From child star at seven to rehab at 11 to divorcing three husbands, Drew Barrymore has been through the mill – but has emerged a fearless businesswoman and devoted mum. Caroline Leaper meets a megastar in fighting form.
how the former Hollywood wild child finally hit her stride
Picture, if you can, the actor Drew Barrymore shuffling around during a sharp Manhattan winter, wearing a boho frock and fleece-lined Crocs. Despite moving to New York four years ago, everything about her wardrobe is still wonderfully kooky and Californian, to the point where it might even be deemed inappropriate for the climate of her new home town.
“I wear Crocs all the time, sticking out from a cute little vintage dress,” she laughs, adding that she loves fashion’s most divisive shoes so much that she has designed a new collection for the brand, putting a flowery spin on its sliders and classic clogs. “People think that they’re a comfort shoe, but I’m obsessed. I’ve been trying to get hold of the Christopher Kane ones for ages.”
Drew has always marched to her own beat when it comes to style, from taffeta and unbrushed curls on the red carpet for her breakthrough role in ET, aged seven, to her rebel-teen look in the 1990s and hippy chic during the noughties. These days, looking glamorous is high on her agenda – just not all the time.
“I dabble in it,” she says. “I know what’s happening in fashion and have a stylist to get me dressed for red carpets, but I tend not to be a purchaser of high-end stuff because I just can’t bring myself to pay the prices. I do love [online shopping outlet] The Outnet though – sometimes you can find designer pieces for, like, 80 per cent off and you think, ‘Okay, now I can justify this.’”
Honesty has always been one of Drew’s most celebrated qualities (name another big-league actor who’d admit to chasing designer discounts), and with her spunky Valley Girl chat it is impossible not to like her. The child star turned wild, bad, and then good is now a highly successful entrepreneur worth an estimated $176 million. As well as her collection for Crocs, she has launched a clothing line, Dear Drew, with Amazon, is the founder of cosmetics brand Flower Beauty, has her own line of Barrymore
Wines and still runs Flower Films, the company she co-founded in 1995 and which produced era-defining hits like Charlie’s Angels, Donnie Darko and Never Been Kissed, all of which she also starred in. At 43, it seems that she’s finally, almost, maybe, found her happy place, if only she’d allow herself to feel it.
“I’m not always so kind to myself,” she says. “I am a really hard worker. When I had my two children I put
acting on the back-burner because I wanted to be able to be a mum. I’d been acting my whole life, so it felt like no sacrifice to back away from it for a few years so that I could be there to raise my kids. I’m also not the kind of person who can be doing nothing, so it felt like a good time to develop my other business ventures and dictate my own hours.”
Drew’s daughters, Olive, five, and Frankie, three, are at the centre of her world and she admits that she has chosen to raise them in an entirely different way to her own turbulent childhood. The daughter of actors John Drew Barrymore and Jaid Barrymore, Drew starred in a dog food commercial as a baby, made her acting debut at the age of three in TV movie Suddenly, Love, and hit the big time aged seven in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Her mother took her to Studio 54 nightclub at the age of nine, she was drinking by 11, and sent to rehab with a drug addiction before turning 13. She was legally “divorced” from her parents at 15, a judge ruling she was allowed to live alone, as a legal adult, in West Hollywood.
“She had lost credibility as a mother by taking me to Studio 54 (so wrong, but so fun) instead of school,” Drew would later write in her memoir, Wildflower. “And I was out of control due to working since I was 11-months-old, and what that had done to my childhood, which made me grow up too fast.”
Drew started again on her own, working in a Los Angeles coffee shop – at 15 and fresh out of rehab, she was now considered damaged goods in Hollywood. She went to auditions and worked exceptionally hard to break the “child actor curse” – taking small parts and rebuilding her reputation. Engagements and breakups punctuated her late teens – after accepting two different proposals at 16 and 17, she then married Welsh bar owner Jeremy Thomas at 19, divorcing after a few months. At 26 she married comedian Tom Green (who co-starred with her in Charlie’s Angels), but the couple divorced the following year. It was always, as she has said on several occasions, a fight to the death to be happy.
“I really care about being a good mum,” she tells me today. “I will post pictures of my kids on Instagram but I never really show their faces. I try to be very careful with that. I think children should be off-limits to the paparazzi.
“It’s a mother’s curse and blessing to care so much about their kids. Every parent probably feels this way: like it’s never enough, and you want to do more. I know I’m working hard, but when my children are first in my life that’s when I have the balance right.”
Drew divorced the girls’ father, art consultant Will Kopelman, in 2016 after four years of marriage, but the pair remains on remarkably good terms and both live in New York. She describes their “happy unorthodox union” as one based on shared co-parenting values and finds it almost amusing that their split, in being so amicable, is of little interest to the tabloids. On Christmas Day, she and Will posted a picture on Instagram of them together drinking beers and eating corn dogs while their children were napping. “I have this big family that came with my kids,” she explains, “because I love my kids’ grandparents and cousins – and we’re all so close that it’s as if nothing has changed, really.”
Her girl gang, she says, is of almost equal importance. She is still best friends with Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz, and Drew says that they still all let their hair down together on an annual “#momtrip”.
“They’re everything – my girlfriends were my original family,” she says. “They are who I have always turned to, so they’re right up there with what’s most important to me. A lot of us are parents now and we can get so lost in parenthood. But we take a lot of trips together and it reminds you that you are an individual and you did have a life before the kids. We have these mass text chains and someone will say, ‘Okay, this place, these dates,’ and suddenly everyone’s going ‘ding, ding, ding, let’s go run free together as women’.’’
Drew and Gwyneth frequently discuss their respective beauty and wellness businesses – Drew recently flew back to New York from Korea especially to speak at Gwyneth’s Goop Health Summit. Drew had spent five days in meetings in Seoul developing a new line of green-tox face masks with skincare innovator Jayjun, which she says are a key part of her personal beauty regimen.
“I’ve never done anything to my face and I want to keep it that way for as long as possible,” she says. “I believe
“My girlfriends were my original family. They are who I have always turned to.”
in skincare over anything invasive – techniques to help you look and feel better. Also, I think if you’re not crazy, you’re going to look the best you can. For me, mental health and happiness is the most important thing, and everything else is just a cherry on top to make it look a little more polished.”
After taking a break from acting in 2013, Drew made her comeback last year as flesh-eating zombie mum Sheila Hammond in the Netflix horror-comedy series Santa Clarita Diet, which she also co-produced. A second series was released in March this year and has had a positive reception; it’s light (but graphic) and she’s funny in it. Drew says that she has no ambitions to chase grittier work right now.
“I have plenty of drama in my life and everybody else does too – I find myself not wanting to even watch anything that will be difficult or painful. I’m lucky that over the years I’ve been able to do films that are just fun for people to watch. That’s what I love about the job: being able to transport people and take them somewhere positive.”
Drew has managed to largely stay out of the recent scandals engulfing Hollywood (“I was scrappy, nobody messed with me,” she told reporters when asked if she’d ever experienced any sexual misconduct) and she explains she’d prefer to quietly support women in the long term, rather than preach, or misplace her voice in the heat of this moment.
“Taking everyone down with you is scary business. But for those who really have been through hell and back, it’s right if they want to put themselves out there to protect other people,” she says. “But it’s all about tone. I go to the marches and get involved and I hope it makes a difference, but I tend to be more drawn to it when it’s without anger, and it’s about women making a better future for other women, rather than women taking men down.”
Drew has lived many lives in Hollywood and would have enough material for many more memoirs. She grew up before social media became a compulsory part of stardom (perhaps a saving grace that’s allowed her to bounce back with class), and while she’s hesitant about posting too much, she does have 8.6 million Instagram followers. People undoubtedly feel nostalgic towards her and the best thing about having her childhood documented on film is the archive of snaps she has available to post.
“I value my privacy now more than ever and Instagram is the only thing that I share just a little bit of myself with,” she says. “I could see myself shutting that account down in a few years, though, and becoming even more reclusive.”
She could certainly retire comfortably if she fancied, safe in the knowledge she has seen and done more than most ever could dream of. “I often think about that,” she says. “That I should work until I’m 45 or 50 and then just be like, ‘Peace out, everyone, I’m gone!’ But I don’t want to commit and be that person who publicly decrees, ‘I’m quitting the business,’ because what if you find you’re bored to death in a year? How many comeback tours can people have?
“For now, I keep finding more inspiring things at work – but in a few years’ time I’ll probably be ready to disappear. No one will even notice at first; I’ll just fade away into the wallpaper, me and my girls.”
“Mental health and happiness is most important; everything else is a just a cherry on top.”
RIGHT: A young Drew with her mother Jaid, who took her to Studio 54 when Drew was nine. BELOW: The star loves being mum to Frankie and Olive.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Wild child Drew aged 20; at four Drew was already a movie veteran; Drew and Will Kopelman remain close despite their divorce; Drew was in rehab by 13; Gwyneth, Cameron and Drew regularly catch up.