Inside Out: A Memoir by Demi Moore
For moviegoers who came of age in the 1980s and 90s, Demi Moore was a fixture, a bona fide star in the cinematic firmament. She hit all the notes: a breakthrough role in the Brat Pack vehicle St Elmo’s Fire; Hollywood soundstage wedding with a fellow movie star; box-office dominance with Ghost and A Few Good Men; controversy-stoking magazine covers; and an unusual brand of activism, one which shifted the paradigm for the compensation of female actors and ultimately led to a lengthy period away from the spotlight, during which she raised her three daughters in the relative privacy of Hailey, Idaho.
All this is canvassed in Moore’s remarkable memoir, Inside Out, which she publishes as a 56-year-old, thrice-divorced, sober woman. Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of her story, which is candid and self-reflective – not universal characteristics of the form – is its stratospheric trajectory. She achieved the impossible.
Moore was born in Roswell, New Mexico, to teenage parents who gave her a peripatetic childhood marked by household instability and their chronic addictions and infidelity. She was 11 when she intervened in her mother’s suicide attempt, 15 when she was raped by a family acquaintance who claimed her mother had arranged the assault for money, and 16 when her father took his own life.
If the memoir feels pacy, it’s because everything in Moore’s life was accelerated, from the abrupt conclusion of her childhood to her first marriage at 17. Before she was out of her teens, she was on a hit soap and starring in a movie with Michael Caine. A second marriage, and motherhood, happened by 25. Little wonder that when she met Ashton Kutcher, the 15-years-younger actor who would become husband #3, “it almost felt like a do-over, like I could just go back in time and experience what it was like to be young, with him – much more so than I’d ever been able to experience it when I was actually in my twenties.”
There are matters on which she doesn’t touch, namely plastic surgery and whatever she did to prepare for her comeback in the Charlie’s Angels sequel – the rumour at the time was of ‘work’ worth $500,000. But Moore is open, repeatedly, about her poor body image, surely a plague on many women in big-budget studio films. She was horrified at the prospect of appearing in bathing suits and partially nude in early film roles. She recounts resuming exercise the day after giving birth to her second child, because rehearsals for her next film were only a month away.
Think of the pressure: Moore is offered a leading role alongside screen titans Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, in a film written by Aaron Sorkin, and ‘”The first thing in my head was, I’m going to have to get in shape really fast.”
It was only after the grueling process of making GI Jane, in which she played the first woman to go through Navy SEAL training, that Moore finally relented: “I could barely remember a time when I wasn’t trying to dominate and control my body – for a long time, it was the only thing I could control.” Other control issues manifested in her own addictions and relapses, and the memoir bravely explores her history of treatment and recovery.
For all Moore’s frankness – and to her credit, she is even-handed and does not appear to be settling scores or flattering herself – she seems to be holding something back. Many anecdotes about the making of her films and their crews and co-stars are relatively superficial, and she mostly avoids delving into the politics and personalities of the Hollywood cauldron she has lived and worked in for nearly 40 years. But it’s not that kind of book – read Inside Out for a self-portrait of a woman whose familiar, tranquil beauty belies a secret history of adversity, pain and triumph.
Reviewer: Stephanie Jones
Published by HarperCollins