First things first – the cover is a composite of a screen-grab from a 1984 movie called No Small Affair and a photo from a 2012 article about Demi Moore attending a Miami, Florida party that marked the release of Terry Richardson’s photo book (Terrywood). As for Demi, the eighties should have been the best decade of her career. Most of her twenties were in that decade as she was born in 1962. Besides a Mediterranean beauty that made her accessible with Italians, Jews and Hispanics as well as Caucasians, she had so much passion that was waiting to be unleashed. Unfortunately, she was rejected so much that it makes me wonder if she was blacklisted. Granted, she wasn’t as flat-out refused as Jennifer Jason Leigh was (as I mentioned in one of my 2016 articles). However, the circumstances of who Demi was losing to calls into question as to why her losses came to be.
When an actress as good as her and as good-looking as her fails to hit the big time in her early-to-mid twenties then that points to one of two things – she was either blackballed or wasn’t willing to play the special connections game. When I say special connections, I don’t necessarily mean the casting couch or people who you went to the same school as. There are people who get cast because their agent is a friend of someone who’s involved with the production, and there are young actresses who don’t get cast just because they are married e.g. Demi Moore was married to Freddy Moore (the frontman of The Nu Kats) from February of 1980 to September of 1984, so that might account for most of her rejections. My reason for writing this article is that Demi was rejected for six classic films despite the fact that she had way more on-screen experience than the women who had won the roles.
In early 1982, Demi was rejected for what became Rebecca De Mornay’s role in Risky Business despite the fact that Rebecca only had one small role in a film prior to that (One from the Heart), which is the same thing that could be said about Jennifer Beals when Demi had failed to win the lead role in Flashdance circa mid-1982. Prior to winning, Jennifer only had one film credit to her name – a small role in a 1980-released film titled My Bodyguard (made in the fall of 1979). The Risky Business situation is suspect because even Tom Cruise claimed that he didn’t test that well with Rebecca, but the director (Paul Brickman) believed in him so much despite the fact that he previously thought Tom was too intense for a fun-loving character. With the exception of Jennifer Beals, being a blonde babe benefited an actress more from 1980 to 1985. Daryl Hannah in Splash and Heather Locklear in Dynasty were the most iconic examples.
Kelly McGillis was another blonde who ended up with the role of Tom Cruise’s girlfriend. Ironically, Demi aced the first audition for Top Gun. Beforehand, Kelly had only acted in two TV movies, two cinema movies and an episode of a soap opera. Demi, on the other hand, had been in one TV movie, six cinema movies and many episodes of a soap opera (General Hospital is more popular than One Life to Live). When John Hughes was making Weird Science, he rejected Sharon Stone (a blonde) because he wanted Kelly LeBrock (a brunette) for the role of Lisa. Kelly preferred to go on a Parisian holiday with Sting, so Joel Silver (the producer) had cast Kelly Emberg (a blonde). With Demi being a brunette, you would think that she would have been closer to what they wanted. Nope; she was rejected! What’s suspicious is that Emberg had no film or TV credits. She made her name as a prolific model and Rod Stewart’s girlfriend. The role of Lisa ultimately went to LeBrock.
Weird Science came out after Top Gun had already been cast in the spring of 1985. Weird Science wasn’t a big hit at the box office, but Top Gun was. Regardless, Top Gun in 1986 was nowhere near as big as Back to the Future in the summer of 1985, so finding the next brunette babe became the in-thing. As such, Geena Davis was cast in The Fly circa 1985 before Jennifer Grey was cast in Dirty Dancing circa 1986. Perhaps Supergirl (1984) would not have flopped at the box office if the superheroine had dark hair like Superman. Ironically, Helen Slater is a natural brunette and she still had dark hair during the pre-production of Supergirl. Demi auditioned for that role as well, but Helen won it despite the fact that the only screen gig to her name was an episode of ABC Afterschool Specials. It’s not like Helen already had the requisite physique. The real irony is that Demi was cast in General Hospital (circa late 1981) because the producers wanted an actress like Margot Kidder in Superman.
You would think that Demi would have gone blonde after Risky Business and Supergirl. In all fairness to her, she stayed as a brunette in 1984 because she had lost to Heather Langenkamp for the role of Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Prior to that movie, Heather was in a TV movie (Passions) and had finished acting in an indie movie (Nickel Mountain). Unlike Heather, Demi actually had horror movie experience with Parasite (1982). It was only in 1990 that Demi went blonde. She did it for a 1991 movie called The Butcher’s Wife. It didn’t do that well at the box office despite Demi coming off the success of Ghost. She stayed blonde for when she auditioned for the role of Catwoman in Batman Returns, because Selena has blonde hair. Demi still lost to Michelle Pfeiffer, so she decided that having blonde hair must have been a curse. Heather Langenkamp didn’t dye her hair blonde because Phoebe Cates and Cindy Crawford proved that you could be a sex icon without it.
Despite the box office failure of Howard the Duck, Lea Thompson (who can be seen in the center of the above photo) had paved the way for brunettes reigning supreme in the nineties. Elisabeth Shue then followed suit in Back to the Future Part II. The top three examples of brunettes besting blondes in the `90s are Demi Moore (who’s in the above 1984 photo with Sean Penn) scoring a 12.5 million dollar paycheck for Striptease (1996), Julia Roberts scoring a 12 million paycheck for Conspiracy Theory (1997) and Sandra Bullock scoring an 11 million paycheck for Hope Floats (1998). Even Sharon Stone could only get paid as much as 6 million for two 1996 films (Casino and Diabolique) whereas Nicole Kidman (who was a redhead before the `90s) had only earned 6.5 million for Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Fellow blondes Kim Basinger and Meg Ryan were also less fortuitous than the aforementioned brunettes with their salaries.
Back to the star of the hour, Demi Moore’s failure could be traced to the casting directors knowing each other. Nancy Klopper was the casting director of Risky Business. A year before that movie, she was one of three casting directors who had cast Demi for Young Doctors in Love (made in late 1981 but released two days before Risky Business began filming on July 18 of 1982). The other two casting directors were Toni Howard and Lynn Stalmaster. This pair along with Esta Charkham were the casting directors of Supergirl in the spring of 1983. Officially, the story goes that Demi was rejected because the director and producer both wanted an unknown actress for the part. Later that year, Toni and Lynn had cast Demi in an episode of The Master that was going to air on January 20 in 1984. As such, it’s possible that Nancy didn’t want Demi for Young Doctors in Love but was outvoted by the other two.
When Demi was in her twenties, there was no such thing as Internet Movie Database. While there may have been people storing résumés on computers, you were more likely to find out about a rival competitor’s filmography by going to a casting director or an actor’s agent. If you had an agent who was a friend of a producer, you could use said producer to request a résumé under the pretext of wanting to cast your rival. In the case of Jennifer Beals (a half-white actress), Demi would have known that she was a virtual unknown before Flashdance whereas it wasn’t so obvious with whiter actresses like Helen Slater and Rebecca De Mornay. Between the six actresses who bested Demi in the `80s, Rebecca was the one who remained in the A-list by the time that it was the early `90s. In 1992, Helen did a movie with Kelly LeBrock titled Betrayal of the Dove.
Heather Langenkamp is an interesting case study because she had her roles removed from two Francis Ford Coppola films that were based on novels by S.E. Hinton – The Outsiders (where she was an extra) and Rumble Fish (which had her first speaking role albeit she only had one line). In this 2001 interview, Heather mentioned that the casting director for The Outsiders had cast her in Rumble Fish since both films were shot in Tulsa circa the spring and summer of 1982. She turned 18 in July. F.F.C. made the decision to do Rumble Fish in Tulsa as he was halfway through the production of The Outsiders. Did he need an excuse to wait until she was 18? The main casting director for Rumble Fish, Janet Hirschenson, was an employee of Coppola’s company – Zoetrope. While she had cast The Outsiders all by herself, she was one of three casting directors for Rumble Fish (the other two directors had only cast the extras).
More about Moore, Jon Cryer mentioned in his 2015 memoir (So That Happened) that she had disclosed something to him during the making of No Small Affair in the spring of 1984. The disclosure was that she had tried cocaine for the first time in the spring of 1983 during the making of Blame It on Rio. Jon hinted that it was because of her coke abuse that the finale of No Small Affair had to be reshot. One of the make-up artists even suggested to him that Demi had some sort of problem. Later on in 1984, she almost got fired during the shooting of St. Elmo’s Fire, and was forced to go to rehab. In a 1998 issue of National Enquirer, her mother was quoted as saying: “She was working on the movie…and just disappeared. On the third day, I got a call to say she had been taken into intensive care at South Bay hospital in Redondo Beach. She had convulsions because of cocaine and this was the first day Demi had been able to call me. I was there within the hour. Those convulsions scared her.”
You have to wonder how her addiction affected her when she had auditioned for A Nightmare on Elm Street in early 1984 and Weird Science in late 1984. Blame it on Rio is fascinating because it was Michelle Johnson’s first movie, and her part was bigger than Demi’s because (according to Demi) Michelle was a model who was cast on the basis of how big that her breasts were. This type of logic was par for the course in those days (also according to Demi). Before Demi did No Small Affair, she was getting her cocaine from her dentist and then her business manager. She had almost gone through her entire money before she decided to stop receiving supplies from the latter. During the making of the movie, a studio executive at Columbia named Craig Baumgarten had her stay at his home with his wife because Demi needed someone to monitor her. Later on, he arranged her stay at a Redondo Beach rehab facility during the making of St. Elmo’s Fire. He was also responsible for her being cast in No Small Affair.