There have been a variety of ways Hollywood’s heavy hitters have kept themselves busy during the ongoing pandemic these past few months. They’ve posted videos encouraging the masses to wear masks; they’ve sung “Imagine” to life spirits; they’ve tried their hand at TikTok.
Demi Moore, for one, has taken to educating the world about what female desire looks like, told through the female gaze (imagine that!).
Moore is the star and producer of “Dirty Diana,” a new erotic podcast available on Apple podcasts from QCode from director Shana Feste that up front is a sex-positive look at one woman’s marriage in crisis, but more broadly explores shame, desire and empowerment in women’s sexual lives.
“I feel like in my own life [I have] an absolute understanding and experience of feeling the fear that I shouldn’t ever really allow my own sexual desire to really open up, that that’s dangerous. And I just felt like I completely connected to what that is like, to be so unaccepting of who you are and the fear of people knowing who you are,” Moore says. “I also really loved that part of this journey of someone who’s coming to terms with appreciating and being authentic to themselves, but what it takes to get there is what makes the story interesting.”
Though produced entirely via Zoom throughout quarantine, Moore and Feste, director of “Country Strong,” among others, have been connected since late 2019 over the idea of “Dirty Diana,” which stars Moore in the title role and features Gwendoline Christie, Melanie Griffith, Lena Dunham, Andrea Riseborough, Rosa Salazar and more in guest spots, with Carmen Ejogo, Max Greenfield, Mackenzie Davis and others in costarring roles.
Feste says when she originally started thinking of whom to cast in an ideal world, Moore was her first choice.
“Demi’s voice is iconic. She was always number one on my list,” Feste says on a joint call with Moore last week, following the release of “Dirty Diana” episode one. “And I had sent this to her agents, never really thinking that I would actually get a response. But what I love about working with Demi is I feel like we’re both very like-minded. As well as all of our cast. We all share a desire to put out something that was incredibly sex positive. We were all on the right side of that mantra. We all believe in it. And we feel like it’s needed right now more than ever.”
The project was born out of Feste’s personal life, inspired by a difficult time in her own marriage 10 years ago, when she was in her early 30s.
“The honest answer is my husband and I stopped having sex, and it went on for way too long and we didn’t talk about it,” Feste says. “It just became this unspoken, painful elephant in the room. And eventually we actually moved on. I had a boyfriend, he had a girlfriend, we moved out, we separated. It almost took a year and a half with a lot of therapy and a lot of communication and a lot of talk about sex, but we came together and now we’re married. We have three kids and we’re happy, but it was a really difficult journey. I wanted to write about that time in my life in a really honest way because I really was interested in the story of a couple who never could imagine coming back together and finding each other again, but eventually does. And that was the story I really was wanting to tell.”
The series follows Diana, a woman at a breaking point in a sexless marriage, who lives a very tidy, controlled life in the corporate world — and secretly runs an erotic web site of women’s most intimate fantasies.
“As a director I was completely frightened by the idea because when you have the sets and you have costumes and you have makeup and wardrobe and hair, it helps you tell the story. And now I’m just directing with just voices, and the voices aren’t even in the same room. We were making this podcast all over the place, and I’m thinking how am I going to make this podcast about connection when people can’t even really see or feel each other?” Feste says. “But what ended up happening is it gave the actors a lot of room and freedom to play because they were in the safety of their own closet or their own bathroom.”
“I think when it opened up as this being our only option, it actually also opened us up to a whole other possibility that was actually quite connected. Moving forward I can see the value in being able to rehearse like this, where you sometimes don’t have the ability to get together in person. And it was just incredible,” Moore says of the process of Zoom recording. “Every day I felt so amazed and grateful that we had this opportunity to be doing this during the quarantine — because it was something that Shana and I had already decided to do at the end of last year. We were already planning to do it around the same time — we just didn’t know we would be doing it in this way.”
“In isolation you’re fighting this inherent loneliness, and to be able to feel like you’re sharing something really personal and artistic with other people, it just really took the edge off the stay at home,” Feste says. “And I felt very grateful that we were able to do that from a psychological level.”
“It’s such a personal and intimate journey, and so honest. First of all, we all know we need this. We need to have something that is normalizing the conversation around sex, particularly for women,” Moore adds. “But also I think we need it for men to feel more comfortable about knowing women and knowing what we like and what excites us. Also as a mother of daughters, I can see the effects of the lack of that openness. I certainly know how it’s affected me up until just more recently, just in conversations around female orgasms.”
Feste recalls being at UCLA looking up courses at their continuing education center, and seeing a class for women on how to give a man a blowjob. It was a turning point for her, in reckoning with the lack of attention given to female pleasure in modern life.
“You read some women’s magazines and they have ‘50 ways to please your man.’ You go to a bridal shower and the games that you play are pleasuring a banana. All of these things are centered around the male orgasm,” Feste says. “And I guarantee men that going to their bachelor parties aren’t doing the same thing.”
“They are doing the same things — they’re doing things to support their orgasm,” Moore adds.
The second episode of “Dirty Diana” was released Monday, with new episodes dropping each Monday through Aug. 17. So far, the feedback has been overwhelming for both Feste and Moore.
“One of my favorites was a friend who said, ‘That’s about as much action as I’ve gotten this quarantine,’” Feste says.
“I had one person come back and say, ‘After just listening to the trailer, I need a few minutes alone,’” adds Moore.
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