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Demi Moore on Nudity, Violence in Cannes Shocker The Substance

Demi Moore on Nudity, Violence in Cannes Shocker The Substance

Demi Moore said performing in Coralie Fargeat’s body horror shocker The Substance required accepting a “level of vulnerability and rawness” with regards to her own body on screen.

Moore put it all out there for the film, a gory, campy satire on beauty standards, toxic masculinity and female self-hatred, with the movie’s frequent and prominent nudity, as well as its gruesome violence, attracting a lot of attention after its world premiere in Cannes. Moore plays Elisabeth Sparkle, an acclaimed actress turned celebrity host of a daytime exercise program who gets replaced by a younger, more beautiful star (Margaret Qualley), sparking a confrontation between the two women. One of the more the more graphic scenes in the movie shows Moore and Qualley having a naked, no-holds-barred bloody fight. The Cannes audience loved it, giving the film a rapturous reception on Sunday night.

“I had someone who was a great partner,” said Moore of Qualley. “We were obviously quite close at some moments…and naked. But there was also a levity [in shooting those scenes].”

Speaking at the press conference for The Substance, Moore said the film “pushed me out of the comfort zone” but that she was clear going in that the explicit imagery “was necessary to tell this story” and that Fargeat approached the scenes “with a lot of sensitivity” establishing a “common ground of mutual trust.”

While many drew comparisons between the film’s storyline and Moore’s own experience as an older actress in youth-obsessed Hollywood, the Ghost and G.I. Jane star said she never saw herself “as the victim” and that The Situation is more about skewering “the male perspective of the ideal woman.”

Fargeat noted that the violence in the film was a metaphor for the violence, emotional and physical, that men inflict on women, and that women inflict on themselves, in their pursuit of unrealistic ideals of beauty.

“I don’t know any woman that doesn’t have an eating disorder or some other thing that they do that does violence to their bodies,” said Fargeat, saying she chose to show the violence on screen “in an extreme way because I think this violence is very extreme.”

The male characters in The Substance don’t come off well, with each shown as a different variant of toxic masculinity. But the filmmakers said they weren’t looking to condemn an entire gender . “We’re not anti-men, we’re anti-jerks,” said Moore.

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“People say [Fargeat] hates men,” added Quaid, who plays Harvey, a sleazy TV producer in the film. “No, she hates assholes. But assholes are so fun to play.”

Quaid also singled out Moore for praise, calling her performance ‘the beginning of an incredible third act’ in her career. He also dedicated his role to the late Ray Liotta, the actor who was originally cast to play Harvey. “It was this week, two years ago that he passed,” said Quaid. “He was such an incredible actor. I dedicate it [this role] to him.”

The Substance was produced by Working Title and originally set to be distributed by Universal. Instead, it will get a U.S. release via Mubi, marking the biggest theatrical release ever for the arthouse streamer.

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