In the early 1980s, one film role made him a teen heart throb and the fixation of young women from coast to coast – the co-star of The Blue Lagoon – Christopher Atkins.
Atkins wasn’t an actor when an agent persuaded him to try out for the role of Richard, the cousin of Emmeline, played by Brooke Shields. But as a lifeguard and sailing instructor, Atkins had the right skills and beat out 4000 candidates to be cast in the film.
Directed by Randal Kleiser, whose previous film Grease was box office smash, The Blue Lagoon told the story of two young cousins shipwrecked during the Victorian era. figuring out how to survive on a deserted island as they mature from children to adults.
Atkins was an overnight star with the film’s release, which was a box office success, making almost US $60 million. The film’s notoreity increased with the numerous nude and semi-nude scenes that both actors did for the film. Atkins golden boy status was confirmed.
His next film, 1982’s The Pirate Movie with Kristy McNichol, also used his physical assets in this comical film adaptation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s musical The Pirates of Penzance. Unfortunately the film was a box office flop, but Atkins popularity didn’t wane, as he was persued for television commercials, for well-known products such as Coca-Cola and was the cover of the September 1982 issue of Playgirl Magazine and included in the December 1982 issue, posing nude but not exposing everything.
Atkins played a young male stripper working his way through college in A Night in Heaven co-starring Lesley Ann Warren and for a season was on popular tv series Dallas, playing the young man having an affair with Sue Ellen Ewing. For every role, Atkins was always showcased as the good looking young man, and rarely clothed.
I remember seeing the movie The Blue Lagoon and being surprised by the adult reaction to the scantily clad young teens – what are they supposed to wear shipwrecked on a tropical desert isle? This movie played into the fantasy of a young girl – especially when one could barely figure out what to say beyond hello to a good-looking boy. His movie-star good looks as a 19 year old helped him ride the wave of celebrity, despite its fixation with the curly blonde hair, blue eyes and muscular body.
Although his good looks kept him in sporadic tv and film projects until the end of the decade and until the present day, Atkins never achieved any major success, but kept a steady connection to Hollywood. Yet, his breakout as a loincloth wearing boy on a desert island kicked off the 1980s and certainly wasn’t ignored by the masses.