Drew Barrymore: Daisies and Butterflies
Drew Barrymore loves daisies for the hopefulness they express, and butterflies for the metamorphosis they promise. Here, fresh out of her latest cocoon, Barrymore talks about why she passed up the lead in Scream, how much she likes the film Showgirls and what she thinks of the "three flowers" she's "planted"-- The Wedding Singer, Home Fries and Cinderella.
Drew Barrymore whisks into the lobby of the Sunset Marquis Hotel perfectly on time, and perfectly alone, armed only with a CD player. Dressed casually in attire that covers most of the color spectrum--brown tweed coat with a knit scarf flecked with daisies, burgundy blouse, black pants and blue, red and yellow-striped socks--she flashes that pouty movie-star smile, giggles, and oozes natural charm. Within minutes, you feel like she's a close friend--though even your closest friend probably wouldn't start a conversation by lauding drag queens for their similarity to butterflies: "Drag queens give themselves the absolute freedom to be androgynous and express themselves through fashion and clothing and to be different characters on different days," she says. Barrymore has professed a love of daisies and butterflies for years, and her fascination with--and need for--these hopeful symbols is understandable.
Brought up in a dysfunctional family as the daughter of failed actor John Barrymore Jr., the granddaughter of the acting legend John Barrymore, and the grandniece of the formidable actress Ethel Barrymore, Drew has been a perpetual, public work in progress since she was a toddler. The child prodigy from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Firestarter grew into the kid who chronicled her stint in rehab for booze and cocaine at age 13 in the best-selling book Little Girl Lost. But Barrymore rebounded, and by 16, having won legal control of her finances and parted company with her mother and former manager, Jaid Barrymore, she began to build her career alone.
Weathering the resistance of casting directors and executives, she fought her way back by showing her screen presence, charm and sweet sexiness in films like Poison Ivy, Guncrazy and, especially, Boys on the Side. Directors liked her because she was on time, worked hard, and did what they asked. The camera had never stopped loving her. That didn't mean she completely left the wild child behind. She accumulated numerous tattoos, partied, flashed her breasts at David Letterman on TV and married then divorced quickly. But she not only entered her third decade still standing, she was getting to work with directors like Woody Allen.
Now 23, Barrymore is thriving. Her cameo in the teen horror hit Scream led to comparisons with Janet Leigh in Psycho. Through her production company, the Fox 2000-based Flower Films, she's developed several projects that have a good chance to get made, with her in the starring roles. She gets paid $3 million a picture. And in addition to the recently released comedy The Wedding Singer, in which she stars opposite Adam Sandier, she has two pictures scheduled to hit the screen this year--the quirky black comedy Home Fries, in which she stars with offscreen boyfriend Luke Wilson, and the upcoming film Cinderella, in which she stars opposite Anjelica Huston.
MICHAEL FLEMING: Since this is Movieline's "Hollywood Women" issue, let me start by asking you, how hard is it for a woman to be taken seriously in Hollywood?
DREW BARRYMORE: Not very hard anymore. I watched it change, starting in the late 70s as a young child. I do feel women are coming into their own, they're playing with the big boys. There's not just a boys' club, there's a women's club, too.
Q: Is your career where you want it to be?
A: Sorry for the Valley Girl phrase, but totally! I used to drive down some crazy street in the Valley when I was 12 years old, wondering where I'd be at 23. This has far exceeded my hopes.
Q: Just a few years ago, when you were doing Lolita roles, did you feel resentment that these were the roles Hollywood was willing to offer you?
A: No. I wanted to play those characters, because they weren't me. I'm nothing like Lolita, or a bad girl, or a gun-toting woman. That's why it was so exciting. I got that out of my system without having to do it in real life.
Q: You just finished Cinderella, right? Does playing the girl who fits the glass slipper appeal to you because it shuts the door on the memory of bad-girl roles?
A: There could be an element of that there. But I hope that it doesn't close those doors so I can't go back to that opposite extreme, because I want to do everything. Cinderella is a different kind of challenge. This was hard for me, scary, because I wanted to abolish the cliches, yet still have the magical fairy tale. This team of filmmakers wanted to make a classy production. We set out to make a beautiful movie. I didn't want to be a blonde Cinderella who has her bosoms out as she's dusting the fireplace. I wanted to play a girl from 400 years ago, with an English accent.
Q: Your Cinderella costar Anjelica Huston has probably the most high-profile Hollywood lineage besides your own. Did you bond on that level?
A: Early on, everyone at Fox, from Chris Meledandri, the president of Fox Family Films, to Bill Mechanic, the chairman and CEO of the studio, and all the writers, wanted her for that role. It finally came down to a phone call that I made. I said, "Listen, I'd be honored to work with you. I promise this will be the most amazing film to work on and that it will be Barrymore and fucking Huston and let's pay homage to our families. I see it up there--Barrymore and Huston--and let's have our grandfathers and our fathers looking down and smiling. And we'll go and act and truly pour our souls into this."
Q: How did she react to that motivational speech?
A: She laughed. And then she did it.
Q: You made an indelible impression in Scream, even. though you were gone after the opening scene.
A: The weird thing is that when Harvey Weinstein pitched me the script originally, I was set for the lead, Sidney, which became Neve Campbell's character. He gave a 10-minute pitch on the first 17 pages, then talked about five minutes on how the rest of the movie goes. I got it, I love scary movies, and the thing that kept jumping in my brain was "untouched genre." I knew the potential. Harvey and I joined forces and 'went together, believed in the movie. That was one of the rare movies where I thought about the potential of financial success. Other people thought we were nuts, saw it as a B slasher movie. So we thought, Who would rock and make this good? We thought of [Desperado director] Robby Rodriguez and we flew to Toronto together, pitched it to him as a franchise. Finally, we fixed on Wes Craven, who was apprehensive at first. The irony is, the last time this genre was touched was 10 years ago, A Nightmare on Elm Street--his movie. We thought, great, perfect. All of a sudden, one night, I don't know why it hit me, I was in my New York apartment, and I got on the phone and said, "I have to play the first part."