Daily Express, November 2002. “Demi’s Back And Looking Like An Angel” by Sally Eyden, featuring interview with Nigel.
For most Hollywood actresses, reaching their 40th birthday signals the end of their movie career – a time when Tinseltown quietly puts them out to pasture, in a condo in Beverly Hills, to live out the rest of their days writing their memoirs. Indeed, that was what everyone thought would happen to Demi Moore when, after a run of film flops and a messy divorce from Bruce Willis, she suddenly dropped off the face of Planet Celebrity five years ago.
She vowed never to make another movie and swapped Hollywood for motherhood devoting her life to her three daughters – Rumer, Scout and Tallulah. She decamped to the dusty village of Hailey, Idaho, with its population of just 6,500 – roughly the number of therapists in Los Angeles, her former home.
Rumours reached the gossip columns that Demi had become naturalised into the normal world. She was pictured attending parent teacher meetings wearing baggy dungarees rather than designer dresses. Then, just as Equity was about to strike her name off its membership list, Demi, once the most highly paid actress in Hollywood, decided to emerge from her self-imposed hibernation. What’s more, as the actress celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday, she proved that just as she once broke the wages glass ceiling for actresses, she is now rewriting the age rules.
Maybe it’s the water in Idaho but Moore is looking slimmer and more beautiful than ever. More importantly, she finally seems at peace with herself. Her personal life, rocked by scandal and insecurity, is now a source of comfort and happiness. And after seeing her credibility and bankability crash in the Nineties, her career in her fifth decade looks set to overshadow the halcyon days of her early 30s.
While she has shunned all acting offers during her hiatus, she has been quietly working behind the scenes to produce all three of the Austin Powers movies. The success of the trilogy, the increasing importance of Moore’s production company Moving Pictures and the actress’s professionalism has gone a long way to increase her standing among the Hollywood power players.
It is this new security that has given her the confidence to return to the big screen and make her first movie in five years. She is currently filming Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, with Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore, and experts are predicting it will be a bigger hit than the first Angels movie.
If it were not for the trademark smile and husky voice, it would be hard to believe that this is the same actress who limped off into the wilderness to lick her wounds after being savaged by critics following her performances in GI Jane and Striptease.
Demi first found fame in the early Eighties as part of the notorious Brat pack. Engaged to fellow brat Emilio Estevez, she made her name in the films St Elmo’s Fire and About Last Night. But it was in 1990 when she appeared opposite Patrick Swayze in Ghost that she became a bankable star. The cream of Hollywood’s men were lining up to work with her – Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, Robert Redford in Indecent Proposal and Michael Douglas in Disclosure.
Her personal life found similar success when she ditched Estevez to marry Tinseltown’s newest golden boy Bruce Willis.
But Hollywood happy endings are rare anywhere but on screen. She and Willis found the time to produce three daughters in their 11year marriage but their film schedules kept them so far apart that their relationship eventually broke down, leading to a messy divorce.
Then, despite being paid £12.5 million for Striptease – a record for an actress – critics ridiculed her performance. The Scarlet Letter and GI Jane followed but received the same treatment. She gained a reputation for being difficult to work with and, after demanding more money for each role, was given the nickname Gimme Moore. Only after the next wave of actresses, such as Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, were able to demand wages equal to those of their male co-stars, was Moore finally given the credit she deserved for trailblazing a path for equal pay.
“She was a huge influence in my life. She changed the business for women. She has an ultimate strength . . . she is enviably accomplished, ” says Drew Barrymore, who co-stars and produces Moore in Charlie’s Angels. Indeed, Barrymore wouldn’t settle for anyone other than Demi for the role of sexy villainess Madison Lee. “We wrote the part for her. We had to say please trust us,” she laughs.
But Nigel Goodall, author of the only biography of the actress – Demi Moore: The Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood, says her return to Hollywood has been a difficult journey: “After her films flopped she knew it was time to step out of the limelight. She said that every actor has a period of not doing so well and she knew that this was her time now. After her long run of successes she needed to sort herself out. Hollywood is a nasty place, ruled by money and movies and fuels any paranoia and insecurities.”
Unfortunately, Moore had these in abundance. Like many others before her, the seeds of her downfall were sown during her childhood. She has never been able to shake off the insecurities of the illegitimate kid born in a Roswell trailer park in New Mexico. “She was passed from pillar to post by her alcoholic mother and never really allowed to settle down, ” says Goodall. “Her father committed suicide when she was a teenager and she had an estranged relationship with her mother until her death in 1998.”
But when it came to her career, Demi refused to be intimidated. “Directors may have said she was difficult to work with when, in fact, what they meant was that she refused to be meek and roll over like other actresses of her time, ” Goodall continues. “She fought to make her character in Ghost stronger, with more personality. She sparked controversy in 1991 when, at eight months pregnant, she appeared naked on the cover of Vanity Fair because she was determined to show that women can still be beautiful when carrying a baby.
“She may have dropped out of the public eye in the last five years but she is still very much a legend in Hollywood.”
It may have been Ms Barrymore’s persuasive powers that coaxed Demi back to a film set but it was more likely she felt the demons of her past had been exorcised and time enough had passed to step back into the big screen limelight.
“Her children – Rumer, 14; Scout, 11 and eight-year-old Tallulah – are all a bit older now and I think she feels she can still be a responsible mother and go back to work, ” explains Goodall.
Added to that, her tumultuous personal life has calmed down and she has even grown close to ex-husband Willis, who has just moved into a house opposite Demi’s in Hailey. There have been stories of a possible rekindled romance – in the star-crossed lovers style of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor – but these have been quashed, albeit reluctantly, by Moore’s friend and producing partner Suzanne Todd.
“Liz Taylor and Richard Burton? My own personal wishful thinking. But you never know, it could happen. Demi and Bruce are good together, even as friends and parents, ” says Suzanne.
In the middle of her hibernation, Moore began a three-year relationship with a martial arts instructor from Idaho called Oliver hitcombe but the relationship fizzled out in June this year after Whitcombe, whom friends called “the most unflashy guy who ever walked the planet” didn’t want her to take part in the Charlie’s Angels sequel. Since then, Moore has given very clear signals that she is ready to step back into the celebrity spotlight with a rumoured romance with Leonardo Di Caprio, 12 years her junior.
Others have intimated that Demi simply got back her taste for the Hollywood buzz after the success of the Austin Powers’ films.
And at 40, it seems the actress, both physically and mentally, is in her prime.
“Five years ago, she stepped back [from the limelight] by choice, ” says Suzanne Todd. “It wasn’t like she wasn’t getting roles and being drummed out of business. She was at the top of her game. But now she is very happy and content. Now she’s at a place where she has come into her own. She’s embracing who she wants to be as a person and not focusing on how she looks but how she feels.”
And her inner contentment really shows. Demi’s figure now rivals that of Charlie’s Angels co-star Cameron Diaz and her face is remarkably unlined for a woman of 40. Yet again, she seems to have overcome the shadows of her past when she was plagued by insecurities about her looks, even taking out the breast implants she was once so proud of.
“She had a really bad squint, like a lazy eye, which was later corrected through surgery, but I think this started her obsession with her appearance, ” says Goodall.
Indeed, critics once accused the actress of needlessly flaunting her body and taking roles in films such as Striptease, just to show off her toned figure.
Yet, in an interview two years ago, she said: “The perception was that I was so in love with my body when in reality I was trying to overcome my insecurity.”
This insecurity must have grown when, struggling to lose weight after the birth of third daughter Tallulah, the actress was pictured in a bikini carrying a few pounds of cellulite on her legs. Yet she refused to blame the camera angle or bad light, like so many caught in similar unflattering poses.
Now she has stopped pounding the gym treadmill and eased off her gruelling two hours a day, six times a week exercise regime. She prefers keeping fit by swimming and roller blading with her children.
“The real difference with Demi today compared to how she was five years ago is that she looks happy – her inner contentment is shining through, ” adds Goodall. “She is in a completely different stage of life now. She has finally got a place she can call home and a stable family life. She is happy with her body and looks great with it.
“It is these factors that will ensure that when she returns to Hollywood, Demi Moore will be back for good.”