Actress, tabloid fodder, provocative Vanity Fair cover piece: the husky-voiced brunette Demi Moore is nothing if not an unforgettable roadside attraction on the pop culture highway. Rising to prominence with a string of successful films during the '80s and early '90s, Moore became known for both her onscreen and offscreen ability to draw attention for everything from her grin-and-bare-it roles in films like Striptease to her well-publicized marriage to (and divorce from} Bruce Willis.
Born Demetria Guynes in Roswell, NM, on November 11, 1962, Moore led a troubled childhood. To call it tumultuous would be something of an understatement: along with her mother, half-brother and stepfather, she moved no less than 30 times before her adolescence, thanks to her stepfather's job as a newspaper ad salesman. The problems that went along with such an itinerant lifestyle were compounded by the dysfunctional, sometimes abusive relationship between Moore's mother and stepfather. The latter committed suicide when Moore was 15, around the time that she discovered that he was not her biological father. She dropped out of school a year later and did some modeling in Europe. When she was 18, Moore married rocker Freddy Moore; the union lasted four years, during which time the actress landed her first role playing Jackie Templeton on the TV daytime drama General Hospital.
Moore made her film debut in 1981, appearing in both the coming-of-age drama Choices and the schlock-tastic Parasite. Following a bit role in 1982's Young Doctors in Love, she had her first lead role in No Small Affair (1984) as an aspiring rock singer opposite Jon Cryer. Her real breakthrough came the next year, when she starred as an unstable member of a group of college friends in St. Elmo's Fire. Apparently, her onscreen instability mirrored her offscreen condition at the time; she was reportedly fired from the film at one point and then rehired after going into drug rehab. The film was a hit, and Moore, along with such co-stars as Emilio Estevez (to whom she was engaged for three years), Rob Lowe, and Ally Sheedy, became a member of the infamous "Brat Pack."
Fortunately for Moore, she managed to avoid the straight-to-oblivion fate of other Brat Pack members, increasing her fame and resume with films like About Last Night (1986) and The Seventh Sign (1988). Her fame further increased in 1987 when she wed Bruce Willis in a Las Vegas ceremony presided over by singer Little Richard. In 1990, Moore had her biggest hit to date with Ghost, a romantic drama that cast her as the grieving girlfriend of the deceased Patrick Swayze. A huge success, Ghost secured Moore a place on the A-list, something she managed to sustain despite the subsequent twin flops of The Butcher's Wife and Mortal Thoughts, both released in 1991. That same year, Moore gained exposure of a different sort when she appeared nude and hugely pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair; the resulting hoopla gained her more attention than either of her movies that year. She was back on the magazine's cover the following year, nude again but fetus-free and sporting a layer of artfully applied body paint. The controversy surrounding her cover-girl appearances may have helped Moore weather similar flak around her next feature, 1993's Indecent Proposal. The story of a woman (Moore) who agrees to a one-night stand with a wealthy man (Robert Redford) for one million dollars after she and her husband (Woody Harrelson) find themselves in dire financial straits, Proposal was decried by a number of feminist groups as well as various film critics and went on to be another big, if controversial, hit for Moore.
Following the commercial success of Indecent Proposal, Moore's career hit something of a downward spiral. 1994's Disclosure proved a disappointment, and the following year's Now and Then (which she also produced) staged a similarly wan performance at the box office; however, it was Moore's other film that year, a "free,"or, as some would say, staggeringly misguided, adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, that had critics howling and audiences cowering like small children being forced to watch German expressionist films. An unintentionally hilarious rendering of the classic tale, it featured Moore's Hester Prynne exposing plenty of skin, luxuriating in what must have been one of Puritan New England's few hot tubs, having steamy sex on a shifting bed of grain, and walking off into the sunset with her beloved Reverend Dimmesdale (a moody Gary Oldman).
Following this debacle, Moore took refuge on safer grounds, lending her voice to Disney's animated The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996; however, that same year, she encountered another career pitfall in the form of Striptease. Based on Carl Hiaasen's satirical novel about a divorcée who turns to stripping so that she can raise money to win back custody of her daughter, the tonally inconsistent film proved a failure, despite titillating advertisements promising that Moore would bare all for audiences. The actress' career suffered a further blow with the disappointment of Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane in 1997, and she found herself getting more attention for her offscreen life as she was, by that point, embroiled in a very public divorce from Willis. The two formally separated in 1998.
Although her career in front of the camera suffered, Moore managed to do well for herself as a producer. In 1997, she produced the hugely successful Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and served in the same capacity for its mega-hit sequels, 1999's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and 2002's Austin Powers in Goldmember. In 2000, Moore returned to the screen to star in Alain Berliner's Passion of Mind, a psychological drama that cast the actress in a dual role as two women who lead different lives but are tied by a single identity.
The year 2003 brought Moore back to the spotlight in a big way -- not only did the 41-year-old actress play the shockingly buff-bodied bad guy in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, she gave the paparazzi something of a godsend by dating Punk'd and That '70s Show heartthrob Ashton Kutcher, sixteen years her junior. The two wed in late September 2005, at a ceremony attended by hundreds, including Bruce Willis and his three daughters with Moore; they later divorced amid tremendous media scrutiny in 2011.
Moore maintained a lower profile after this union, but returned to the spotlight for former flame Estevez's ambitious political period-ensemble Bobby, about the events leading up to Robert Kennedy's assasination. Among the star-studded cast, Moore was given a showy, standout role as an alcoholic lounge singer; there was room, too, for Kutcher, as an acid-dropping hippie. The film garnered decidedly mixed reviews, even if Moore attracted some attention for her part.
In 2007 the actress joined the cast of director Bruce A. Evans's psychological thriller Mr. Brooks, as a tough-as-nails detective on the trail of Kevin Costner's titular, obsessive suburban serial killer. The movie suffered an ignominious fate at the box office, and Moore was singled out by critics for her implausibility. This didn't stop her from taking on new projects, however, starring with Parker Posey in the 2009 comedy Happy Tears in 2009, and playing the female lead in the 2011 Wall Street drama Margin Call, before joining the cast of the romantic comedy LOL in 2012. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi