display in this photograph. Unsurprisingly, the now middle-aged Richards wants to keep these intact, and has turned to various cosmetic procedures in order to keep her face looking young.
29. With Patrick Muldoon
Before Charlie Sheen came along Richards was the partner of Patrick Muldoon, one of her co-stars in Starship Troopers. In this photo he’s seen supporting her at the premiere of her movie Drop Dead Gorgeous. The relationship was always an on-off one, according to Richards herself, but they’re still friends today.
28. As Christmas Jones
Richards’ Christmas Jones unfortunately went down in history as a terrible movie character. The year The World Is Not Enough came out Richards was nominated for a “Worst Supporting Actress” at the Razzie Awards – and “won.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s frequently ranked bottom of Bond Girl lists.
27. On the beach
Even when not on a red carpet or a photoshoot Richards looks like a model. This picture of her was taken when she was on a beach in Hawaii, having gone there with Patrick Muldoon during January 2000. She was wearing ordinary clothes and holding what looked like a half-eaten ice-cream, but her beauty shone out.
26. With Casper Van Dien
Richards got along very well with her Starship Troopers co-star Casper Van Dien. In 2018 she told newspaper The Guardian, “Casper, Jake [Busey] and I really bonded. On the first night, there was a blizzard and I ended up in their tent in the middle of the night, snuggled together to keep warm.”
25. At the MTV Movie Awards
Denise Richards had her makeup on point when she appeared at the 1998 MTV Movie Awards ceremony. Unsurprisingly she has her own beauty company these days, CB Me Beauty. But she also swears by rinsing her face every morning and evening, plus frequent use of sunscreen, moisturizer and eye cream.
24. Car-washing in Wild Things
Wild Things was so sexy Richards was worried about what her parents might think. In 2020 she revealed to her Real Housewives of Beverly Hills co-stars, “When I did Wild Things that was a tough decision for me because I was raised in a very conservative family and went to church every week. I was raised Catholic, I was a good Catholic girl.”
23. With Kirsten Dunst
Even though the Richards and Kirsten Dunst-starring Drop Dead Gorgeous was a critical disaster, Rolling Stone magazine praised its young stars. In 1999 it wrote that Richards “humanizes [her] character by uncovering her bruised feelings,” and “Dunst and Richards give solid evidence that they will rise to the challenge of better material.”
22. Kissing Patrick Muldoon
Things got pretty steamy between Richards and Muldoon when they went on a beach holiday back in 2000. According to Richards herself, Muldoon was a point of contention when she married Charlie Sheen later. In a 2019 episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills she said, “While we were married, I wasn’t really allowed to talk to Patrick.”
21. Goofing off with Pierce Brosnan
Denise Richards and Pierce Brosnan received a Razzie nomination for “Worst Screen Couple” thanks to The World Is Not Enough. Yet photos like this indicate they did have chemistry, it just didn’t come through in the movie. They’re at the MTV European Music Awards in Dublin, and Brosnan clearly found some unusual facewear.
20. Reuniting with Neve Campbell
Campbell harbored many thoughts about her sex scene with Richards in Wild Things. She kept journals during the making of the film, and in one entry she noted, “It’s not about graphic sex. It’s more about the characters and how lost and free they are.” Come 1998 the two women met again at that year’s MTV Movie Awards, all smiles.
19. At the Drop Dead Gorgeous premiere
Denise Richards looked stunning at the premiere for her movie Drop Dead Gorgeous. But many years later, the actress remembered on PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing show that during one hilarious religion-themed segment of the movie, “a lot of [extras] left… they were offended I was dancing with Jesus.” You can’t win them all.
18. At the 1999 MTV Music Awards
The fashion at the 1999 MTV Music Awards was something else. Lil’ Kim wore half a jumpsuit with a pasty to hide her modesty; Pamela Anderson showed up in a corset; Christina Aguilera had both hot pink lace and leopard print on the same outfit – and Richards opted for a matching set of armor-like sparkles plus, more inexplicably, flip-flops with heels. Her hair looked great though.
17. Greeting Jake Busey
This photograph, snapped at the premiere of the movie Charlie’s Angels, says everything you need to know about the friendship between Denise Richards and Jake Busey. The two appeared in more films together after Starship Troopers: they played a couple in 1999’s Tail Lights Fade and also co-starred in the 2015 TV movie A Christmas Reunion.
16. At the World Is Not Enough Premiere
Just before The World Is Not Enough came out in 1999, Richards told the New York Post newspaper, “I knew Bond was a huge franchise and a huge production and then when it was announced on the news that I got the part, I was so intimidated I was like, ‘How am I going to do this?’” She looks a little nervous in this photo too.
15. Celebrating Cosmopolitan
In November 1999 Cosmopolitan magazine celebrated its last issue of the century – indeed, of the whole millennium – and naturally threw a big party in New York. Richards, the cover girl for that issue, was in attendance. And that was far from the first or last magazine cover she would ever be on.
14. With Don Cheadle
It’s hard to think of two celebrities more mismatched than Denise Richards and Don Cheadle, but here they are together at the 15th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards in 2000. They look like they’re having a great time together, too, and possibly doing whatever the pre-smartphone equivalent of taking a selfie is.
13. At an Oscar party
Denise Richards seems to like silver, sparkly two-piece outfits. She wore another one to the Vanity Fair magazine Oscar party in 2000. Richards hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar yet – there’s still time – but she did win Best Actress for A Life Lived at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival in 2016.
12. Attending the 2000 MTV Movie Awards
Richards’ outfit at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards went down in the history of the award show, but not in a good way. In 2010 Marie Claire magazine wrote of the outfit, “We could focus on the fact that Denise Richards appears to have been dunked in a vat of fake tan, or bring attention to her hair, which looks like it’s been styled by sticking a finger in an electric socket.”
11. Petting a wolf
During a launch party for the travel firm Abercrombie and Kent, Richards was photographed petting a timber wolf. Don’t try this at home, though. Some of them might seem tame or cute, but a wolf isn’t like a pet dog. There’s a good reason they have a reputation for being aggressive and predatory.
10. At the 2000 Independent Spirit Awards
The Independent Spirit Awards, sometimes called just the Spirit Awards, are an alternative of sorts to the Oscars. They celebrate, according to a statement released in 2020, “artist-driven films made with an economy of means by filmmakers whose films embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision.” Richards looked delighted to be there in 2000.
9. At an exhibition
Here Richards is seen at an October 2000 party to celebrate the opening of a new Giorgio Armani exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. She would soon create another connection with the famous designer. When Richards married Charlie Sheen a couple of years later in June 2002, both were clad in Armani.
8. As a Gellar cousin on Friends
In 2001 Richards made a guest appearance on hit sitcom Friends as Cassie Geller, the cousin of Ross and Monica. The joke was that everyone she ran into was attracted to her – including, disturbingly, her own relative Ross. You can’t really blame her non-family-members for finding her gorgeous, though.
7. Wearing sunglasses
This striking shot of Richards behind Burberry sunglasses was taken at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. Richards was there to plug the film Empire, a crime thriller in which she starred alongside John Leguizamo and Peter Sarsgaard. Unfortunately it got bad reviews from critics, although audiences liked it more.
6. A monochrome portrait
During the 2000 Independent Spirit Awards Richards had her photograph taken by famous celebrity photographer George Pimentel, a man who throughout his career has snapped impressive pictures of some of the biggest stars in the world. The monochrome portrait he took showcases Richards’ natural beauty in a way not often seen.
5. With Charlie Sheen
In May 2002 Richards and Sheen went to the world premiere of Richards’ film Undercover Brother. A mere month later they would be married. The pair wed at the Los Angeles home of Gary David Goldberg, the producer of Sheen’s TV show Spin City. But it was a quiet, private Catholic ceremony.
4. At a fashion show
This shot shows Denise Richards at the Jennifer Noonan fashion show in October 2003. At this point Richards would have been pregnant with the first child she had with Charlie Sheen. She gave birth to a girl, Sam, in March 2004, but unfortunately a divorce came just one year after that happy event.
3. In Love Actually
Richards leaned into her status as a sex symbol again in order to play a small part in the movie Love Actually. She portrayed Carla, a beautiful and sexy American who surprisingly is very much into the dorky Colin. It was a role that lasted seconds, but Richards still got to rub shoulders with Hugh Grant and company during the airport scene.
2. Looking pensive
Richards looks slightly troubled in this photograph of her from 2003. And unfortunately there would indeed be problems with her marriage to Charlie Sheen. Once the relationship was done Richards accused Sheen of being abusive towards her, a claim which he denied. And in 2006 she gained a restraining order against him.
1. With her baby daughter
In this shot from 2004 Richards holds her baby daughter Sam, who would have been less than a year old at the time. Richards would go on to have another child with Sheen, Lola; after splitting from him she adopted a little girl named Eloise. According to Richards, Sheen stepped up to serve as co-parent and they maintain an amicable relationship now.