Demi Moore on the evolution of ageism for women in Hollywood

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In the 1970s, socialite Ann Woodward lived a tough life. That’s one of the first things Demi Moore learned about the former showgirl and model when she was assigned to portray her for FX’s ‘Feud: Capote vs. the Swans’. Creator Ryan Murphy had called with the offer and before Moore read anything, she told him, “Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”

And she never looked back. Moore first delved into Laurence Leamer’s 2023 book on which the series was based to learn more about Woodward, determined to ensure her portrayal was accurate – and that she knew what really happened. In 1955, Woodward shot and killed her husband after thinking he was a burglar. The jury ruled the death an accident, but speculation about whether that was true, along with the ostracism it brought, tormented her every day.

‘Was it an accident, or was it murder? For me it was very important to make sure, based on what I was playing and where I was coming from, that it was accurate and that it matched what I could find, which basically meant it was an accident.” says Moor. “So that way I wasn’t perpetuating any salacious gossip because there are family members still alive. There is a certain integrity you need and a fine line you have to walk.”

In 1975, Woodward took her own life after reading that Capote accused her of murder in an early excerpt of his book published in Esquire magazine.

While a big part of understanding Woodward’s mindset was the physical transformation — “the hair, the makeup, the clothes, it influences everything,” says Moore — the research was what informed her emotionally.

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“What were the important things? What were the goals and things she lived for? So much of it was about external validation. I think no matter who we are, we all understand that. We all relate to the desire to be seen and recognized,” says Moore. “Emotionally, the depth of her wound felt so old, like it had left her with some latent emotional development, like she was still dealing with mean girls from high school… She had such a hole and an emptiness inside her.”

Fortunately, on set with powerhouse women like Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny, Jessica Lange and Molly Ringwald, Moore felt the opposite. “How often do you see three women, let alone seven? Just to be in the company of such talented, creative artists who are my peers was just a joy,” she says, before adding, “We were playing our ages!”

That last part is extremely important; Watts recently shared that she was once told her career would be “over” at age 40 because that’s when you become “unfuckable.” Fortunately, the industry has improved for women… sort of.

“It has shifted. There has been an evolution, even from the age of forty, I would say. Because when I was 40 and didn’t look like what they thought 40 should look like, they didn’t know what to do with me,” Moore says. . “I actually didn’t work that much because I wasn’t in my twenties or thirties. I think if we really look at the deeper core of this, we’re looking at this old idea where the value and desirability of women was tied to their fertility.”

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She explains that once women reached a certain age, “it was like there was shame attached to being sexual or having desires, because it was only tied to the fact that it was for the purpose of it versus the independence of it. So I think now that we’ve taken more ownership of ourselves in this way, we see that reflected as well.”

And she’s not done yet. Moore is passionate about this: “Who says someone isn’t sexy? It was really something that related to that period in a woman’s life. I think we’re breaking down these rules a little bit.”

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