16-02 Segment 2: Drew Barrymore Talks About Life, Love and Family

 

Synopsis: Everyone remembers little Gertie from the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the actress who played the part – Drew Barrymore. It’s been a long time since she made that film and she’s had her ups and downs since then. Now, as a 40-year-old mother of two, Barrymore talks about her growing up, the problems she had with her family, fending for herself at age 14, and what she’s learned on the way to becoming an accomplished actress and a mature and loving mother.

Host: Marty Peterson. Guest: Drew Barrymore, actress, director, producer, businesswoman, and author of the memoir Wildflower.

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Wildflower: Drew Barrymore talks about life, love and family

Marty Peterson: She’s been in front of a camera since she was 11 months old, earning a paycheck and often being the major breadwinner of the family. Now she’s an accomplished actress, director, producer, model, author and cosmetics mogul. She won our hearts in 1981 as little Gertie in Steven Spielberg’s movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and from there she appeared in scores of films including two Charlie’s Angels­ movies which her company, Flower Productions produced, and co-starred and co-produced the movie 50 First Dates with her long-time friend Adam Sandler. She’s won scores of awards for her films, and accolades for her business and writing. Yes, Drew Barrymore has led a full life, but the lessons she’s learned were often hard-won. She talks about life, love and family in her new book, Wildflower. Her father, John Drew Barrymore, was an actor from the famous Barrymore acting family. Her time with him as a child was short – he and Drew’s mother, Ildiko, were divorced when she was nine, and she was estranged from him until shortly before his death in 2004. Drew says that her life was anything but average growing up in West Hollywood, among the less affluent and more eccentric people who lived in her neighborhood. She relished the diversity, the friendliness of her neighbors and she loved the beautiful flowers and plants that grew around the house…especially the avocado tree in the back yard. She writes that she would eat upwards of 10 avocados on some days. Then came her breakout role in ET. She was making money at age six, traveling the world promoting the film, and she says that’s when everything changed…

Drew Barrymore: And change was very scary for me. Once E.T. out and she sold the house and life was just a whole rollercoaster. Then it was nothing but change. Change, change, change. And those first six, seven years, things were totally unorthodox, but they were consistent at the same time and I think I, in some ways especially as a mom in my 40s, I just want to get back to that.

Peterson: Barrymore says she wanted to write the book as a love letter to her two daughters – Olive and Frankie. She says she had, in her youth and early 20s, her wild days – parties, drugs and lots of cutting up – that were documented in great detail in the entertainment press. Barrymore says that in writing about her life, she wanted to tell her daughters about herself in the wild times and show them how she evolved into the caring person she is today…

Barrymore: I’m like the pillars of appropriateness. How did I get there? This is how. But I also wanted to explain myself to my kids at the same time. So, it was just an amazing journey, writing this book. I was inspired, I had fun, I cried as I wrote certain things, I was surprised. I, like I had stories in the sort of fun column, and they would jump right over to the emotional column, and I was like,”Wow! I didn’t realize that was so deep and meaningful to me.” And then, I just giggled a lot too. You know, I’m an optimistic person. It’s an optimistic book. I attribute a moment in it, you know, when I saw on my best friend’s refrigerator this magnet that said “Happiness is a choice” and I always just thought she was the grooviest person for touting that kind of mantra. And in my late teens and early 20s I was like, “Yeah, man, it’s all about happiness.”

Peterson: As she grew up, though, she says she learned that happiness was not the most important thing…

Barrymore: As a woman in my 40s, I’m like, no, it’s the word “choice.” That’s the powerful thing in that statement. And to choose to have a sunny disposition and the fight for happiness is the key. The happiness is the payoff but the earning it and being protective of it and working hard towards that happiness is where that awesomeness is, it really lies.

Peterson: Barrymore was emancipated from her mother at the age of 14 and went to live on her own. It was a rocky road she traveled professionally and personally. She found an apartment in a scary part of West Hollywood and got a job at a coffee house. One of the chapters in the story talks about how she had absolutely no domestic skills to speak of. She had to learn when to throw out the food molding in her fridge, clean house and do laundry. She learned how to do all of those things by facing them head-on. She got so good at house chores, in fact, that she writes, “I loved stain removal.”…

Barrymore: I had only acted up until that point of getting my first apartment and emancipated at 14, and I didn’t have a domestic skill to save my life. Acting doesn’t prepare you for squat in the real world. It was just a horrifying wake-up call, and I felt very intimidated by the whole thing. I couldn’t even sleep at night because I was, like, scared in this little apartment in this bad neighborhood. I was like, “Oh, my god!” I thought this was going to be so fun. I had pictured it almost like a movie, where the kid gets to not have to live with their parents, and like hilarity ensures, and I was like, “This is dark! How am I going to deal with this?” And then I was like, I’m just going to put one foot in front of the other and I’m going to get good at this, because I suck at it right now, and this unacceptable. And mastering something, and falling in love with it and doing your homework and getting good at something really is the way to like kill the fear and like face the dragon. The whole thing turned Technicolor and became really fun. And I thought, well, this applies to everything in life. Just work at it, learn it, love it, do it, and learn how to conquer anything via mastering it.

Peterson: That wasn’t the first time she learned to master something new. When she was six she went to the Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles where her mother, an aspiring actress, was taking acting lessons. Barrymore got a small part in a play about the Nazi concentration camps. She writes that the lead actress in the play had to perform “…in the greatest turmoil throughout the whole play, every night.” Barrymore says that she had to find out how she did it…

Barrymore: I decided one night to go looking, and it took me days to find her but I finally found her laying down in one of the dark theaters, with her little legs dangling off the side, lying down and just dredging up something inside of her. I will never know what it was that she was thinking, but they were real tears and she was working them out of her. And so, to know that when she was going out there every night that it was not fake, it was not acting, she was applying this amazing pain that she had – if it was even pain – out onto that play every night. So it was just such a revelation to me of “This woman’s not acting. She’s not faking anything. She’s using what’s inside of her in the most animalistic, primal, incredible way.” This was a great lesson to me of like make it personal.

Peterson: Barrymore has given wonderful performances in film, and she credits it to learning from that actress and also from the director of E.T., Steven Spielberg…

Barrymore: And then Steven Spielberg not too far after that when I was making E.T. said this saying sort of off the cuff but it affected me so profoundly, he said, “Don’t act your characters, be your characters.” And I was like, okay, if he’s saying don’t act, and this woman wasn’t acting, maybe you’re just yourself. I’ve gotten in trouble even for like saying like, “Oh, I don’t act. I don’t know how to act,” and people are like, “Don’t say that about yourself. That’s really irritating to hear.” And I’m like, “Well then how do I word it? How do I say it?” Because I am inspired to use what’s real inside of me and then maybe pretend it through someone else. But I love that this woman didn’t pretend and Steven said just be that person. They were such formative, encouraging, life-changing moments for me. And then, much like the laundry too, is like you make it personal. And everything in life, as many things as can be, should be personal. You’ll have a deeper investment in the outcome if they are personal.

Peterson: She’s all about being a mother now, cherishing the time she spends with her daughters. She says she was born when they were, and she learns a lot about life from them…

Barrymore: They have just become the center of my universe and my focus, and I love it. I love the chaos, I love the amount of love I have, I love – talk about conquering things – whenever you feel like you’re doing something right by them it’s just the best feeling in the world. It’s taught me to be quick on my feet. Oh, my god, every instance needs another tool from your vast, imaginative toolbox, and I love keeping them safe. It’s a 24-hour job. Even when you’re sleeping, I’m convinced I’m hearing them stir in the night and I wake up and I’m like, “Is everything okay?” It’s endless.

Peterson: Not only does Barrymore love her daughters – her real family — she says that she considers many of her longtime friends to be family too…

Barrymore: Because I didn’t have a traditional family so I really believe in the power of, you know it doesn’t have to be blood, it’s who you choose. Again, that word “choice,” it’s so powerful. And when they choose me, I choose them, I really have a deep respect for that. And it’s a very powerful thing. And I do, I love the people in my life. If my whole life is for my daughters, I think up until that point my whole life was really, and will always be to a large extent really, to show the people that I love, I love them.

Peterson: You can read about the tough times, the wild times and the family times of actress Drew Barrymore in her new book, Wildflower, available in stores and online. To find out more about the book, log onto Penguinrandomhouse.com. To learn more about all of our guests, log onto our site at Viewpoints online.net. You can find archives of past programs there and on iTunes and Stitcher. Our show is written and produced by Pat Reuter. Our production directors are Sean Waldron and Reed Pence. I’m Marty Peterson.

 

 

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