Star quality is often an elusive trait, but for the lovely Drew Barrymore, it’s all in the family. She is the latest in the Barrymore clan to achieve acting superstardom, after her grandfather John Barrymore, her great-aunt Ethel Barrymore, and a smattering of other famous relatives including Maurice Costello. However, having a famous family doesn’t always mean stardom, and Drew has shown over the years that her uniquely endearing presence is entirely her own.
Born in Culver City, CA in 1975, Barrymore’s career started early with an appearance in a commercial when she was only 11 months old. In 1982, Barrymore appeared in her godfather Steven Spielberg’s smash-hit film “E.T.” as Gertie, the sweet, curious younger sister of the film’s pre-teen protagonist Elliott (Henry Thomas). Her touching performance in the blockbuster film made her an overnight icon, which quickly led to a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live, making her the youngest person ever to headline the show. In the following years Barrymore appeared in several theatrical and television films, most notably in the starring role of the 1984 Stephen King adaptation “Firestarter”.
Teenage life proved troubling for the starlet. Her famous battles with drug and alcohol abuse made her a tabloid target in the 80s, until a triumphant comeback in the early 90s put her back atop the Hollywood totem pole. After her autobiography “Little Girl Lost” in 1990, in which Barrymore chronicled her early substance abuse problems, she embarked on a series of films highlighting her bad-girl image. These included the 1992 sex thriller “Poison Ivy” and the appropriately titled “Bad Girls”, a revisionist Western about four prostitutes who try to find a better life for themselves in a crime-filled, amoral era.
After famously appearing nude in Playboy in 1995, Barrymore was featured in a variety of films including Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You”, “Mad Love”, “Batman Forever”, and the drama “Boys on the Side” in which Barrymore starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Mary-Louise Parker. Her brief but iconic performance in the 1996 teen horror sensation “Scream” catapulted her into leading-lady status, and since then she has been a major box-office draw known for warm-hearted romantic comedies, including two hugely popular collaborations with Adam Sandler, 1998’s “The Wedding Singer” and 2004’s “50 First Dates”.
Barrymore’s sweetly-drawn ingénue roles have made her a superstar, but she’s also proven herself to be a versatile actress and a major Hollywood player. Her roles in George Clooney’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and “Riding in Cars with Boys” have exhibited a more cynical, refreshingly unrefined streak in her acting, and she became an indie darling with her much-publicized assistance in bringing the cult hit “Donnie Darko” to the screen, in which she also had a small but impressive role. Her producing credits include both “Charlie’s Angels” films, the quirky comedy “Duplex” with Ben Stiller, and the recent “Fever Pitch”, all of which she starred in as well.
Despite being a major star for well over a decade, at just 31 years old Barrymore is only getting started. With an array of diverse projects in development and her upcoming starring role with Eric Bana in Curtis Hanson’s “Lucky You”, Barrymore has refused to enter the doldrums of post-starlet falloff. Like her famous relatives before her, Barrymore is an engaging and chameleon-like performer, staying in tune with the peculiarities of her industry and craft. E.T. was sad to leave her.