Actress, producer and director Drew Barrymore rode a career rollercoaster before hitting the age of 25, surviving childhood stardom and adolescent drug addiction – to say nothing of a tragic family legacy of great talent, but also great pain – only to work her way up to Hollywood A-lister. Steven Spielberg’s science fiction blockbuster “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) first launched the dimpled and precocious seven-year-old, though her image was shattered by tabloid photos of her partying at New York night clubs and three stints in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction by the time she was just 13 years old. Following several years of teen angst typecasting in low-budget features like “Poison Ivy” (1992), Barrymore’s big, open smile resurfaced and she was tapped by filmmakers for the free-spirited energy she brought to the screen. A naturally charming lead in romantic comedies, Barrymore won over male and female audiences by playing slightly offbeat but sincere sweethearts in hits like “The Wedding Singer” (1998), “50 First Dates” (2004) and “Music and Lyrics” (2007). Her down-to-earth appeal also led to popularity in empowerment-themed chick flicks, ranging from the melodramatic “Boys on the Side” (1995) to the sublimely fun “Charlie’s Angels” film franchise, which she also produced as co-owner of her own Flower Films. Well after her dark years were behind her, Barrymore continued to make entertainment news for the occasional spontaneous nudity incident or whirlwind marriage, but nothing could mar her hard-won status as a perennially popular actress and successful producer-turned-director.
Born Feb. 22, 1975, in Los Angeles, Barrymore was the product of a five-generation strong acting dynasty that included her grandfather, Shakespearean actor John Barrymore, silent film star grandmother Dolores Costello, great-uncle and Oscar winner Lionel Barrymore, and a stage actress and Oscar-winning great-aunt Ethel Barrymore, among others. Her father John Barrymore, Jr., a Bohemian screen actor known for his drug arrests and hippie lifestyle during the 1960s, and Barrymore’s mother, actress and model Ildyko Jaid, split up before the youngest Barrymore was even born. Raised by a struggling single mom, Barrymore made her screen debut at two and a half quite by accident; a favor by her mother to director of the TV film “Suddenly Love” (1978) starring Cindy Williams. More than just another cute, dimpled blonde, Barrymore showed an unusual amount of concentration and overall understanding of her job on the set. Her mother had concerns, but the girl who loved creating fantasy worlds and playing dress-up begged her mother to let her act more. She was cast in a number of commercials, hit theaters in a small role in “Altered States” (1980), and became America’s sweetheart at the age of seven for her refreshingly wry, scene-stealing performance as wide-eyed Gertie in the Steven Spielberg family classic, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” The film went on to become one of the top-grossing of all time, earning Barrymore a BAFTA nomination for Most Promising Newcomer, a Young Artist Award for Best Young Supporting Actress, and instant fame.
While Barrymore’s lineage was responsible for some of the notice, her precocious charisma propelled her career onto the next phase, where she was promptly cast against-type in the sci-fi offering “Firestarter” (1984) as a destructive, telekinetic tot in the Stephen King adaptation. In the comic but somber “Irreconcilable Differences” (1984), Barrymore played a nine-year-old Hollywood daughter who sues for emancipation from her self-involved, high profile parents, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The story struck home with the young actress because while Barrymore appeared to be America’s lovable, precocious scamp, off-screen her peripatetic lifestyle, absent father, and rocky relationship with her mother made for an emotionally starved kid who turned to drugs and alcohol to escape the loneliness and chaos. Meanwhile, Spielberg tapped his protégé (who credited him with being a wonderful father figure to her during that era) for another King adaptation, “Cat’s Eye” (1985) and she appeared in more TV movies including “Babes in Toyland” (1986). But before long, Barrymore was attracting less attention for her appearances on screen than for stories about her pre-adolescent cocaine and alcohol abuse, complete with tabloid photos of the 10-year-old out at nightclubs.
After a three-month stint in rehab at age 12, Barrymore relapsed, attempted suicide and was again sent back to the facility. She relapsed a second time and upon her third release, she moved in with sober musician David Crosby (of Crosby, Stills & Nash) and his wife where she remained committed to sobriety. Struggling to make sense of her tumultuous youth (and to set the records straight before the tabloids dragged her through the mud), she co-wrote the memoir, Little Girl Lost (1989). She returned to the screen to star, appropriately enough, in the CBS Schoolbreak Special “15 and Getting Straight” (1989) and, in a case of life imitating art, successfully filed for emancipation from her nightlife-loving mother. She began the long road of rebuilding her career by taking advantage of her troubled, fast-living image with Lolita-like roles in low budget thrillers like “Poison Ivy” (1992) and Tamra Davis’ “Guncrazy” (1992), for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination. She was similarly cast as an angsty teen in “2000 Malibu Road” (CBS, 1992) a short-lived trashy soap, as well as the TV movie “The Amy Fisher Story” (ABC, 1993), based on the sordid case of the Long Island teenager who shot the wife of her former lover. Off-screen, the 18-year-old actress’ engagement to one-hit wonder Jamie Walters and her new collection of tattoos assured audiences that her wild days were not entirely behind her, even if her unhappiness was.
Re-entering the big budget mainstream and putting teen characters behind her, Barrymore was cast alongside respected actresses Madeleine Stowe, Mary Stuart Masterson and Andie McDowell in the female-fuelled Western, “Bad Girls” (1994). She had a whirlwind, 11-month marriage to Hollywood bar owner Jeremy Thomas, followed by a number of memorable public displays of irreverence – including flashing her breasts at talk show host David Letterman while standing on his desk, and posing for Playboy magazine – that cemented her image as a free-spirited, irrepressible, but good humored antidote to the mopey-young-adult-trend of the 1990s. Her ensuing film roles reflected the spunky survivor’s appeal, beginning with her charming, funny, and touching role in “Boys on the Side” (1995), a chick flick road movie co-starring Whoopi Goldberg and Mary-Louise Parker. Barrymore impressed with an acting depth not previously seen, and planted a new stake in Hollywood as a producer, forming Flower Films with partner Nancy Juvonen. Following a cameo as the glitzy but inherently childlike femme fatale Sugar in “Batman Returns” (1995), Wes Craven hired her for a pivotal role in his tongue-in-cheek slasher flick “Scream” (1996), which bucked the preset conventions of horror films and begat a new era of the well-worn genre. Her opening scene, in which she died a gruesome and horrifying death, became one of the most famous opening scenes in cinema history – certainly in the horror genre.
In a show of screen credibility, Barrymore was cast in the ensemble of Woody Allen’s philosophical musical “Everyone Says I Love You” (1996), gracefully and sympathetically portraying a tony New York City daughter of privilege. In the first of many successful romantic comedies, she had a huge hit with 1998’s “The Wedding Singer,” where she was sweetly captivating as a New Jersey waitress who falls for Adam Sandler’s aspiring entertainer. The same year, she happily took on the character of Cinderella in the charming and affirming romance “Ever After,” embroidering the story with an empowering, modern sensibility that would become a common theme throughout her career, as it mirrored her own hard-won evolution. After receiving positive notices for the smart, sensitive, non-traditional fairy tale heroine, Barrymore proved she could attract audiences as a film lead, headlining the quirky comedy “Home Fries” (1998). Another romantic comedy success, the film found Barrymore playing a pregnant fast food worker who falls in love with her unborn child’s adult would-be stepbrother, played by Barrymore’s then-boyfriend, Luke Wilson. She veritably lit up the screen with her inimitable spirit and radiance, which led to a production deal with Fox 2000, Flower Films and the unveiling of its first partnering – “Never Been Kissed” (1999). Another comedy with an undertone of girl power, the film starred executive producer Barrymore as a twenty-something reporter posing as a high school student for an undercover assignment.
In a big budget follow-up that secured Barrymore a firm place on Hollywood’s A-list, Flower Films produced and Barrymore starred in an updated version of the 1970s “jiggle TV” series, “Charlie’s Angels” (2000). The stylish, tongue-in-cheek actioner co-starring Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu was a box-office hit, luring in a considerable male audience, as well as Barrymore’s usual female fan base. She did make a successful visit to tearjerker territory the following year, undertaking a demanding role as a pregnant teenager who raises her child as a single mother in Penny Marshall’s poignant “Riding in Cars with Boys” (2000). Playing a character who ages from 16 to her mid-30s, Barrymore offered a strong turn that showed a previously untapped range and depth. Barrymore next served as executive producer of the acclaimed indie cult favorite, “Donnie Darko” (2001), which starred then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal as a high school student who is haunted by troubling visions of the end of the world. The film was acclaimed on the festival circuit, nominated for the Jury Prize at Sundance, and the ever-unpredictable Barrymore paired this professional success with a surprise elopement to juvenile comic prankster and TV star, Tom Green. The pair had been in the news earlier that year when a fire destroyed the home they shared in Los Angeles, but the couple escaped safely, thanks to a warning by their dog.
In 2002, Barrymore was well-cast by first time director George Clooney to portray a Bohemian but grounding force in the fictionalized bio of game show king, Chuck Barris in “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” Displaying her usual warmth, Barrymore was also mature and vulnerable and gave a powerhouse performance that spanned over 30 years and the emotional range of a long-term, tumultuous relationship. Off-screen, she and Green filed for divorce and Barrymore was promptly linked to Fabrizio Moretti, lead singer of the hip New York rock group, The Strokes. She reunited with Diaz and Liu for the successful but critically lambasted sequel, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” (2003), the trio again demonstrating their expertise as masters of espionage, martial arts and disguise. As producer of the film, Barrymore scored a major coup by personally luring Hollywood expatriate Demi Moore out of semi-retirement to play the villainess. She made a rare misstep, however, when Barrymore produced and co-starred in “Duplex” opposite Ben Stiller. The stale, predictable comedy lacked chemistry, and Barrymore playing a young yuppie spelled a box office bomb.
Just days after becoming the sixth member of her family to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Barrymore reteamed with Sandler in “50 First Dates” (2004), a runaway screwball hit that cast her as a woman without a short term memory and the smitten veterinarian (Sandler) who has to win her heart anew every 24 hours. Again wearing the hats of both producer and star, Barrymore next rolled out “Fever Pitch” (2005), directed by the Farrelly Brothers from the Nick Hornby novel. A winsome, appealing effort, Barrymore played a corporate climber whose idyllic romance with a schoolteacher (Jimmy Fallon) is threatened by his insane devotion to the Boston Red Sox. Next she generously made an all-important appearance in low budget filmmaker Brian Herzlinger’s shameless “My Date With Drew” (2005), a documentary chronicling his attempts to meet the object of his supposed lifelong crush before having to return the video camera he purchased. In 2005, Barrymore began a recurring voice role on the animated cult TV hit “Family Guy” (Fox, 1999-2002, 2005- ) and made a long-overdue return to family fare by voicing Maggie in the animated “Curious George” (2006). Barrymore scored another romantic comedy hit with “Music & Lyrics” (2007), an international favorite that paired her with Hugh Grant as a washed-up pop star and ever-sparkling Barrymore as an unlikely songwriting partner who fuels his comeback, as well as a romance.
However, Curtis Hanson’s drama “Lucky You” (2007), co-starring Barrymore as an aspiring singer and Eric Bana as a professional gambler, folded almost instantly amid a flurry of flashier summer releases. Barrymore’s five-year relationship with rocker Moretti ended that same year, leading to a quick rebound with director Spike Jonze and ensuing relationship with actor and Mac computer hawker, Justin Long, whom she met on the set of the romantic comedy “He’s Just Not That Into You” (2008). She was “just not into him” by the time the film hit theaters in early 2009, though audiences flocked to the tongue-in-cheek big screen adaptation of the humorous self-help tome, populated by favorites Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Aniston. The 34-year-old actress continued to push the boundaries of her career, delving into dramas like “Grey Gardens” (HBO, 2009), based on the 1975 cult documentary about a pair of eccentric, wealthy New Yorkers (also Jessica Lange) related to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Jeanne Tripplehorn). The made-for-cable movie earned numerous kudos and accolades, including Emmy and Screen Actors Guild award wins over Lange for Barrymore.
On the big screen, she was featured in “Everybody’s Fine” (2009), a dramedy starring Robert De Niro as the widowed father trying to reconnect with his grown daughter (Barrymore). Meanwhile, Barrymore made her directorial debut in 2009, where she was a perfect choice to helm the story of a teen who escapes humdrum small town Texas life by joining a roller derby team. “Whip It,” starring Ellen Page, also included Barrymore, Juliette Lewis and Kristen Wiig strapping on skates to play cutthroat rivals.