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US actress Demi Moore poses with her Chihuahua dog named Pilaf during a photocall for the film "The Substance" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 20, 2024. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP) Image Credit: AFP

Movie star Demi Moore said the vulnerability required for her role in body horror film, “The Substance,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, was both demanding and exciting.

Moore stars as Elisabeth, an ageing TV fitness instructor à la Jane Fonda who signs up for a mysterious medical regime called The Substance that promises to create the perfect version of herself — played by Margaret Qualley of “Drive-Away Dolls.” The role requires Moore, 61, to transform into a deteriorating old woman through prosthetics.

“All of it at different times had moments that were challenging,” she told Reuters in an interview.

“The level of vulnerability that this role called for on all the different levels — emotionally, physically — were as demanding as it was exciting because it was really pushing me to step out of my comfort zone,” said Moore.

Critics were positive on Moore’s performance, with entertainment website Variety calling it “nothing short of fearless” and The Hollywood Reporter praising how she “imbues her character with a visceral desperation.” This year’s festival marks the first time in more than a quarter-century that Moore, who became a sex symbol through films like “Striptease” in the 1990s, was at the festival.

For Qualley, 29, having to portray the so-called perfect version of a woman’s body was a weird experience.

“She is meant to be perfect, but she’s probably like the least beautiful character I’ve ever played because she’s heartless,” she said.

French director and writer Coralie Fargeat said that her goal was to explore women’s toxic relationships with their bodies and how they are taught that their worth is tied to their appearance.

“The way I wrote the movie really sticks to what we experience as women with our bodies. So, it’s the way our body is seen, but also the way we see our own body,” she said.