Rumer Willis on which of mom Demi Moore's famous roles she'd love to play

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·6 min read

Rumer Willis has accomplished more during the pandemic than many: She quit smoking — and says it’s for good.

The 32-year-old actress, singer and, yes, daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis tells Yahoo Entertainment that the vice is one that’s long lingered in her life and while quarantining with her famous family in Idaho at the start of the pandemic, she picked it up again. Now, she’s officially done and looking forward to spending the holidays — sans smokes — with her big, blended family in matching Christmas pajamas for all.

The Empire and 90210 actress says she first tried a cigarette at “12 or 13,” but began to “properly smoke” at “16 or 17.” While she’s a child of Hollywood, she was influenced the way many young people are: seeing celebrities smoking on the screen.

“It wasn’t necessarily one person specifically, but I remember any time I would see a movie with young adults or people in their 20s smoking — I can’t even remember if they were smoking in Cruel Intentions — it just seemed so cool and such an adult thing to be able to do,” Willis recalls. “I feel like my friends and I just wanted to be grownups and do the ‘cool’ thing.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Rumer Wilis)
Rumer Willis opens up about quitting her last, lingering vice — smoking — as well as her holiday plans with her famous family. (Photo: Courtesy of Rumer Willis)

The Dancing With the Stars Season 20 champ “smoked pretty consistently until I was maybe 28,” though sometimes with breaks in between. And, yes, she smoked in front of her parents, who parted ways romantically in 1998 but are cool enough to still quarantine together.

“I remember the first couple times that I did it in front of my mom and being so nervous and just worrying about what she was going to say to me,” Willis says of the Ghost and G.I. Jane superstar, who has also smoked during her years in show business. “Just trying to muster as much aloof kind of ‘It’s fine, I’m a grownup, I can do this’ energy. It totally didn’t work. She was like: ‘Rumer, why are you smoking?’ I was like: ‘It’s fine, I don’t do it that much.’”

A turning point came in 2017 when Willis got sober. She decided to stop smoking too — though it didn’t last, as many trying to kick the habit know.

“When I got sober, I also quit smoking again because I felt: I want to be done with everything,” she says. Things were going well she says, until, “I had that moment where I went: Now I have no vices and this sucks,” she laughs. “I still want to have one and I deserve this.’”

Eventually, she committed to being smoke-free, using a Nicorette patch to make it past the physical part of the addiction — she’s now partnering with the brand for its #StartStoppingShoutOut campaign — but also doing the “emotional work” to break the habits around her smoking. She hadn’t smoked in over two years — until the pandemic hit in March.

“I was in Idaho, I was in quarantine, and I felt like I was losing my mind a little bit,” she admits. “I was like: ‘Ya know what, I”m going to have a cigarette. It will be fine. After maybe four or five, I thought: I can’t go down this road again. I just want to be done with this and not use this as some backup because I’m going through a tough time.” She used the quarantine time to pause and ask herself, “Why am I smoking? What’s triggering me? What am I trying to run away from or avoid emotionally that’s making me want to escape with a cigarette?

Willis decided it was finally time to prioritize her health and singing voice, which impressed on the Masked Singer last year and in Broadway’s Chicago. Something her mom told her all along, but she wasn’t ready to listen.

“My mom definitely” gave me a hard time about smoking, Willis admits. “It was always about: ‘You’re a singer. Your voice.’ The truth is, at least for me, it doesn’t matter what anyone says to you if they are not smoking, If you have a bunch of people who aren’t smokers who are like: You have to quit! It’s not good for you or your voice! Until you are really ready to let it go, I think it can be really difficult and stuff kind of goes in one ear and out the other.”

As someone who’s had a hard time breaking the habit, Willis is working with Nicorette on its campaign that will see her — and other celebrities — recording personalized video messages encouraging people trying to quit or stay motivated on their smoke-free journey.

“It kind of holds you accountable, which I like,” she says.

Find out more about the #StartStoppingShoutOut campaign:

Feeling better already, Willis is looking forward to working on her debut album next year.

“I think for a long time I took my voice for granted by doing things like smoking,” she says. “I really want to take the year and dedicate myself to just working on it as a craft and like a muscle in the same way that you would go to the gym. Working on my voice and seeing how far I can stretch it and seeing what I can do.”

She feels like things are falling in place for that to happen, saying, “Look, everything happens for a reason and at the timing that it should. I’m hoping that in giving my lungs time to heal and working on my music that when the time comes it will be perfect. I shouldn’t say ‘perfect.’ How it should be for me.”

And a focus on singing doesn’t mean she’s done with acting. We asked the House Bunny star which of Moore’s famous roles she’d reboot.

“Oh, no one has ever actually asked me this,” she says. “Maybe G.I. Jane 2,” a sequel to the 1997 flick Moore got super-buff and shaved her head for. “But I would like a crack at a lot of them. I would love to do a reboot with her and play a mother/daughter duo or play a younger version of her in a prequel or something.”

Her head still shaved from her role in G.I. Jane, Demi Moore attends the premiere of Striptease with her daughter Rumer Willis.   (Photo by Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Demi Moore and Rumer Willis on the red carpet during Moore's G.I. Jane era. (Photo: Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

And in the short term, there’s Christmas with her fam — still a tradition despite her parents’ split. She spends it with her mom and sisters, Scout and Tallulah, as well as Willis’s family with second wife Emma.

“I’m really grateful honestly,” she says of her modern family. “We’ve always been a very holiday-oriented family so something I look forward to every year is getting time to spend with my family over the holidays.”

This year she was flattered to be asked to help Moore find matching pajamas for the gang, who have all been healthy amid the pandemic.

“We always have them. It’s a tradition,” she says. “It’s the one present that we open on Christmas eve — and we’ve had some wild ones over the years thanks to my mom... She actually asked me this year to help her pick them out, and I felt very honored. I felt like I had been chosen,” she laughs.

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