At 35, Drew Barrymore has managed to live quite a few lives. So far.
You can’t but like Drew Barrymore. In spite of the humungous amount of mediocre movies.
Here’s a true Hollywood survivor, the scion of an acting dynasty that became famous just as much for their on-screen work as their off-screen shenanigans. Just like Drew Barrymore.
Press Play to view the Interview
By the age of 7, she was hosting Saturday Night Live, and was on nodding terms with Studio 54’s bouncers. By 13, the cutest kid in E.T. was something of a narcotics aficionado. By 14, she was a rehab regular, having attempted suicide. By the age of 15, Drew Barrymore had her autobiography, Little Girl Lost, hitting the shelves just as she was in juvenile court, being granted emancipation from her mother, Ildiko Jaid Barrymore, “a bad influence”. At 17, she was posing naked for Interview magazine. At 19, it was Playboy. For her twentieth birthday, Steven Spielberg sent Drew a quilt with a note that read, “Cover yourself up”. Later that year, she climbed up on David Letterman’s desk and flashed him.
The fact that Barrymore was able to take this spectacular nosedive of a career and turn it into a multi-billion-dollar success story is pretty miraculous. A self-confessed workaholic these days, with Flower Films, Barrymore has bankrolled the likes of the big-screen Charlie’s Angels outings (criminally underrated, by the way), Donnie Darko, 50 First Dates, He’s Just Not That Into You, HBO awards magnet Grey Gardens, and Barrymore’s recent directorial debut, Whip It. Not bad going. For a one-time Lindsay Lohan.
Not that Ms. Barrymore isn’t averse to making mediocre movies still, as her latest, Going The Distance, proves. As the title suggests, it’s a long-distance romantic comedy, Barrymore acting alongside her former boyfriend Justin Long in this hip-but-flat affair.
Still, when I caught up with this leading lady at London’s Claridge’s Hotel recently, she was in fine fettle. And in a playful mood.
PAUL BYRNE: How are you, son?
DREW BARRYMORE: Son?
It’s a term of affection. Or endearment. Take your pick.
Oh, okay. I was just thinking, you should see my penis…
So I’ve heard. Here we have the beautiful Drew Blyth Barrymore and Justin Jake Long playing a hip young couple who fall in and out of love. Was there much research involved here?
[Laughs] Yeah, him and I have a history together, so, I thought it was kind of a cool opportunity for someone watching the film to actually believe in it more, and relate to it more. Because we’ve actually been through this. And I just thought the chemistry would be more real, and he really genuinely makes me laugh. So, that sort of joy would be more authentic, and the emotionality. So, I thought it was a kind of a rare opportunity.
Love is, of course, all we need, but it can also be a major pain in the ass, something this movie addresses. At times, as the miles between San Francisco and New York stretch love to breaking point, I thought I was watching (500) Days Of Bummer. Part of the attraction, the reality of love’s cruel ways?
For sure. First of all, I like my character. I got to put a lot of myself into her. I go out and have a drink at the end of a bad day, and I swear, and I talk dirty with my friends…
Totally, I know. And we got to do a lot of ad-libbing, and the director is a documentarian, and I think there’s a sort of natural quality about this, and I think, it’s almost hard, because the term ‘romantic comedy’, in some ways I feel that’s unfair to the movie. Because it’s not about a far-fetched scenario. There’s no profession of love in front of a large group of people – and I love those movies. I’ve done those movies, and I like watching those movies, but this is much more kinda true to what we go through in real life, but it’s really funny.
So, it’s like the anti-McConaughey & Hudson…?
I don’t want to say, because it’ll get misconstrued…
I can switch off the recorder, and not quote you…
Yeah, right, I believe that.
It’s an interesting time for you – working with De Niro in Everybody’s Fine; winning a Golden Globe and an Emmy for your portrayal of Little Edie in Grey Gardens; making your directorial debut with Whip It…
I unfortunately had a few hard years there – because it all took several years to sort of culminate all this goodness, and I think I just worked too much through it. And now I really like to take the time to recognise and bask in the positivity of it. And so I’d love to do that. Because it is an amazing time in my life, and I’m very, very lucky. And it’s funny, you have to work so hard to achieve all that goodness, so you do think about the work more than the achievements.
Watching Grey Gardens, it struck me that, here’s a girl who’s had a somewhat colourful life, so colourful in fact it would have been very easy to end up like Edith, high in your Hollywood mansion, signing E.T. memorabalia to help pay the rent…
Yeah, it’s never too late for me to go crazy and live in a weird, decrepit house with a lot of cats.
Which sounds like the perfect opportunity to bring up the Irish connection. Your great, great grandfather, John Drew, was Irish, and you spent two weeks on your honeymoon back in 2001 driving around Ireland. Have you been back since?
I cannot wait to go back to Ireland. I loved it so much, and I being the workaholic that I am, I almost never get to go anywhere for a couple of weeks at a time, but, I mean, I just had the most extraordinary experience there. Really, just getting to drive, and pull over to run through these great parks and fields, and find secret beaches after a three-hour walk through the woods. I love Ireland. I love the people. It’s just a wonderful place, and I’ll be fortunate to return.
I felt you were going to break into song there…
I ran through fields naked, totally…
Words – Paul Byrne
Going The Distance is now showing in Irish cinemas