It’s a sunny day in early December, and Demi Moore, currently starring in Disclosure as wicked corporate siren Meredith Johnson (opposite Michael Douglas, who will evidently never learn what type of woman to avoid), is standing in the white, airy kitchen of a rented house in Savannah, Ga. Her youngest daughter, 10 1/2-month-old Tallulah Belle, who looks so much like her father, Bruce Willis, that you want to buy her a diminutive shoulder holster and a tiny stick-on goatee, sits in a highchair, playing with keys and occasionally gurgling with delight as her mother chants, “Mommy is a goofball. Mommy is a goofball.”
Being in a business that involves travel, Moore, 32, has obviously learned to take domestic stability with her on a career march that has moved from fictional Port Charles, the locale of General Hospital, on which the then 19-year-old actress debuted as mystery girl Jackie Templeton, to equally fictional but far classier 17th-century New England, where she will soon be appearing as Hester Prynne opposite Gary Oldman’s Reverend Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter. She is herself the product of a peripatetic childhood (“We moved, literally, on the average of every six months,” she says) – and a less-than-stable one: Her mother (whose 1993 skin-magazine pictorial Moore declines to discuss) and the stepfather who raised Moore married and divorced twice before finally separating when she was 15. This near-constant state of flux in her formative years made her a quick study: “I was like MTV in the way I processed as a kid –– rapid-fire –– because that’s just the way life was for me. There were no real attachments, you couldn’t afford them. I stayed with my grandmother for a short period, and the difference between my grandmother and my mother was interesting because my grandmother had to go out and provide for her family at great cost to her nurturing side, and I saw what my mother became in reaction to that –– which was really very happy to be a housewife. So seeing the two of them gave me a sense of the balance I wanted to look for.”
In perhaps a less programmatic way, Moore’s career also reflects the long-term benefits of moderation: She has had high-profile roles in Ghost and Indecent Proposal that elevated her to the status of momentary icon of American womanhood. But unlike such contemporaries as Sharon Stone or Julia Roberts, Moore has never had the kind of mixed-blessing success that binds an actress to type. In 1991 she starred in and produced Mortal Thoughts, a vanity project in reverse in which both she and her husband, Bruce Willis, give interestingly unsympathetic performances. She is now producing The Gaslight Addition, a Stand by Me for girls (in which she has a small role as one of the girls grown up, alongside Melanie Griffith, Rita Wilson and Rosie O’Donnell).
It is Gaslight that has brought Moore to Savannah, and although it is only lunchtime and she was on the set until 3 in the morning the night before –– and will be again on the night to come and is flying to New York to do the Late Show with David Letterman on the night after –– she has already worked out, attended dailies, given an interview, played with the baby, showered, changed and sung the same two lines from Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” 700 or 800 times. It’s a catchy song, and the lines are stuck in her head –– along with the line “Don’t want no short-dick man . . . ” from the 20 Fingers hit, which is less suitable for infants and which she saves for the set (“I can’t tell you how many men get really quiet,” she says).
On the set, Moore will finish the day in a burst of glamour on a cold, dark intersection in nearby Statesboro, where a Gaslight scene involves a rainmaker that pours on the glamorous and nonglamorous alike. By then she will have been on the go for 12 hours and facing what any producer faces when the issue is how to get two 12-year-old girls and one 70-year-old man to climb out of a manhole in the rain with everyone’s heads, hands, butts and dialogue in the right place.
My point is that Moore is a busy woman and one who takes her work as seriously as she does her family, which also includes her 6-year-old, Rumer, and her 3-year-old, Scout, who are in Los Angeles with their father. (“Dear Demi My Darling,” reads a fax from her husband of seven years on the trailer wall. “How are you, my angel? Is you at work or what?… . . . Do you still look the same? Fax my ass or something! Love, your ever-lovin’ Daddio.”) So seriously that Michael Douglas supplies this comment via a publicist without, in fact, having been asked anything: “Demi gets more done in a day than most guys do in a week. She’s really running on all cylinders.” Donald Sutherland, who graces Disclosure with his godlike presence, says, “She minimized everything, which is a good thing in cinema acting. That sex scene? That’s really hard to do, and she did it well. She didn’t ever seem to be in a bad mood. That must mean things are working out how she wants them to, right?”