Once upon a time, Ghost and Indecent Proposal star Demi Moore was the queen of the A-list. In fact, during the ’90s she was among the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. But suddenly Moore was just… gone. Sure, she was still an object of fascination for tabloid magazines and celebrity gossip sites, but her actual career seemed to have dramatically stalled. So what in the world happened? Well the story is, as it turns out, more complex than it might initially appear.
When Demi Moore, born Demi Guynes, became a bona fide movie star, it threw the struggles of her early life into sharp relief. Moore grew up in a trailer park with her mother and stepfather, as her biological father had walked out on the family before she was even born. Unfortunately, both parent figures had struggles with alcohol, and Moore’s childhood environment was problematic at best. So, by the time she was 16 years old, the aspiring actress had moved out of the family home.
That wasn’t the end of her troubles, mind you. When she was aged 17, her stepfather, Dan Guynes, took his own life using his car exhaust. And although the pair’s relationship hadn’t always been smooth sailing, Moore was nevertheless devastated. Things then seemed to look up. Less than a year later, she fell into the arms of musician Freddy Moore, and the two wed, with Moore taking the last name she uses to this day. Yet for all that, the union was over in four years.
What you may not know, however, is that Moore actually co-wrote some songs while she was with Freddy and also starred in one of his videos. Plus, she did a bit of nude modeling to make ends meet. Gradually, though, she decided that what she really wanted to do was act. And so in the early ’80s she started out, as many aspiring actors do, with small roles in minor movies. But then she got her big break: she was cast as reporter Jackie Templeton in the soap opera General Hospital.
Moore’s role in the popular soap propelled her from the small screen to the big one. In 1984 she appeared in the comedy flick Blame It on Rio; and while the movie was an absolute critical disaster, Moore’s acting talent was such that it didn’t destroy her. After that came St. Elmo’s Fire, which was likewise a critical fail – but not a financial one. What’s more, it established Moore as part of a new “Brat Pack” set of actors.
Having divorced Freddy, Moore began dating her St. Elmo’s Fire co-star Emilio Estevez, and in 1985 they got engaged. The couple also appeared together in the 1986 film Wisdom, as Moore gained more and more praise for her acting work. The relationship didn’t work out, however, and by the end of 1986 the pair had called off their wedding.
After that, of course, Moore found herself part and parcel of one of the most famous Hollywood power couples of the decade. Yes, she hooked up with Moonlighting actor Bruce Willis, and in 1987 she married him. By then, though, Moore was plenty famous enough on her own – and much more than just “Bruce Willis’ wife.” And the 1990 movie Ghost confirmed it.
It was Ghost that really established Moore as an A-lister. As many remember, she starred opposite Patrick Swayze in the romantic classic, and their “potter’s wheel” love scene remains an iconic movie moment even now. The film grossed over $505 million, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and won Moore a Golden Globe nomination for her role, too. No small success, then. And for the next few years, it seemed like Moore was absolutely unstoppable.
The year 1991 saw a defining moment in Moore’s career, although it wasn’t anything to do with acting. That year, pregnant with her second child, she posed naked for Vanity Fair – and shocked the entire world. Some newsstands even refused to stock the issue, claiming it was no better than pornography. But there was no doubt that the picture marked a huge cultural shift in the way pregnancy was viewed.
Throughout the ’90s, Moore then managed to be both an accomplished actress and a world-famous sex symbol. Unfortunately, though, and like many famous women both before and after her, she had difficulty reconciling these two sides of her image. Furthermore, her reputation as a diva – reportedly, she was prone to outrageous demands on movie sets – didn’t help matters, either. And it all came to a head with the infamous 1996 erotic movie Striptease.
There was surely no way anybody expected Striptease, directed by Andrew Bergman, to fail as hard as it did. Moore received an unprecedented $12.5 million to star in the movie, and the media stirred up a lot of excitement over the fact that she would be appearing topless. But it was all for nothing. The film was a massive flop, and to this day it’s considered one of the worst ever made. It appeared to be the beginning of the end for Moore, too.
It wasn’t quite over yet, though. You see, the following year director Ridley Scott offered Moore $11 million to star in his military movie G.I Jane, and she accepted. But that, too, wasn’t to work out. The movie grossed far less than executives had wanted, and talk of Moore’s behavior during production dampened audiences’ feelings towards her considerably. For example, according to insiders, she had demanded two planes to transport herself and her entourage during the promotional tour.
It was becoming clear to everyone that Moore was struggling to keep herself afloat in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. And she seemed to agree. What’s more, 1998 was a terrible year for her: she and Bruce Willis announced their separation, and just a few days later her estranged mother Virginia Guynes passed away from brain cancer. Moore, understandably, decided that the time had come for her to put her career on hold. So, she decided to concentrate on her children instead.
For the next few years, she lay low. Then, however, in the early ’00s, it looked like a comeback was on its way. Not only was she set to star in Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle alongside Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, but a new romantic entanglement of hers had caught the media’s attention, too. Many eyebrows were raised when her relationship with Ashton Kutcher, an actor 16 years her junior, became public.
Some media outlets even ruminated on the theory that the whole romance was for attention, with Moore allegedly seeking to improve her prospects by tying herself to a younger, more bankable star. And when her attempted acting comeback didn’t work out – Charlie’s Angels 2 performed poorly at the box office – the speculation only grew. That said, the couple proved cynics wrong in September 2005 when they walked up the aisle.
Moore then took on a number of small acting roles over the next few years. She and Kutcher both appeared in the 2006 film Bobby, and the year after that she did Mr. Brooks with Kevin Costner. However, it was becoming increasingly – and uncomfortably – clear that people were now interested in her way more for her personal life than for her acting. Then 2009 brought a minor scandal to her doorstep when the animal rights group PETA condemned her for her consistent wearing of fur.
Less controversially, she and husband Kutcher also made PETA’s “Worst-Dressed” list – and it didn’t bring the couple closer together. Rumors persisted that he was cheating on her with women closer to his own age, and it seems that there may have been some truth to those whisperings. You see, when Moore finally announced her split from Kutcher in 2011, it was with the following words: “There are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life.”
Unfortunately, Moore has yet to return her career to the level that it was at in the ’80s and ’90s. She’s still widely talked about, sure, but it’s frequently not for the right reasons. Yes, her personal problems appear to have currently eclipsed all else. After her split from Kutcher, the media reported that one of the reasons he had left her was because she refused to get help for a drug problem. And in 2012 she was actually taken to hospital after mixing pills and having a seizure.
Sadly, 2012 was not a good year for Moore in general. After the drug incident, Radar Online claimed that Moore’s daughters were thinking of getting a restraining order put on their mother to stop her getting in contact. And whether or not this was true, it can’t have been a pleasant report for the actress to hear about. Then a few years later yet more trouble flared up for the star. In 2015 a man was found dead in her pool – although she hadn’t been staying at the property at the time.
Despite all of this, though, it’s not too late for Moore, now 54 years old, to put everything behind her and make a comeback. Currently, she’s getting herself back into the swing of things by acting in the Netflix show Wild Oats and the hip-hop drama Empire. And although it’s clear that many consider her to be a lost cause, plenty of other actors have come back from far worse. Moore may yet surprise everybody.