Family & Companions
An underappreciated favorite among movie fans for over four decades, actress Colleen Camp began her career in saucy, lightweight comedies like "The Swinging Cheerleaders" (1974) that emphasized her California-bred looks. She occasionally received a role that allowed her to display her knack for comedy, such as "Smile" (1975) or "They All Laughed" (1981), the latter directed by one-time boyfriend Peter Bogdanovich. Frustrated by the lack of substantive roles, she settled into a string of comic character roles in films like "Valley Girl" (1983), "Wayne's World" (1992) and "Election" (1999), while developing a second career as a producer. Camp's career remained busy as she entered her fifth decade, which stood as a testament to both her determination and versatility.
Born Colleen Celeste Camp in San Francisco, CA on June 7, 1953, she began acting in regional theater at the age of three. Years of work in entertainment followed before she was discovered while working as a bird trainer at Busch Gardens Bird Sanctuary prior to its closure in 1979. An attractive and vivacious young woman, Camp's early career was largely comprised of bit parts that emphasized her physical charms over any sort of acting talent. She made her television debut as one of the dancing Gold Diggers on "The Dean Martin Comedy Hour" (NBC, 1965-1974) and later progressed to minor roles in features, like her uncredited slave girl in "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (1973). Cheesecake exploitation like "The Swinging Cheerleaders" (1974) gave her a larger canvas on which to play, and while these genre of films allowed her to display a breezy knack for comedy, the films' raison d'être was nudity and sexual innuendo, both of which appeared comfortable propositions for the actress.
Camp would receive solid reviews as Connie Thompson, a.k.a. Miss Imperial County, in Michael Ritchie's "Smile" (1975), which satirized beauty pageants. But the accolades were short-lived, and she was soon back to decorative roles in "The Gumball Rally" (1976) and Robert Clouse's ill-fated "Game of Death" (1978), which cast her as Bruce Lee's wife. A minor turn as Playboy's Miss May in "Apocalypse Now" (1979) showed off her skills at bird handling, but her scenes were trimmed for the theatrical release, though Camp received more exposure from a layout in the magazine that same year. Camp also originated the role of Kristen Shepherd, sister to Linda Gray's Sue Ellen and mistress to her husband, J.R. (Larry Hagman), but Mary Crosby replaced her in 1979 before the character could earn her pop culture acclaim as the nefarious oil tycoon's would-be assassin in 1980.
Camp became acquainted with Playmate and aspiring actress Dorothy Stratten in the late 1970s, and was cast alongside her in Peter Bogdanovich's ill-fated comedy "They All Laughed" (1981). Camp received one of her biggest and most impressive screen roles as country singer Christy Miller, whose boyfriend, detective Ben Gazzara, was attempting to have an affair with a taxi driver (Patti Hansen). Camp also scored a low-ranking hit on the Billboard singles chart with "One Day Since Yesterday," one of her songs from the film, but the picture was quickly eclipsed by the murder of Stratton by her deranged ex-husband, Paul Snider, shortly before its release. Ironically, both Camp and Hansen had also been Bogdanovich's paramours, and their complicated love triangle in the film with Gazzara and John Ritter, whose physical appearance strongly resembled its director, raised eyebrows with critics and moviegoers alike.
Following the failure of "Laughed," Camp rebounded by settling into a string of character roles that emphasized her comic talents. She frequently spoofed her sexy image by playing daffy libertines in the unreleased "City Girl" (1984), "National Lampoon's Joy of Sex" (1984) and "Clue" (1985), as well as two installments of the "Police Academy" series. The former was most notable as Camp's debut as a producer; her director, Martha Coolidge, had previously cast her as Deborah Foreman's hippie-ish mother in the cult classic "Valley Girl" (1983), and later utilized her in "Material Girls" (2006). As Camp grew into her forties and fifties, she eased gracefully into matronly parts; some outlandish, like Brian Doyle-Murray's pampered spouse in "Wayne's World" (1992), some gritty, like her tough Gotham cop in "Die Hard with a Vengeance" (1995), while others were downright unlikable, like her tightly wound Jessica Flick, mother to Reese Witherspoon's A-type student in Alexander Payne's witty classic, "Election" (1999).
Camp dove headlong into producing in the late 1990s, overseeing an eclectic batch of features for film and television. She produced "The Cream Will Rise" (1998), a documentary on outspoken singer Sophie B. Hawkins, before tackling the indie dramas "Shattered Image" (1998), with French actress Anne Parillaud struggling to maintain her sanity after a rape and suicide attempt, and "An American Rhapsody" (2001), with Scarlett Johansson as a Bulgarian immigrant who attempted to piece together her heritage after a troubled upbringing in America. The latter film also starred actor Tony Goldwyn, who was Camp's brother-in-law through her marriage to Paramount executive John Goldwyn. He later cast her in a small role in the comedy "Someone Like You" (2001), which marked his sophomore effort as a director.
Camp later teamed with producer Lou Arkoff and special effects wizard Stan Winston to produce a series of name-only remakes of science fiction and horror films originally produced by Arkoff's father, the legendary Samuel Z. Arkoff. The series, titled "Creature Features," ran on Cinemax in 2001 and included gory, updated takes on "The She-Creature" (1956), "Earth vs. the Spider" (1958) and "How to Make a Monster" (1958). She also remained remarkably active as a performer during this period, bouncing between television series like "The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman" (IFC, 2006-07) and features like "Running with Scissors" (2006) and "Four Christmases" (2008). In 2009, she enjoyed a particularly memorable role on "House, M.D." (Fox, 2004-12) as a woman who fakes a traumatic illness in order to obtain her husband's (Meat Loaf) heart.
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Film debut, "Battle for the Planet of the Apes"
Screen acting debut in "The Swinging Cheerleaders"
Sang on soundtrack of "They All Laughed"
Served as associate producer of Martha Coolidge's film, "The City Girl"
Produced the movie "City Girl"
Portrayed Sergeant Kathleen Kirkland in the comedy feature Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
Cast as the maid in the game-turn-comedy feature "Clue"
Reunited with the "Police Academy" cast for "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol"
Co-starred in the comedy feature "Wicked Stepmother," which Bette Davis made her last screen apprearance
Cast in the comedy feature "Wayne's World"
Portrayed Judy Marks in the drama triller "Sliver," which starred Sharon Stone
Co-starred in the short-lived television series "Tom"
Cast as Connie Kowalski in "Die Hard: With A Vengeance"
Portrayed the character Debbie in "Speed 2: Cruise Control"
Cast as Judith Flick, the mother of the over achieving character Tracy Flick in the comedy feature "Election"
Portrayed a nurse in the hilarious comedy feature "Rat Race"
Produced the film "An American Rhapsody"
Cast in the Luis Mandoki thriller feature "Trapped"
Co-starred in the comedy feature "Who's Your Daddy?"
Cast in "Running with Scissors" based on the personal memoirs of Augusten Burroughs
Appeared in the comedy "Four Christmases"
Appeared in the thriller "Psych:9 "
Acted in the Roman Coppolla film "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III"
Played the wire transfer clerk and cat enthusiast Brenda in "American Hustle"
Produced and appeared in the Eli Roth directed thriller "Knock Knock"