The tragic real-life story of Demi Moore

During the height of her fame, Demi Moore was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. The Guardian reports that she raked in a whopping $12.5 million for her role in 1996's Striptease, alone. During the '80s, the budding star did the impossible and managed to parlay her soap opera success on the long-running series General Hospital into a career on the silver screen with breakthrough blockbuster hits like St. Elmo's Fire and Ghost. The latter drew in a monumental $217 million at the U.S. box office, according to The New York Times, and forever changed the way we look at pottery wheels — but the second Moore stepped off the red carpet, she was forced to reckon with her troubled past.

Moore's 2019 memoir, Inside Out, revealed a new side of the actress: the girl whose life was uprooted by constant moves with her alcoholic parents, the once-estranged teenager who endured a lifetime of trauma, substance abuse, and betrayal. She's been able to draw from her harsh upbringing to animate her grittiest roles, but healing didn't happen overnight. Today, it feels like the actress has lived lifetimes, but it it looks like Moore is finally on her way to overcoming her demons. This is the tragic real-life story of Demi Moore.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Demi Moore was lied to about her biological father

When Demi Moore was 15 years old, she came to a shocking revelation. Danny Guynes — the man she believed was her biological father, the person who helped raise her — was not related to her by blood. Instead, her father was a man by the name of Charles Harman, a Texas-based vending machine salesman with a cocaine addiction. According to The New York Times, Moore found out the truth when Guynes separated from her mother, Virginia King.

The Guardian reports that King was just 19 years old when she had the actress, and Harman left before she was born. She met Guynes, who was also a salesman, sometime after that. After the couple wed, they toted their children across the country as Guynes habitually relocated for work. Moore's family ended up moving "30 times before she was 15."

Though Moore's parents withheld the truth for 15 years, the actress holds no ill will against her mother, who passed away in 1998 after a battle with cancer, and Guynes, who died by suicide when she was 17 years old. "If I didn't step out of how hurtful that was, it would have been mind-twisting for me," Moore told The Guardian. "There were many insecurities and doubts, but I know they made the best choices they could. They thought they were doing the right thing."

Demi Moore's horrific childhood sexual assault

Amidst the press cycle for Inside Out, Demi Moore stopped by Good Morning America for a candid interview with Diane Sawyer, where she spoke about her harrowing rape at the age of 15, and how it was possibly facilitated by her own mother.

Moore had a peculiar relationship with her mom, who she claimed was an alcoholic who would take her to bars as a teenager to get attention from men. Moore wrote that on the night of the assault, she came home to find an older man — someone they both knew — inside their apartment. The man justified his actions by claiming Moore's mother had sold her to him. "It was rape. And a devastating betrayal, revealed by the man's cruel question: 'How does it feel to be w**red by your mother for $500?'" she wrote (via GMA).

When asked by Sawyer if she believed her mother sold her, Moore admitted, "I think, in my deep heart, no. I don't think it was a straightforward transaction. But she still did give him the access, and put me in harm's way." According to The New York Times, Moore left home not long after. She ultimately used her experience to jump into action. In 2012, the actress launched Thorn, a nonprofit organization that helps law enforcement identify thousands of victims of child sex trafficking every year. 

Demi Moore stopped her mother's first suicide attempt

When Demi Moore was a child, her father gave her an unimaginable task. According to The New York Times, the future actress was "enlisted" to help Danny Guynes prevent her mother from attempting suicide. The first attempt happened when the star was only 12 years old, and she outlined the harrowing moment she rushed to her mother's aid in her Inside Out memoir.

"The next thing I remember is using my fingers, the small fingers of a child, to dig the pills my mother had tried to swallow out of her mouth while my father held it open and told me what to do," she wrote (via Us Weekly). "Something very deep inside me shifted then, and it never shifted back. My childhood was over." The first incident wasn't the last. During her Good Morning America interview, Moore told Dianne Sawyer that her mother made attempts "many, many times" after that. Still, Moore claimed that the first incident was the "life-changing moment" that ended her childhood permanently.

She cheated on Freddy Moore the night before their wedding

Demi Moore has a dating history that's as troubling as it is high profile. According to Us Weekly, this includes an engagement to St. Elmo's Fire co-star Emilio Estevez and fling with Jon Cryer, along with her marriages to Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher. Still, none of those relationships started off on a worse foot than her first marriage to rock musician Freddy Moore, who was already hitched when the pair jumped into their romance. 

The magazine reports that Moore met the "It's Not A Rumour" singer when she was 16 years old and admittedly didn't have "much concern" for his wife. It didn't seem she had much concern for Freddy, either: she owned up to cheating on him the night before their wedding. In Inside Out (via People), Demi revealed that she snuck out of her bachelorette party to meet up with a guy she'd met on a movie set. Though she didn't name names, Mindhunter actor Paul Carafotes told DailyMailTV that he was the other man, claiming that Demi "scaled a fire escape and climbed through his kitchen window" during their secret tryst. 

"I couldn't face the fact that I was getting married to distract myself from grieving the death of my father," Demi wrote, referencing her stepdad's suicide (via People). " ... I couldn't get out of the marriage, but I could sabotage it." Demi and Freddy separated in 1985.

Demi Moore's divorce saved her relationship with Bruce Willis

Demi Moore and Bruce Willis spent much of their 11-year marriage running from the paparazzi, which probably wasn't that difficult once the pair left Hollywood. According to Harper's Bazaar, Moore bailed on her movie career at the height of her success to become a stay-at-home mom in Hailey, Idaho — but this semblance of normalcy was just a veil. The pair were still two of the most famous people on the planet, and a high-profile divorce was potentially disastrous.

According to reports from People and The Sun, Willis and Moore got hitched in Las Vegas in 1987 after a few months of dating. This hasty commitment seemed to be a point of contention for Willis, who — as Moore wrote in memoir (via People) — "wasn't sure if he wanted to be married." He was allegedly resentful of her acting career because it "took her away from their family." Add infidelity rumors fueled by a disastrous 1996 Playboy interview, where Willis admitted (via the Mirror), "No woman is going to satisfy a man's natural impulse to procreate, procreate, procreate," and the pair separated in 1998. By 2000, they were divorced and co-parting their three daughters: Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah Belle Willis.

In her memoir, Moore revealed she's "very proud" of her divorce. It could've been bitter, but it ultimately strengthened her bond with Bruce. She claimed they "felt more connected than we did before the divorce."

Demi Moore had a grueling, five-year obsession with diet and exercise

Hollywood is notorious for its impossible beauty standards, and at the height of Demi Moore's fame, she certainly got swept away with it. In Inside Out (via People), Moore revealed that she developed an intense obsession with working out when she started training for her role in A Few Good Men. The obsession lasted five years.

At first, Moore's workouts began as a way to lose pregnancy weight for the role after having Scout. Moore, who was breastfeeding, ended up "excessively exercising" to the point that her breast milk was depleted of fat, and Scout's growth became stunted. The actress had to start supplementing it with formula, which "crushed" her, but not enough to stop. During her next film, Indecent Proposal, Moore "doubled down" on her "over-the-top" routine and started restricting her diet until she developed walking pneumonia. She briefly relented, but found herself cutting out all carbs — save for a carefully measured bowl of morning oatmeal — while working on Striptease. "Eating disorders are crazy, they are a sickness. But that doesn't make them less real," Moore wrote.

According to People, G.I. Jane required Moore to seriously bulk up, and that actually helped end the obsession. She had "reached [her] limit" and couldn't take another round of "starving [herself]" and intensely exercising to fight her natural body. After "meditating on her body image problems," the actress turned her home gym into an office and never looked back.

Demi Moore had a so-called addiction to Ashton Kutcher

Like her parents, Demi Moore struggled with addiction throughout her life. According to The New York Times, this included alcohol abuse, cocaine abuse, binge-eating, and even an admitted addiction to her third husband, Ashton Kutcher. E! News reports that the pair, who share a 16-year age gap, started dating after meeting at a "casual dinner with friends in 2003." In fact, the age gap might have been what Moore found so attractive. 

In Inside Out (via The New York Times), she revealed that she viewed the relationship as a sort of do-over of her 20s, a chance to experience youth in a way she wasn't previously able, but it quickly turned into an obsession. This was the most destructive out of any of Moore's afflictions, and it tattered the relationship she had with her three daughters. During a Red Table Talk interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, Moore admitted, "The addiction and the co-dependency ... like my addiction to Ashton — that was probably almost more devastating because it took me seriously away emotionally."

According to E! News, the pair tied the knot in 2005 in a small, 100-guest ceremony in Beverly Hills, but five years later, the couple was obviously struggling. They flew to Israel, where they tried to work out their differences amidst rumors of infidelity. Their marriage would only last another year.

Demi Moore was estranged from her daughters for three years

Demi Moore's relationship with Ashton Kutcher — and the relapse that came with it — deeply damaged the bond she had with her daughters, so much so that Scout and Tallulah didn't speak to her for three years. In a Red Table Talk appearance, Rumer and her youngest sister explained exactly how their relationship with their mom started to unravel. Tallulah was nine years old when Moore, who spent years lying about her sobriety, relapsed. Eventually, Rumer and Scout moved out, leaving their youngest sister to navigate their mother's illness alone.

"I was so angry because I felt like something that was mine had been taken away," Rumer told Jada Pinkett Smith. "And I think also when she wanted to have another baby ... and then it wasn't happening ... it was like, 'Oh well, we're not enough.'" During this time, Tallulah felt "forgotten" by her mom, who was completely absorbed in her relationship with Kutcher. "I felt like I developed and nurtured a narrative where she didn't love me, and I truly believed it," she said. 

Rumer was the only one of Moore's daughters that went in-and-out of contact with the star, serving as the ambassador for the family. The four women were eventually able to reconcile, and in a 2020 Mother's Day Instagram post, Tallulah revealed it only happened "through a metamorphosis of inward self reflection and a malleability to forgive."

A miscarriage tore her marriage to Ashton Kutcher apart

There isn't one thing that led to the dissolution of Demi Moore's marriage to Ashton Kutcher. By all accounts, it seemed like a slow burn filled with betrayal, relapse, and codependency — but above all, the couple's bond was permanently fractured by Moore's miscarriage, which seemed like the last straw. 

Moore, who lost the baby when she was about six months pregnant, revealed the devastating loss in her memoir (via Insider). At the time, she felt like Kutcher was too young to understand her grief no matter how hard he tried to connect with her. "First of all, he hadn't carried this baby," she wrote. "And second, he was in his twenties at the time: he wasn't remotely late to the game of fatherhood. His possibilities were not running out."

After the miscarriage, Moore and Kutcher still tried to conceive naturally. A few months later, they turned to in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination. When that didn't work, Moore started researching egg donor options. The pair found a match, but Kutcher allegedly backed out last minute. "Ashton told me, 'I don't think I can do this, and I don't know if this is working,'" she wrote, claiming Kutcher only gave her the go-ahead because he didn't think she'd actually "go through with it." The pair separated in 2011 and finalized their divorce two years later, according to People.

Demi Moore's marriage to Ashton Kutcher ended in alleged infidelity

Demi Moore's marriage to Ashton Kutcher was plagued with cheating rumors, which she seemingly confirmed in her memoir, Inside Out (via People). The actress detailed her tumultuous union and alleged that the Dude Where's My Car? star used threesomes as a way to blur the boundaries of their relationship and justify his reported infidelity.

"I put him first. So when he expressed his fantasy of bringing a third person into our bed, I didn't say no," Moore wrote of the pair's ménage à trois (via People), later adding, "They were good people, but it was still a mistake. I was strangely flooded with shame, I couldn't shake the feeling that this whole thing was somehow my fault."

Moore claimed that their threesomes opened the door for Kutcher's infidelity. He reportedly cheated on her twice, the second instance allegedly occurring with a 21-year-old woman while she was filming Another Happy Day. The year the movie premiered, the couple called it quits — though it doesn't seem like Kutcher shares the same perspective. According to The Sun, he went on a tweet-spree, asking fans to text him "for truth" and claiming he was going to send out "a really snarky tweet," but "deleted it" instead. Kutcher never publicly explained what the truth was, but it seems like there's definitely a second side to this story.

Demi Moore relapsed after 20 years and ended up hospitalized

Demi Moore has dealt with substance abuse for decades. According to The Guardian, she went to rehab in the mid-1980s for drug and alcohol addiction, but she managed to stay sober for 20 years. That started to unravel amidst her split with Ashton Kutcher. While speaking with The New York Times, Moore revealed that her miscarriage was the tipping point and she began to drink more heavily and abuse Vicodin. "It was like the sun went down, like a monster came," her youngest daughter said on Red Table Talk.

This came to a head in 2012. According to reports from The Guardian and The New York Times, Moore weighed just 102 lbs. when she had "a seizure after smoking synthetic cannabis and inhaling nitrous oxide" at a party with Rumer. "I was there in the other room with 911 panicking," Rumer said during their Red Table Talk episode. "Because I'm like, either my mom's gonna die and I'm not gonna be be in the room and I'm gonna feel the guilt of that for the rest of my life, or I'm gonna be there and see this image of my mom that I will never get out of my head."

According to People, Moore checked into rehab shortly after her hospital visit with the support of her three daughters.

Demi Moore is finally on her way to a major life transformation

Behind the camera flashes, Demi Moore has had an immeasurably difficult life — the lowest point of which seemed to come following her split from Ashton Kutcher. According to The New York Times, her career had flat-lined, her relationships fractured, and her health followed suit. Moore's organs began slowly shutting down, making simple tasks like watching TV almost impossible. Though she never revealed her exact diagnosis, she did tell the publication that "the root was a major heavy viral load."

Since then, she's made a massive effort to break through the ceiling of her personal rock bottom. Moore entered rehab for "trauma, codependency, and substance abuse," received treatment for her health issues, and slowly mended the relationships she had with her daughters. Just before the release of her tell-all memoir, Inside Out, in 2019, Moore also got her acting career back on track with a number of movie and TV projects, including a successful stint on Empire and the Scarlett Johansson comedy Rough Night. At the time of this writing, Moore's series, Brave New World, is currently in post-production — and it seems as though things are finally looking up.