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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 1)

Moore and Willis have been married almost nine years, since Nov. 21, 1987—"Knock wood," she says with a smile, and then knocks wood. She met Willis not long after ending a difficult three-year relationship with actor Emilio Estevez. The couple have houses in Idaho and Malibu, California, and an apartment in Manhattan. They are also among the celebrity partners in Planet Hollywood (others include Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone).

In these days of swiftly vanishing celebrity marriages, the Willis-Moore partnership is, if not a record, at least an accomplishment. Are there any secrets to their relative longevity?

"I have no idea," Moore says. "Marriage for anyone takes a lot of commitment, compromise and just plain old desire to want to be together and walk through the good and bad times equally. I don't think we have any secret. I think we are pretty much just like everybody else trying to go through it. We certainly have extra pressures because we are both in the limelight, and sometimes it feels as if the public doesn't want to allow any normal mistake or struggle you may have without amplifying it and making it into the worst thing possible.

"But I think other than that we're pretty normal. And I think it helps that we stay focused on our life together and not on our work, which we keep very separate. That has so far worked for us. My work is my work and his work is his. We share it as we choose to, but I don't need him to read every script I'm interested in, and vice versa. I think that makes being together much more our priority—the joy of the things we get to do as a couple and the things we do with our children, keeping our interest on each other as individuals. And I think the fact that we live in Idaho, that we don't live in the town where our industry is based, also makes a huge difference."

There are times, of course, when their film careers don't allow them to see each other as much as they would like. But there are also advantages to a film life. "Obviously, our work takes us apart, takes us on location," Moore says. "Sometimes we work in different places at the same time, which means we have no choice but to be apart. But we have very fortunately in almost nine years made a conscious choice not to be apart for more than two weeks. We always get together, even if it's just for a day or a weekend. And the thing most people don't realize is that while our work does take us apart more than those who can be together year-round, we have something that people without our lifestyle don't—we have the opportunity to take two or three months off together. That kind of quality certainly makes up for the times we are apart. We just look on it as an alternative lifestyle—if we worked a 9 to 5 job and saw each other every day, and had only two weeks off a year, we might get sick of each other."

The children—Rumer Glenn, 8, Scout Larue, 5, and Tallulah Belle, 2—are "always with us," she says. "They have a wonderful home base, with the same school and the same friends, and yet they get to see amazing parts of the world that they would never experience if they were only in one place." Two of the children have already begun their own film careers. Tallulah had a brief role in The Scarlet Letter as Hester Prynne's child, and Rumer had a much bigger part in Striptease.

Moore says that the earliest memories of her own childhood include the recurring desire to be a movie star. "I can't remember not wanting to be one," she says. Her childhood, however, was not the happiest—and it is a subject on which she prefers not to dwell: "It's just that it's been done."

Demi Guynes was born on Nov. 11, 1962, in Roswell, New Mexico, to Danny and Virginia Guynes. Her parents were both teenagers. Her father sold newspaper advertising—when he could find work—and by the time Demi was 13 the family had lived in almost 30 towns. She was 15 when her parents divorced. Demi was, she once told McCall's, "lost"; she felt as if she "was nothing." Her father committed suicide when she was 18, and she is estranged from her mother.

She left high school at 16 and began pursuing a career as a model and actress. When Demi was 18, she met and briefly married a 30-year-old rock performer named Freddy Moore. She was now living in Los Angeles, and she tried a few acting classes, practicing with a young neighbor who was also trying to start a film career: Nastassja Kinski. She got her first big break at age 19, landing a role on the TV soap opera "General Hospital." Two years later, in 1984, she was cast as Michael Caine's sexually precocious daughter in Blame It on Rio. Next came her breakthrough role, as the wild, drug-addicted Jules in St. Elmo's Fire, a character who Hollywood insiders said bore more than a passing resemblance to the actress who portrayed her. But when the director threatened to throw her off the set, Moore entered a rehabilitation center—and put that unhappy part of her life behind her.

Moore has said that in those years she used alcohol and drugs "to hide my feelings." These days, looking back, she says that she has "no regrets."

"I think that everything that happens to us in our lives makes us who we are right now," she says. "So I wouldn't change one thing. Not one thing. It's not through ease that the things that are good come to you, that you learn how to excel. It's through the adversity. It's through overcoming obstacles that we grow, that we have perspective and appreciation. How do you understand gain if you don't understand loss?

"My parents gave me the best they could. They gave me a lot. And the things they didn't have spurred me to reach for what I didn't get. So I have no regrets in my life, and I don't blame anyone for anything, because I still have an opportunity to strive for the things that weren't."

The next morning. Sick bay. A long, narrow stucco building, pale yellow, a mile or so from the barracks. It's the real sick bay; the producers have persuaded the camp officials to move the ill soldiers to a tent set up nearby. The movie lights are shining through the windows, but this day the sun is shining, too.

Inside, on a white-sheeted bed, Demi Moore is seated, in white bra and dark pants. Another actress, in a dark blue uniform, a Navy nurse, examines Moore's blood-stained back—for the eighth time. The camera is rolling. The nurse touches a bruise. Moore winces. The nurse pauses, looks at Moore. "Why are you doing this?" she asks.

Moore hesitates. "Do you ask the men the same question?"

"As a matter of fact, yes, I do."

"What do they say?"

The nurse pauses again. " 'Because I get to blow shit up.' "

They look at each other. Slowly, hesitatingly, they laugh.

"There you go," Moore says.

From a corner of the room comes the voice of director Scott: "Cut." After eight takes, he is happy; Moore isn't.

"Let's do two more takes," she says. She wants to get that laugh just right, lighten it up. Scott says he thinks it's right the way it is, a little subdued. She says she thinks it will work better if she and the nurse share the laugh "just a little more." He thinks a moment, and agrees. They do it two more times. And then a third. And then a fourth. They speed it up, try to make it even more natural.

The nurse and Moore laugh, one more time.

"Cut," the director says. Moore nods. She thinks they've got it.

Back in the trailer, midafternoon, rested after her 40-minute run, Moore explains.

"The dynamic of the scene was that I have been under constant pressure because I'm a woman," she says. "I've been the outcast. So Jordan at that moment is a little hypersensitive to anybody's comments. And it turns into a moment of comfort for me; she is communicating to me, 'Don't lose your sense of humor, don't lose sight of the big picture.' She's communicating that she's my friend. It's what's underneath the lines, the subtext, that matters. Because the scene is ultimately about finding support in a world where I'm really standing on my own. And there were subtle differences in the takes, and the moment when we finally hit it, it just fell into place. It evolved as we were doing it. The joy for me is in the collaboration.

I have to be there to see where the other actor is going, what she is thinking about, what she wants to do. It's my favorite way to work. I rely on my intuition."

Her work as an actress, she says, is "100 percent instinct. I haven't had years of learning in acting class. It just didn't go that way for me. Not because I ever felt I was so wonderful I didn't need it. I'm sure I could use plenty of guidance. Actually, I was too insecure to want to take that path. I always just felt that if I got in a class and somebody said, 'Boy, you're really not good, and maybe you should consider something else,' I would have had to, and I thought that if I could fake it long enough maybe I could figure it out. There's that old saying, 'Fake it until you make it,' and I think I might have been skating on that thin ice for a while in the hope nobody would find me out. I never even really had the ability to put myself in that kind of learning situation until right before I did Ghost, when I worked in New York with a teacher named Harold Guskin. I enjoyed it, but being in a class would probably still be intimidating for me."

One thing Moore does not find in the least intimidating is a good cigar. "I've been smoking them on and off for seven years," she says. "I started just really for the fun of it. I saw people smoking, usually just men because back then you didn't see very many women smoking cigars. And of course my husband smokes them. And I wanted to find out what it was about it that they found so appealing."

Her first serious cigar, she says, was "a large, strong Montecristo, and I thought it was way too much for me. But then I discovered the smaller cigars, and I began to have my romance with them."

She knew her relationship with cigars had reached a new level when her friends "Tom and Nicole"—as in Cruise and Kidman—gave her a traveling humidor. "It's my work humidor. I keep it in my trailer. I keep it stocked with a variety of cigars, ones I like and ones I have available for other people."

These days, she says, "I switch between the small Cohiba Panatela and the little Montecristo Joyitas. But now I've graduated to where I sometimes have a Cohiba No. 2 or a Montecristo No. 2. I like a mild cigar. And I like it not to be too large. I have small hands and a small head, and I don't want a cigar that's bigger than both of those parts of my body. I like the flavor. I like the taste. I enjoy the smell of a good cigar. It relaxes me. It's a great social activity, because there's something about smoking a cigar that feels like a celebration. It's like a fine wine. There's a quality, a workmanship, a passion that goes into the making of a fine cigar."

In an interview five years ago in The New York Times, Moore said that one goal in her life was seeking "inner peace." These days, she says, she feels she is on her way. "It's a never-ending journey," she says, "but I feel that my understanding, my comfort level and my overall serenity has grown tenfold. It's a matter of time, age, experience and acceptance. We spend a lot of the early part of our lives viewing only what we don't like about ourselves. And then slowly we start, little by little, to gain perspective about the things that aren't so bad about who we are. The general feeling that we're never enough is more common than people like to admit, and just that recognition brings about inner peace."

She does not like to think far ahead, so she doesn't really know what her goals are for five or 10 years from now. There's the hope that perhaps she'll be able to make movies that "are maybe a little bit smaller, a little bit more intimate, a little bit more about character and not about how many people they'll reach."

"But I don't really know what I'll be looking for then," she says. "I may decide that I don't want to work, that I want to just stay at home for two years. Or maybe I'll want to travel with my children for a year, take them someplace else to live. I just know I want to try to be in the moment as much as possible. Because it's fleeting. And nothing reminds me more of that than my children."


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