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No Apologies No Regrets

From the roles she plays to the cigars she smokes, actress Demi Moore makes her own choices.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96

(continued from page 2)

"So," she says, taking a seat and facing her visitor directly, "what would you like to talk about?"

The current movie seems a natural starting point—and in talking about Lieut. Jordan O'Neil, Moore will seem more often than not to be talking about herself.

"This story addresses the issue of whether women should be in combat," she says. "We try to see if a woman can meet the standards that a man would have to measure up to. What attracted me is that the character is a woman challenging herself beyond what her normal expectations of herself would be. And because the arena she is challenging herself in is one of physical strength, I found it was interesting to put myself in a position where it's inevitable that she will be weaker, and to see how she can face that fact and overcome that obstacle to succeed. Stepping into a masculine world but maintaining everything about the character that's a woman is fascinating. And besides, the tomboy side of me really needed a place to go."

After all, Moore says, "on the set it's me and a lot of men. So it's addressing my masculine side, the part of me that has always been able to be one of the boys. It's the part that's aggressive in the sense of being assertive. And it's embraced, because I'm with a bunch of men, and as opposed to being looked on as too domineering, or too pushy, being called macho or butch, I find they're happy to let me be what I am. We're all out there acting rough and talking rough and smoking cigars and cussing up a storm, and there's great joy in the camaraderie. As a woman, you don't often get a chance to step into a situation like that. Women have that camaraderie among themselves now more than they ever have, but men inherently have it. It's socially ingrained."

The movie and the preparation for it have at times been grueling, she says, but she loves it. "I'm just having a blast," she says. "On many days it doesn't feel like work. I did pre-training for the movie where we went through a modified SEAL training. I showed up at 6 a.m., me and 40 guys, some extras, some actors, we were all thrown into it, and they kicked my ass until 4 p.m. and I didn't say boo. I loved it."

The role, she says, is completely different from the stripper she portrays in Striptease, "who is so inherently feminine."

"I try to find roles that are completely different from what I've done before," she says. "I'm just trying to keep it interesting, to challenge myself, and the only way to do that is to stretch. If I stayed in the same mode it might be safer, but it just wouldn't be as challenging."

Demi moore portrait.

Moore acknowledges that the subject matter of Striptease is more than slightly controversial. "Yes, I know that some people feel that stripping is exploitive, that some women's groups have certain attitudes toward women who choose to do it," she says. "But what I discovered when I got on the inside of it was an interesting aspect of strength: not the down sides, which are fairly obvious, but the plus sides, which are not. Many of the women feel very empowered, not by taking their clothes off but by the fact that they have the ability to affect someone's emotions, to change a mood, to alter someone's experience, just like an actor does, male or female. The women also have a very good sense of themselves and their sensuality, a comfort with their bodies. And I also found that some of them feel quite empowered by the fact that they are doing a little dance and walking away with between $800 and $3,000 a night."

She also acknowledges that her most recent movies—The Juror, Now and Then, The Scarlet Letter—have not been as commercially or critically successful as she and her producers might have hoped, and that this fact is a potential cause for concern in terms of both the money she might make on films to come and the opportunities she might be offered. The Scarlet Letter, in which she starred as Hester Prynne, was blasted for making Nathaniel Hawthorne's sad ending a happy Hollywood one, and critics questioned whether a twentieth century sexpot was the right choice to portray a seventeenth century adulteress. But Moore is both philosophical and optimistic.

"In the balance of my track record of pluses and minuses, I'm far into the pluses," Moore says. "No career is 100 percent. In truth, I have been fairly fortunate. But it's a crapshoot every time you go out. Sometimes you have a story you think has everything and it just doesn't work. Sometimes you do something that you think has nothing particularly commercial going for it and it turns out to be a big hit. Sometimes a film, like The Juror, actually gets decent reviews but doesn't do that well, and you can't explain it. You just never know. But I seem to just keep chugging along and keep moving through it.


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