It’s hard to believe that anyone with her early history could have become one of Hollywood’s most enduring stars, but Drew Barrymore is proof positive that those who are meant to survive, will, against all odds.
When she was 16, she published her “autobiography” that revealed, among other things, that she had started drinking at nine, smoked marijuana at 10, abused cocaine at 11, and was institutionalised in a rehab centre after a suicide attempt at 12.
The first time I interviewed her was at the E.T. press conference. She was six at the time. Clever and calculating, she called Prince Charles, “to die for”.
Once considered a parody of herself, in Boys On The Side, Barrymore revealed a side of herself that no one had seen before. Even Woody Allen was impressed, and cast her in Everyone Says I Love You. And then she played opposite (an emerging) Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer. That film made him a superstar, and Barrymore was on a comeback trail.
Her spunky good cheer in that captured the hearts of audiences everywhere.
And in the fairy tale period piece Ever After, which she also produced, she proved herself worthy of the Barrymore name.
Her grandfather of course was the legendary John Barrymore, her great uncle, Lionel, and her great aunt, Ethel, all three of them were considered the Royal Family of American theatre.
She’s named after her great, great, grandfather John Drew, who was the first of the great actor managers.
Although equally known for her off screen antics (she once flashed her breasts on the David Letterman show) as for her acting, the actress earned an enviable reputation as a hands-on producer.
Not only did she produce the two Charlie’s Angels films, she was also responsible for the quirky masterpiece Donnie Darko.
While she has been lucky in her film career, Barrymore’s personal life has been nothing less than a land mine.
Of course having been born into a severely dysfunctional family, should anyone be surprised?
When she was three, her father deserted the family. She was brought up by her mother, but that relationship eventually soured when, at age 16, the actress won legal control of her finances and took charge of her career.
Over the years she’s attempted reconciliations, but to no avail.
“I don’t know why families are so tumultuous,” she once told me. “There are so few that are really fabulous and so many that are pretty dysfunctional. I wish it were the opposite. “There’s a great saying: You can pick your friends but you’re stuck with your family. My family is so crazy, we’re tumultuous, we love acting, we like to party, and we like to have a good time. My dad is still out there partying it up at 70, but I don’t have to apologise for them.”
At her press conference for Season Two of the TV series, Santa Clarita Diet, the 43-year-old is prepared to talk about everything and anything.
But not her failed marriages.
She married Tom Green in 2001, just after he had a testicular cancer operation which became an hour long special on MTV. At the time he had earned a large following by embarrassing friends, family, and strangers on his eponymous TV show.
Six months later they were divorced.
Will she ever find her soul mate or is she prepared to go it alone? I asked her at the time.
“If you really love somebody and that makes you happy, then that’s the life you should have. I’d like to find a balance between being able to do what I want to do and finding a partner who celebrates and motivates you and doesn’t hold you back,” came the reply.
She found that someone in Will Kopelman. They were married in 2012 in a highly-publicised Jewish wedding that made the cover of People magazine.
She converted to his religion, they had two daughters (Olive is five years old, Frankie is three), but then four years later it was over.
So once again she is going it alone.
How are you handling parenting while working on a TV series?
It’s been amazing because we only shoot for three months in the summer. I have the weekends off and a week hiatus in between.
I stopped acting in films for several years so that I could be with (my children) and not be on sets, where the hours are long and it’s very arduous.
But this show gives me a really great balance with my daughters.
Would you be happy if they wanted to do what you did when you were six years old – act?
I would be such a hypocrite to say that acting was a bad profession and be negative about it because it’s been so good to me throughout my life.
I’ve said this before and I’ll stick to it, which is, if they want to act in high school plays and all that stuff and be into drama, they’ll have my full support. And when they’re of age, 16, 18, then if that’s the journey they choose, I would support anything that’s healthy for them.
We hear you don’t spend money on jewellery or clothes. So, what else is there?
Food. I don’t mind dropping a wad for the best dinner ever.
But when it comes to clothes, jewellery and handbags … I am so confused about handbags. Who wants to walk around with that? That is so crazy to me!
So I will carry a backpack like what the boys in junior high use.
I’ve tried other (hand)bags, maybe they were gifted to me, or I got them from a press junket. But that damn backpack is still my favourite bag. It’s the most practical.
You can keep your hands free, it’s amazing! I’m just a practical person.
What else do you spend your money on?
Travel. I live for travel. I create these trips for my friends and I to take, And remember I am a woman. I’ll always be 100% a mother, but sometimes it’s nice to go and have an adult experience and get away so you can come back with a full cup.
So, I would say food and travel are my justifications for working hard and then doing something that really enrich my life.
A handbag could not enrich my life. But travelling to a culture and learning about it, going deeper into the soul of a place – that is it for me.
How would you describe yourself?
Just a happy girl. All the things that have happened in my life have made me a better person.
I don’t know if I’m a good person, but I aspire to be one. I try to have a positive attitude. When I think of who I was years ago and who I am today, I have to say it’s been a very good life.
When you were 18, you had breast-reduction surgery. Have you come to terms with your body image?
I think society puts too much pressure on us to be a certain way, but the truth is we are not all that way.
The world would die without variety. If we were all a bunch of skinny trolls walking down a runway, it wouldn’t be exciting.
I love skinny women, but I love voluptuous women. I love women with small flat chests. I love people who are busty and vivacious. I love it all. I think men love it too. I just want us all to feel better about ourselves.
Looking back would you do anything differently if you had the chance?
I wouldn’t do anything different, and I wouldn’t want to go back. I just want to go forward.