Demi Moore’s explicit new film “The Substance ”restored her excitement in acting after almost walking away

Demi Moore’s explicit new film “The Substance ”restored her excitement in acting after almost walking away

"I went through a period of even questioning whether this is what I should still be doing," Moore tells EW after the gory Cannes film's huge standing ovation.

It's hard to imagine the Hollywood machine moving on without one of its most recognizable faces, but Demi Moore reveals to Entertainment Weekly that, before joining her buzzy body horror Cannes breakout The Substance, she considered stepping away from acting altogether.

Moore nestles comfortably on a sofa with her beloved (and tiny) dog, Pilaf, as she joins our video call, basking not only in the light trickling in from a nearby window but also the glow of the warm reception the film received at its premiere over the weekend.

The 61-year-old, who rose to international prominence in a string of "Brat Pack" ensemble films highlighting the youth experience of the 1980s, says that she's "humbled and excited" by the reception to The Substance, which marks a number of firsts for the industry veteran. For starters, she's never fronted a Cannes premiere before, let alone received a reported 11-minute standing ovation. The project, about an aging actress who resorts to a black-market drug to create a younger, better version of herself, also sees Moore sloshing herself in more gore than she's ever waded through and includes a headline-making "full-frontal" nudity scene.

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage; Courtesy Cannes Film Festival</p> Demi Moore at Cannes ; Moore in 'The Substance'

Samir Hussein/WireImage; Courtesy Cannes Film Festival

Demi Moore at Cannes ; Moore in 'The Substance'

Between The Substance and her supporting turn in the FX limited series Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, 2024 is shaping up to be a major return to prominence for Moore. While she doesn't call it a comeback, she gets why others might and is grateful for the enthusiasm.

“It’s not like I ever officially left, but I understand the sentiment and appreciate it because there hasn’t been a project or a role that has come along that has been this dynamic for me to really dive into and sink my teeth into,” she explains. “I went through a period of even questioning whether this is what I should still be doing. In the last four years or so, I felt that it was a personal question that I wanted to explore and see. Was this where I should be putting my energy? When you plant seeds, you wait to see what grows.”

The Ghost and Indecent Proposal actress says the roots of her internal conflict, however, began years ago. She initially took a lengthy sabbatical after the release of two 1997 films, G.I. Jane and Deconstructing Harry, to spend time with her children.

"I re-engaged and did Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and a few things. It’s changed, but at that time, there was a feeling like I didn’t quite know where I fit. I worked, I did some things — some good things I’m proud of, like Margin Call," she says of the 2011 thriller. Still, Moore remembers a period when she was "questioning my own ability, my own value, my own place" as she laid the foundation for her next steps in Hollywood.

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Her path since has led her here, to Cannes, where reviews and social media chatter about The Substance have suggested an allegorical connection to Moore, who, like her character, Elizabeth, was a veteran performer at a career crossroads.

"Like the film, it doesn't matter what's going on outside of you, it has to do with what's going on inside of you," Moore explains. “Dealing with aging, feeling rejection, and also that external seeking of validation. There were aspects of it that I feel we’ve all had moments with. The setting gives it a heightened perspective and helps to punctuate the issues, because, as for any of us, when you’re put out there to allow yourself to be criticized, it takes on a bigger life."

After all, there's mirth amid the muck, blood, and shocking elements, too. Moore describes the film as "Dorian Gray meets Death Becomes Her and a Jane Fonda workout video," referencing Elizabeth's late-career gig as an exercise video queen. That makes the prospect all the more exciting, as a blend of camp, grotesque imagery, and visually disturbing elements — including, as audiences have indicated, some rather shocking images of Moore in some seriously twisted prosthetics as the narrative progresses.

<p>Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty; Courtesy Cannes Film Festival</p> Demi Moore at Cannes; Moore in 'The Substance'

Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty; Courtesy Cannes Film Festival

Demi Moore at Cannes; Moore in 'The Substance'

The actress is aware that the film shows off — literally and figuratively — sides of her that audiences aren't used to, such as the aforementioned nudity that Moore feels is important to properly contextualize.

“It’s the smallest part of the film," she says, comparing it not to a "powerful exposed moment" from Emma Thompson's 2022 drama Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, where the character "is just looking at herself, as she is."

Adds Moore: "It was an important part of the vulnerability. I have more a curiosity of how, in certain media, that’s becoming almost a way of shaming and diminishing.”

She had help getting comfortable in the scene from costar Margaret Qualley, who plays a "new" version of Elizabeth who literally grows out of her back. The 29-year-old helped bring much-needed levity behind the scenes.

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“We had to do these moments of switching, on this cold tile floor, and we’re both nude and laying there. There’s an aspect of it that was so absurd and funny," remembers Moore. "Knowing that we had each other, looking out for each other, it's just impossible not to find the absurdity of it humorous. At some point, I said, ‘Thank God we like each other, because otherwise this would be really awkward!'"

It's refreshing to see Moore's smile — and the sparkle in her eye — when talking about her experience of filming The Substance and navigating its enthusiastic reaction, especially considering she was contemplating abandoning Hollywood for good.

Now, with The Substance generating whispers of future Oscar glory at this early stage of the awards race (another first for Moore, who surprisingly doesn't have an Academy Award nomination to her credit — yet), the icon has a renewed perspective on fitting in, or at least making space for herself to exist on her own terms.

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“However it wants to be characterized on the outside, I’m just really enjoying it all," she says of her "comeback" era, later adding: "I’m not on any other side [now] — I’m on the inside."

The Substance, directed by Coralie Fargeat and also starring Dennis Quaid, does not have a confirmed release date, though Mubi is expected to distribute it in the near future.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.