She was one of the most talented and beautiful stars in Hollywood and at 40 looked ten years younger. She was rich and successful, but for the past five years there had been no one of any importance in Demi Moore's life and she was lonely. She had three young daughters from her 11-year marriage to actor Bruce Willis, which ended in 1998, and they gave her great joy but it was not the same as having a partner to laugh with and love. She had friends, but that wasn't the same, either. I've just got to accept that I'm unlucky in love, she said, looking back on two broken marriages and a string of boyfriends which included Emilio Estevez.
"I guess the sensible thing is to just stop looking and hoping..."
So one April night in 2003 when Demi met with friends at New York's select Bilboquet restaurant and was placed next to a dark-haired young man who was clearly out of his depth in celeb company, romance was the last thing on her mind. I felt a bit sorry for the poor young guy, she would say. "We just chatted and he seemed very nice."
In fact Ashton Kutcher was a fast rising star of TV. He was in the Fox sitcom The 70s Show and the candid-camera hit Punked. He was 25, footloose and fancy-free, and would break Demi Moore's heart. Next day he phoned her and arranged a date. She was flattered and accepted, but didn't take it seriously. He was 17 years her junior, for goodness sake.
Ashton Kutcher had other ideas. He told her she had long been his ideal woman and that it was an honour to take her out. He was relaxed and funny and Demi was happy in a way she hadn't felt for years. It was the start of a whirlwind romance that seemed to take both of them by surprise. Soon they were being seen together for premieres and parties in New York and in early May flew to Hailey, Idaho, where Demi lived in a $3 million ranch-style mansion, with her three young daughters,Rumer, Scout and Tallulah.
Her ex, Bruce Willis, who lived across the street and was still concerned about Demi's welfare, was alarmed at the appearance of the 25-year-old toyboy. He just wants to use you to get from the B-list to the A list, he told his ex-wife. "It will end in tears." "Don't you worry," Demi told him. "I can look after myself."
Certainly life hadn't been easy for the girl from a poor family in New Mexico. Her father rarely worked and the family travelled constantly around trailer parks in America's south west until her father walked out when she was 13 and three years later committed suicide. But a traumatic childhood did nothing to quell the fierce ambition of young Demi Moore. At 16 she left home and hitch-hiked to Hollywood to become a movie star. Soon she was keeping alive by modelling and taking bit-parts in daytime soaps. She was beautiful, talented and fiercely ambitious and in 1984, at just 21, enjoyed her first taste of fame in the veteran soap General Hospital and was soon a star regular. Then came movies. She had a gift for making a stir on chat shows and by 1985 was one of Hollywood's most promising young actresses. Her movie Ghost, was the highest-grossing picture of the year.
Now Ashton Kutcher was hot showbusiness news. Who was this youngster who had stolen the heart of a Hollywood superstar? Reporters found that he was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His parents divorced, and to help pay for his college education, Ashton took part-time jobs including floor-sweeping and bar work.
It was in a bar that he was asked to sign up for a model competition. He won the first prize and joined a top fashion model agency and was soon doing the fashion show circuits - Paris, London, Milan - modelling for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Versace.
But Ashton soon got bored with modelling. He moved to Los Angeles and started his TV career. When he moved in with Demi, the paparazzi had a field day. Ashton told a friend: "There are cars full of cameras and reporters at the end of my street and they follow me whenever I leave the house. It's weird..."
When Ashton and Demi married in 2005, some friends gave it a couple of years. Yes, the couple were blissfully happy, but was the age-gap too much? They were wrong. In fact the marriage lasted nearly seven. The eventual divorce settlement will be at least $30 million, although according to insiders, neither needs the money. Recently a friend said: "Demi will probably never really get over losing Ashton (he is now in a relationship with Mila Kunis). She really thought their marriage was for keeps. He got on wonderfully well with the girls and they were a proper family unit. It was a tragedy that it ended in tears — as most people thought it would.
"We had seven wonderful years and every day was a joy," Demi Moore has said. "Ok I'm down in the dumps right now, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world." (Susan French/Tony James Features)