Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Denise Richards is such a girly-girl. Oh sure, in front of the cameras she poses like a saucy vixen. From a distance, the emerald-eyed model-turned-actress might even come across as a calculating silver screen fox, trading her beauty for fame and power in Hollywood. But what Miss Richards really likes best about her movie career is that she gets to play dress-up, go shopping and hang out with other girls.

The making of her new picture, “Valentine,” was a regular sleep-over party, to hear Miss Richards describe it during a recent Beverly Hills interview.

“It was so fun to work with a group of girls on a movie that’s a horror movie with humor in it,” beams Miss Richards, 28. “I had a great time shooting it. We all stayed at the same hotel up in Vancouver and we shot over the summer, so it was great. Jessica Capshaw (her co-star) and I, we both had our dogs up there, we’d go shopping, we did the bar thing together and went to dinner.”

Miss Richards admits the filming was not too grueling, unless you count the four-day shoot of a hot-tub scene, or her unscripted prance in a bikini without adequate prep time on the Stairmaster.

“Valentine,” about a serial killer who strikes every year on Feb. 14th, is less self-conscious than the “Scream” movies and not nearly as spoofy as “Scary Movie.” It is funny when it wants to be, but mostly “Valentine” wants to frighten you half to death.

The film is a throwback to the uncomplicated slasher flicks of the 1980s, like Miss Richards’ personal favorite, “Friday the 13th.”

“I think that girls will like it,” she says. “They’ll hopefully be able to relate to all the girls in the movie, with the dating and all those issues. And guys will hopefully like the gore and people getting killed and girls in showers and stuff. It is pretty violent, but, hey, it’s an R-rated movie, and if you have to cover your eyes, we accomplished something.”

To help make a scene feel more natural or real, Miss Richards likes to work with her directors and writers to rework problematic dialogue. One scene in the “Valentine” screenplay already felt plenty authentic for Miss Richards, however. For a sequence about a blind date gone bad, Miss Richards drew on her own horrific blind date experience (which was not with her current boyfriend, actor Patrick Muldoon.)

“I get in his car, and he has my publicity head-shot photo taped to the dashboard,” Miss Richards exclaims. “I couldn’t believe it, the nerve. So I couldn’t wait to have the date over and done with, and I never went out with him again. I don’t know if he was a fan or what, but I was really mad at whoever set us up. Now I would never go on a blind date.”

“Valentine” is not the kind of movie designed to win trophies and rave reviews for its performers, and Miss Richards is fine with that. She has learned to put less faith in such things, after the fallout from 1999’s James Bond movie, “The World is Not Enough.”

A blockbuster hit, it cast Miss Richards as a nuclear physicist Bond babe, in tight shorts and a sports bra. The character was absurd, but critics slammed Miss Richards for not playing her “believably.” She even received one group’s Worst Supporting Actress award.

“I was very lucky early on,” Miss Richards reflects. “In ‘Wild Things’ and ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous,’ I got really good reviews. So it was very humbling to read my reviews for Bond. I was actually kind of surprised by it, because I didn’t think people would take it so seriously. They didn’t know that I did get the joke of me playing this drill sergeant of a scientist. And it is Bond, which is a formula, and I was The Girl. I knew what my part was in the movie. So I was just surprised with that.”

Miss Richards will finally get to star in a sweet romantic comedy when “The Third Wheel” arrives this spring, co-starring Ben Affleck and Luke Wilson. She plans to follow it with “Good Advice” and “Empire” later in the year. That will give Miss Richards plenty of opportunities to redeem herself to the critics, and to do what she really adores, play dress-up for movie premieres.

“I love all of it,” Miss Richards smiles. “I love makeup, and I love getting my hair done, and I love clothes. I love that glamour has been brought back to Hollywood. I think that fans do want to see movie stars not dressed in jeans and a T-shirt when they go to their premieres.”

She is only too happy to oblige.

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