Actress bares all in ''Striptease,'' only the latest example of her naked ambition

Freud once wrote, ”Anatomy is destiny,” and he never even met Demi Moore. But the star and the shrink locked fates last week when Moore appeared topless in Striptease — defying conventional wisdom about big stars doing nude scenes — and lifted the film to a $12.3 million opening weekend.

Since Castle Rock had been expecting a flat $8 million, box office quarterbacks declared it a win. But talk about your hollow victories: The movie’s B-CinemaScore hints that audiences won’t be back for Moore, and the star has managed to enrage film critics. Typical was one rant by Gene Siskel, who asked: ”What’s next? Demi has a baby on camera?”

It seems Moore is now being scorned for the same trait that led to her record-breaking $12.5 million payday for Striptease: exhibitionistic behavior. Unlike such high-priced contemporaries as Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, Moore, 33, has spent her entire career fearlessly disrobing above and beyond the call of duty. During her salad days, she posed for some (relatively tame) shots for Oui magazine, appeared topless in Blame It on Rio, and put her chest on display in About Last Night…, a film detractors cite as ”before” proof that she’s had her breasts augmented. (Her attorney, Marty Singer, dismisses the rumors as ”false and fabricated.”) And Moore’s provocative poses for Vanity Fair scared up even more interest in her career than the $218 million-grossing Ghost did.

Since undressing is sort of germane to the bump-‘n’-grind milieu, Striptease should be the least likely of Moore’s projects to incite controversy. But such outrageous publicity stunts as last November’s Top Ten burlesque for David Letterman and March’s shimmying lessons for Barbara Walters have increased the flak. And they’ve put her in even starker contrast with A-list actresses who’ve decided nudity is a no-no. (Sharon Stone, no stranger to revealing various body parts, balked at showing skin in Diabolique.)

Moore, who refused to be interviewed for this story, has often said that going buff allows her to deal with insecurities about her body. ”I think from when she was chunkier, she looks in the mirror and sees a girl with big thighs,” opines Striptease director Andrew Bergman, who says he and Moore have spoken about the issue at length.

Dr. Joan Willens, a Beverly Hills psychologist writing a book on narcissism and exhibitionism, won’t comment specifically on Moore. She acknowledges, however, that many entertainment industry figures are ”people with strong narcissistic tendencies [who] need a constant infusion of approbation.” To get it, says Willens, they ”keep upping the ante.”

But Moore isn’t ”a shameless hussy,” says Daniel Kellison, now the executive producer of The Rosie O’Donnell Show and the mastermind behind the actress’ racy Letterman appearance. In fact, Kellison claims, ”I wanted her to go a little further than she did” — placing the numbered cards on Moore’s torso in a more risque manner — ”[but] she showed some restraint in the tradition of Gypsy Rose Lee. She’s a free spirit, and God bless her.”