May 25, 2024

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demi moore, the substance, coralie fargeat, cannes, hollywood authentic cover

Photographs by GREG WILLIAMS

The last time Demi Moore graced the Cannes famous red steps she was a guest at the opening night film of 1997’s festival, The Fifth Element. This year she’s back for her first premiere in her own right, a blistering turn in Coralie Fargeat’s feminist body-horror The Substance. And with her tiny 1.5lb Chihuahua (and Insta star), Pilaf.

She admitted to ‘nervous butterflies excitement’ before walking the carpet dressed in showstopping Schiaparelli haute couture as Greg Williams shot her in her hotel on Cannes’ famous Croisette. The film requires Moore to be vulnerable both physically and emotionally as it charts a movie star who is sacked for being too old and seeking redemption in the form of a shady procedure called The Substance that promises a ‘younger, more beautiful, more perfect you’. That version of herself is ‘born’ from her own body (a truly horrific sequence) as Margaret Qualley, and the two alter-egos duel for supremacy in a misogynist world that values youth and beauty over all else. The role requires a lack of vanity from Moore via full frontal nudity and unflattering lighting, as her character grapples with mortality and external validation. ‘It’s about the male perspective of the idealised women that we have bought into,’ she says.

demi moore, dennis quaid, the substance, coralie fargeat, cannes
demi moore, the substance, coralie fargeat, cannes

‘I saw it as a challenge in the best way,’ Moore reflects on taking the project. ‘I look for material that pushes me out of my comfort zone – if something scares me a little bit then I know there’s an opportunity… that on the other side I would come out it a better person.’ The nudity needed was something that wasn’t shied away from in initial discussions. ‘It was spelled out, the level of vulnerability and rawness that was required to tell this story. It was a very vulnerable experience and it required going into it with a lot of sensitivity and finding that common ground of mutual trust.’

In Qualley, Moore says, she found a ‘great partner who I felt very safe with’. ‘We obviously were quite close in certain moments, naked! It allowed us a lot of levity in those moments at how absurd those situations were.’

The film received a standing ovation at its premiere and rave reviews from the press who praised the profundity and prescience of its subject matter – alongside gleeful squirts of blood, icky injections and some thrillingly gross body horror to challenge Cronenberg. ‘There has been a wake-up to a demographic that is deserving of being served,’ Moore says of the film’s Feminist slant. ‘You’re starting to see a lot more stories that are reflecting that audience and it’s nice!’ That’s not to say the movie is male-bashing. ‘We’re not anti-men – we’re just anti-jerks.’

The performance heralds a return to cinema for Moore after an absence and based on audience response in Cannes, marks the start of more to come. As co-star Dennis Quaid commented during the Cannes press conference of experiencing the premiere; ‘I was so glad to be here to see the beginning of an incredible third act for Demi.’

Demi Moore wears Schiaparelli. Necklace and earrings by Chopard
The Substance premiered at the 77th Cannes Film Festival and will be released by MUBI later this year. To see our review out of Cannes click here

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