With her intensely image-conscious attention to detail, Demi Moore never turns up on a red carpet with so much as a brunette hair out of place. So when she stepped out on April 17 in Beverly Hills to promote the Lifetime series she executive-produced, The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet, the 49-year-old actress looked as perfectly polished as ever, beaming alongside her close friend de Cadenet. Posing for photos but taking no questions at the carefully controlled event, Moore “looked gorgeous,” says a guest, “and relaxed.”
The premiere marked a new beginning for Moore, who was making her first public appearance since completing treatment in February following her emergency hospitalization amid serious drug and body-image issues. After a stint in a treatment facility, Moore returned to her L.A. home, where she has been scrupulously avoiding the spotlight while, a source says, studying privately with a kabbalah teacher as one way of continuing her recovery. Long a devotee of the branch of Jewish mysticism, Moore is getting both spiritual and practical guidance. “One of the wisdoms of kabbalah is taking responsibility for your own actions and not blaming anyone else,” says the source. “Demi is growing, but it is a process.”
Slowly inching her way back into the spotlight, Moore returned to her beloved Twitter (asking for suggestions to change her handle, “@mrskutcher”) and has been quietly taking business meetings, including some at the ultra-private Soho House in West Hollywood. But even as she focuses on moving forward, the actress’s past continues to weigh heavily: Less than a week after Moore’s appearance at the Conversation premiere, her ex Ashton Kutcher made headlines of his own when he and his onetime That ’70s Show costar Mila Kunis, 28, went on a three-day getaway to the coastal town of Carpinteria, Calif. The longtime friends are “both single, having fun,” says a source. “Ashton’s not looking for anything serious.”
The rendezvous came five months after Moore and Kutcher, 34, announced the end of their six-year marriage. “Ashton is so glad to be away from Demi and her constant barrage of problems; he is having lots of fun and will continue to do so,” says a source close to the Two and a Half Men star. “He is a free man after a long time and feels no guilt at this point. Life had to go on.”
For Moore, though, Kutcher’s high-profile love life-prior to Kunis, he stepped out with writer-director Lorene Scafaria, 34-brings up her long-standing insecurities about her image and aging. “Demi has so much pride,” says another Kutcher source. “That’s why she was initially the one to file for separation. She hates to lose face. She hates feeling undesirable or unwanted. And she’s always very aware of what people think of her and how they see her.”
Kutcher, on the other hand, appears to be a man unburdened. “Ashton is smart and successful, but on some levels he is a young boy from the Midwest who has found the gold at the end of the rainbow,” an insider says of the star. “He wants to sort out each nugget.” Adds another source close to Kutcher’s circle: “He did really love Demi, and for a long time he only had eyes for her. But he just got stuck there, especially after all her issues came out.” Now, with a new bachelor pad (see sidebar) and an active dating life, “he seems like a kid in a candy store,” says the source.
Even as the exes sort out their split-neither star has yet filed divorce papers -their lives are still intertwined in many ways, including shared friendships. On March 17 both Moore and Kutcher attended a birthday party for the 4-year-old daughter of Moore’s close pal Soleil Moon Frye and Kutcher’s producing partner Jason Goldberg. And on April 27 Moore tweeted her approval of Kutcher’s twin brother, Michael, for his work advocating for cerebral palsy research.
Determined to maintain a low profile, Moore has rarely been spotted outside of her L.A. home in the last two months. It’s a notable contrast to her erratic behavior before she entered treatment, when the star often spent late nights out at clubs like L.A.’s Beacher’s Madhouse. And she may be ready to make a clean start in a big way: A real estate source says she is considering selling her sprawling estate, where friends called 911 on Jan. 23 after Moore collapsed.
With her 50th birthday on the horizon in November, the actress and savvy businesswoman has had to reevaluate her career. She has taken smaller roles in smaller films; last year’s indie drama Margin Call earned high praise from critics, while LOL, the comedy she filmed with Miley Cyrus in 2010, fared less well, languishing on the shelf before getting a limited release in theaters this week. Moore had to drop out of her role as feminist icon Gloria Steinem in Lovelace to seek treatment, but Hollywood won’t hold her issues against her, says a producer. “Her personal problems were personal. It is not like she was late all the time, causing problems on her sets. She knows her job and people like working with her. She’s driven.”
She’s got plenty of people rooting for her, starting with her daughters with ex Bruce Willis: Rumer, 23, Scout, 20, and Tallulah, 18, even as they move on with their own lives as well (see box). Yes, there is still “a lot of work and self-healing to be done,” as a source told PEOPLE after her treatment, but Moore is never one to be counted out. “She’s doing fantastic,” says a friend, designer Donna Karan. “She’s beautiful.”