Born into an acting dynasty, a star by the time she was six, Drew Barrymore shocked the world by turning to drink, drugs and riotous living before she was even a teenager. She seemed finished before she’d even started. But now she’s cleaned up her act and is keen to show everyone what she’s really made of.
It’s virtually impossible to pin a label on Drew Barrymore. Hell-raiser. Former drug addict. Daughter of an acting dynasty. Philanthropist. Bisexual. Animal activist. Child star. Since she enchanted the world at the age of six in Stephen Spielberg’s ET she’s packed more trauma into her life than most people would wish to in a lifetime. It’s hard to believe she’s only 22.
She cried this morning over her mangoes because she’s missing her boyfriend, but it’s OK. She enjoys interviews and meeting new people, and all of today’s journalists have been lovely to her because she’s the new come-back kid. She’s torn up her one-way ticket to hell and is once more bounding along the yellow brick road. Riding on the success of the recent horror-fest Scream, she’s now starring as Goldie Hawn’s demure daughter in the romantic comedy Everyone Says I Love You. Being cast in the Woody Allen film – the quirky director’s first musical – is the ultimate seal of approval that Drew has been welcomed back into the Hollywood A-team.
“It’s the biggest compliment you can get,” grins Drew. Her delight is obvious, and you know it’s not just because of Woody but also because she’s been cast in a “good girl” part. There was a time when the only roles Drew was offered were to be the bad girl. You couldn’t blame directors for typecasting her. After all, she was acting the rebel in her personal life too.
This is the Drew Barrymore story…
She is born on February 22, 19975 to an irresponsible mother and abusive father. At 11 months she starts in a dog food commercial. By four she makes her movie debut in Altered States. At school she’s teased for having a boy’s name, Andrew. She’s lonely. Her family life is hell. The only time she’s happy is when she’s acting.
At six she becomes an international star in ET. She follows it up with Firestarter and Irreconcilable Differences. At nine she has her first alcoholic drink. She parties with the likes of Jack Nicholson and Billy Idol. At 10 she has her first joint. By 12 she can’t get through a night without snorting six lines of cocaine. At 13 she attempts suicide.
She develops a huge crush on Bruce Willis and has to be barred from the Moonlighting studio. By 14 she’s been into a rehabilitation center twice. At the same age she co-writes her biography, Little Girl Lost. And then she disappears. “I was on Hollywood’s blacklist,” she quips. No casting director will audition her, so she goes to work in a music store, and them a coffee house where she scrapes toilets and washes the floor. Her boss tells her to go chase her dream. She does.
Poison Ivy in 1992 marks the resurrection of Drew’s career. It’s followed by Guncrazy, Boys On The Side and Mad Love. But still, her screen performances are out shadowed by her off-screen behavior. She has her 34DD breasts reduced and then poses for Playboy in 1995, strips naked on stage in New York club, bares her boobs to American talk show host David Letterman, reveals that she’s always been bisexual (“though I don’t think I could ever be solely with a woman – it’s not enough”), marries bar owner Jeremy Thomas for a month (“he turned out to be the biggest schmuck I’ve ever met”) and is wrongly cited as the cause of Val Kilmer’s divorce from Joanne Whalley Kilmer.
Unsurprisingly her controversial antics land her on the front pages of newspapers, and a lot of what’s written is far from flattering. It hurts Drew, but she copes. “Everybody has had somebody say something evil about them that really hurts, but you have to just not take yourself too seriously and keep a sense of humor,” she muses today.
The thing that really makes her laugh is that most of the people who judge her have never even met her. For this reason she makes a point of not prejudging anyone, and when she is introduced to someone, she looks for their gentleness and studies their aura. Her Scream director, for instance, “had an aura of soft, beautiful colors.” She says it simply, as if everyone sees auras.
Sitting in loose jeans and an over-sized shirt, Drew Barrymore is the most ordinary girl you could ever meet, and yet the most extraordinary. She’s endearing. Her big, round eyes gaze soulfully at you, her sweet smile is so engaging that you just want to hug her. It’s impossible not to love her. And you want to protect her when she candidly tells you about her dysfunctional family, but she would hate it if you pitied her.
“I don’t have any family. I’m like Miss Orphan Woman,” she reveals, and then corrects herself. “I have a mother and a father, obviously, but we don’t speak to each other. We haven’t done so for most of our lives. And I have a half-brother and half-sister from my father’s side, but I’ve never met my sister, and my brother and I are like oil and water.”
Her parents might be out of her life but they continue to haunt her. Her mother posted for Playboy a couple of years back and published a trashy book of sexual tips. Her father, John, once an esteemed actor, lives like a tramp and has been known to deal in drugs. The first time Drew met her dad was when she was three and he stormed drunkenly into her home, punched her mother to the ground and threw Drew against the wall. He first started borrowing money from Drew when she was eight. To say she battles to respect her parents would be an understatement.
“There are so many orphans like me out there. Most of the people I know don’t have families, so you just create family you dream of,” she smiles.
Kurt Cobain’s widow, the grunge queen turned actress Courtney Love, is one of the members of Drew’s self-created family.
“Courtney and I are like crazy sisters. She’s an old soul. We might have known each other before. Our friendship has really meant a lot to me in this life. She’s a good woman and she’s been to hell and back, but she’s never been a mean person. To me that says everything, because no matter what you’ve been through, it gives you no excuse to be mean.”
Drew’s own life hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses. One wonders how she managed to pull herself back onto the right track.
“I’m like a self-help queen,” she explains. “Every single day I work on myself, and I find that nothing derives from laziness. Working on your spirituality every day is the most fulfilling thing you can do, and that’s my passion. I love it! And I lay my head down on the pillow at night and remember back to my whole day and figure out what felt good and what wasn’t so cool. And I sleep better at night because of that; because I’m not sashaying through life saying ‘everything’s cool.’ Every day – get into it!”
The most important things in her life are her animals, work, love and friends. In a baby girl voice she tells you about her cats and dogs. Vinny, a nine-year-old cat, is her favorite.
“He’s very old, wise, fat and cute. I was doing yoga the other day and he started doing yoga too!” You can’t help but believe her.
Animals and flowers, especially daisies, always make her happy because they’re “beauty, happiness and purity.” Closed windows always make her unhappy. They remind her of the time she spent in rehab, locked in a windowless room. Naturally Drew talks about flowers more than she does about closed windows. She has a daisy tattoo and she sprinkles daises on her bathwater. She’s even called her production company Flower Films.
She’s currently developing two projects with Flower Films, and recently completed filming two other movies, Home Fries and Independence. Both co-star her new live-in boyfriend, Luke Wilson.
“It’s amazing – Luke and I were cast together in those two films before we’d even met!” she shrieks. “I remember when we finally did meet. It was love at first sight. My first time. I was so embarrassed because I thought he’d read it in my face, so I looked down and I saw his shoes. They were brown suede. They seemed to me to look like camels that I would trek across any desert to follow.”
Marriage doesn’t figure high on Drew’s list of priorities, but she yearns to begin a family.
“In five years time I want a farm and I want to have children and animals,” she says (in her baby voice again.) “And one night it’ll be raining and I’ll know I’ve made my dreams come true. And I’ll go to Hollywood and the sunshine for work because you’ve got to have a balance – I think that parents are better parents when they have their creative outlets. I freak out when people say you can’t work because you’re a mother. Are you kidding me? Work harder! Just prioritize your time. You can, and must, do both.”
She’ll be a wonderful mother, she believes, “because I’ll be mature and responsible but I’ll stay very much in touch with how I felt and saw the world as a child. I get sad when I see adults not being able to relate to their kids. I think: com eon, you ere there once, how did you feel?”
For now she satisfies her mothering instincts by hanging out with Courtney Love’s daughter; Frances Bean. Drew is her godmother. “Franny is such a beautiful child; so scarily wise. Children and animals are so pure instinct – that’s why they’re so special and so sacred.”
On a broader base, Drew is trying to emulate her heroines Liz Taylor and Audrey Hepburn by using “this silly, shallow Hollywood” as her philanthropic base. She works closely with Michael Glasier’s Pediatric Aids organisation, and as a spokesperson for the American Female Health Foundation she’s an active campaigner for the female condom.
“Please use it,” she begs you. “It’s fantastic. You can leave it in for 24 hours so there’s no need to break the intimacy. It’s terrifying that using a condom takes just a minute but if you don’t use one your whole life could change and you could die.”
This is a new Drew. She’s no longer the world’s wildest child. Now she prefers cuddling up to her boyfriend, reading a book. “I definitely get my kicks, but it’s from different stuff now. And of course, every once in a while we have all got to go and cut up the rug, you know what I mean?” she grins.
She’s in love with life, and focused on the future. Hot on the heels of her performance in Everyone Says I Love You she’s been cast in the coveted role of Cinderella in an imminent big-budget remake. The past is behind her.
“As each new chapter in your life unfolds, it all has to do with what led up to it, so I have no problems with my past,” says Drew. “I regret nothing, today. I had to go down every single road – crazy or not- to figure out who I am, and now I feel like my road is as best paved as it’s ever been. I’m making my dreams come true.
“You’ve got to take risks in life and go for it, though obviously without screwing anyone over, which is not allowed whatsoever. I don’t want to be on my death bed saying: ‘God I wish i’d done it.’ Screw that- I’m gonna do it!”
Now it’s just up to the public to come to terms with Drew’s torrid past and move on. She has.
PERSONALITY August 22 1997