It's been 40 years since The Blue Lagoon shot a loin-cloth clad Christopher Atkins into superstardom, but the talented actor remains surprised at how dramatically the cult classic has changed his life.
"I was 18, it was my first movie and I'd never intended to become an actor. Showbiz was the farthest thing from my mind as a teenager growing up in New York," laughs the upbeat star, who turns 60 next month.
"As a kid, my heart was set on becoming a pro baseball player, but a knee injury dashed those dreams. So, I became a sailing instructor who fell into modelling."
"The next thing, I'm auditioning for a movie called The Blue Lagoon. I went along for a bit of life experience and fun. To my amazement, I beat out 4000 actors to land the role of Richard. Brooke Shields was eventually cast as my love interest, Emmeline," he smiles.
The controversial 1980 coming-of-age movie, which was one of the first to feature male nudity, tells the story of two teenagers marooned on a tropical island. It blitzed the box office, and is still loved decades on.
"Being completely naked on screen was daunting at first. The movie was shot on Fiji's Turtle Island - now a five star resort but back then a desert island - and most of the crew were Australian," Christopher says.
"Unlike Americans, the Aussies weren't prudish. They were used to nude beaches, were fun-loving, easygoing, there were no hotels, so we slept in tents."
Christopher says of his heartthrob status, "Screaming fans would try to tear my clothing off. Suddenly, I was covering magazines all over the world and the volume of fan mail was huge. It was surreal."
In 1982, Christopher came to Australia to make The Pirate Movie - a campy musical romp with Kristy McNichol, and that's where he first set eyes on his future wife, Aussie model Lyn Barron.
"It was love at first sight, and six months later we were married. We went on to have two kids, Grant and Brittany. Sadly, the marriage didn't last but we remain genuinely great friends,'' he says.
Christopher's career continued to soar. His next major role was as Linda Gray's younger lover in the hit super-soap, Dallas.
"Working on Dallas was fabulous," the actor recalls. "Linda is a sweetheart."
During his 42-year showbiz career, Christopher has endured his Hollywood ups and downs - he's been ripped off by a former manager and struggled with alcohol abuse, but he's been proudly sober for decades.
Two years ago he left Hollywood for Connecticut, to be nearer to his 84-year-old Mum, Bitsy, who is dealing with memory issues.
"On life, I remain genuinely positive - my motto is love and fun," Christopher says.
"I always look for the good in things. I've been blessed with two great kids and three fabulous grandchildren. I love being a grandpa."
As for what lies ahead, the actor says, "I adore Australia, and have visited at least 20 times. I'd love to settle in Noosa. I have an array of Aussie friends, including the great Valerie Taylor, and am looking forward to making a movie in Queensland, a romantic comedy called Lucky Valentine."
Christopher also reveals he's been quietly dating Byron Bay businesswoman Justine McIllree, the daughter of former Aussie modelling icon Janice Wakely.
"We met several years ago through Valerie (Taylor). She's smart and fun, and I can't wait to get back to Australia to see her. Long distance romances should never be a thing," he laughs.