Denise Richards on playing a trophy wife in ‘Paper Empire’, getting ‘panned’ like a Bond girl

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Denise Richards has played numerous trophy wives, both fictional and semi-fictional, but her latest role as the ex-husband of a high-rolling crypto fraudster on the upcoming “Paper Empire” series gave Richards the chance to “create something really fun and challenging and very different,” she says.

The show, which premiered last week on MipTV in Cannes, tells the story of financier Laurence Fintch (played by Robert Davi) who ends up in jail after carrying out a multi-million dollar cryptocurrency fraud. Fitch has no plans to stay in jail, no matter what the FBI thinks, and soon devises a daring plan to break out. The series created by Robert Gillings also stars Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer and Danny Glover.

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Richards says Gillings sold the role of Finch’s glamorous ex-wife Bentley to her based on his pitch. “It’s the first project I’ve ever done, I believe in my whole career, I’ve never seen one [full] script for,” she shared Variety in Cannes. “I got scenes with my character, that’s all. That is the first time that has happened to me.”

“I thought it would be interesting and challenging to do a project where I don’t know what’s going on,” continues Richards. “Because sometimes in life we ​​really don’t know what’s going to happen. And so I just took every scene I ever got and based everything on that.

While Bentley may come across as arm candy, Richards says she “didn’t want to play the clichéd trophy wife.” I wanted to try to bring as much depth to my character as possible.”

It helped that there were elements of Bentley’s life that she could identify with. “Especially with, you know, Robert Davi’s character being stripped off [by the FBI] and have to leave and what that would mean if her whole family fell apart. Which of course I can relate to a divorce. I’ve been through that. So I just wanted to find ways that I can bring some empathy and also show that she really loved him.

“And it wasn’t just about their lifestyle and money,” adds Richards. “Although she loves that lifestyle and would like to keep it. It is easier to move from poor to rich than from rich to poor. You know, I’ve been through it all, I really have. Many levels. So it was something that I thought would be very interesting.

Richards undoubtedly lived through the Hollywood bubble, not least in the early 2000s when she was a regular on blogs like TMZ and Perez Hilton. Unlike Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, Richards hasn’t had her post-#MeToo dues yet, rethinking her contemporaries’ stories through a new (less misogynist) lens. Does Richards feel ready to reclaim her story? “I’ve been very quiet about a lot of those things,” she says. “Obviously I went through a lot early in my career, especially when I was doing ‘Wild Things’. And one day I will talk about that experience. And some stuff right after that and a little bit before, but it’s, uh… you know, I’m glad we’re in a time where women are empowering and can have more of a say.

Nowhere is that change more evident than in the James Bond universe (of which Richards was once a part) where in the latest film, “No Time to Die,” even a woman – Lashana Lynch – briefly took on the 007 mantle. Richards, who starred opposite Pierce Brosnan in the 1999 Bond movie “The World is Not Enough,” recalls being “panned” for her performance as scientist Dr. Christmas Jones, a role in which she wore shorts and a vest that exposed her midriff. “It broke my heart that people made fun of me,” she says, recalling some of the barbs: “‘Oh, really? You’re wearing shorts and you’re a nuclear scientist?’”

“I play a Bond girl,” she says in response to the criticism. “If I were to wear a lab coat and pants and a suit, then [fans] would have been upset, like, ‘Okay, why doesn’t she look like a sexy Bond girl?’”

So now that Daniel Craig has finally retired, does Richards think it’s time for a female Bond? “Definitely a Bond man, I’m sorry,” she says firmly. And I could get a lot of criticism for this. But the fact is that the Bond franchise was based on a book franchise and Bond was a man in the books I believe [they should] continue with that. I do, and people might shit on it, but I believe it. They could do a spin-off where a Bond girl becomes the female Bond. But I think James Bond is James Bond.”

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