Drew Barrymore: True Drew
In July 1995, Stephen Rebello interviewed Drew Barrymore for Movieline Magazine for the third time. In their previous interview, the actress had declared that she was done with love. Then, just as the article was hitting magazine racks, Barrymore got married to an LA bar owner. The marriage lasted less than two months which made Barrymore an easy target for tabloids and late night comedians. But mostly, Rebello was mad that his interview was dated before it even hit the stands. In this article, Rebello holds Barrymore’s feet to the fire regarding the deception.
The last time I interviewed Drew Barrymore, the untamable moonchild of Hollywood, she made a big deal out of announcing, in no uncertain terms, “Love sucks,” and proceeded to declare that she had signed off on boyfriends forever. Then, about a week before that story hit the stands. Drew married a British bar owner. OK, I know actors lie. It’s one of the things they do, part of their weaponry, right up there with their powers to charm, wheedle, manipulate, flirt and intimidate. Whatever it takes to close the deal, you know? But Barrymore, in previous encounters, had treated me like equal parts Father Confessor, born-too-soon boy pal manqué and pajama party guest. One of the things I liked best about her was what I took to be her damn-the-consequences commitment to the truth.
So, now that I am together with the young Barrymore once more, I’m feeling fully justified in my major I’m-over-you, Drew attitude. She’s darting around the kitchen of her cool Spanish-style home, shooting me sidelong glances and talking her head off while making me lunch. Ticked off as I am, I can’t help but marvel again at how nature has worked miracles with her. The pearly skin and bowed mouth (perpetually shifting between come-hither grin and got-you-sucka sneer) are now complemented by a shock of hair that makes her look like The Little Prince. Her whippy body is today clothed in a black mini, daisy-embroidered T-shirt, nosebleed-heeled corkies and reggae-hued knee socks.
Drew knows I’m miffed. And why. So I tell her, “Redeem yourself.”
“I was telling you the truth when we talked, Stephen,” she protests. “It’s just that I had to put on a cute face and do something that was hard for me. Nobody could know what was really going on.”
“What was going on?” She promises to tell all, but she cannot begin the process of redemption before fixing us her pasta Mediterranean, the recipe for which, she assures me solemnly, “came to me in a dream.” Dream pasta? “Yeah. I mean. I dreamed every single ingredient in this recipe, which would be like saying, to some people, ‘I talk to Elvis.'”
“Drew,” I tell her, “don’t think you’re going to cook and charm your way out of the shitter, I’m listening”
Barrymore’s expression hints at the dark, chunky stuff that churns under her punk goddess surface. Movies have yet to capture her heady mix of born yesterday and old soul. Of dip-shit and funky sage. Of something utterly uncompromising yet terminally thrashed. Earth angel and psycho babe. She’s a Barrymore, all right, not only in her eerie resemblance these days to the very young John Barrymore (her grandfather who was the stage matinee idol and Serious Actor of his day), but also in her ravenous appetite for just about everything, including trouble. Especially trouble.
Trouble is what she’s talking about right now, in the form of the guy she wed, then ditched about a month later. At what exact instant did she realize Mr. Right was all wrong? “On the day I married him–when I realized I hadn’t even known him long enough to find the ‘666’ mark on the back of his neck,” she snaps. “He turned out to be the biggest schmuck I’ve ever met in all my years of existence. He gained everything. I got nothing, nothing out of it, except to look like the world’s biggest asshole. So, oh my God, Steve, did I really not believe in love when I said that to you. I’m not saying that I am the only one who fucked up on this. I fucked up because I succumbed. I didn’t pay attention to my own heart.”
I ask Drew, as she doles out pasta from a big Tupperware container– “We both eat out of it and what we don’t finish goes right back into the fridge,” she chirps, like a hip Jan Brady–what her mistake was. “It was a marriage of convenience–his, that is. We were friends. He needed something and I thought, OK. I can be a hero and save this person and that’ll be that.” Save him from what? “I don’t know if I’m even allowed to say this,” she whispers, then, shrugging it off, belts out. ”I mean, who fucking cares at this point, a year later? It was a green card situation. That’s why I couldn’t tell anybody. I had to lie, which made me feel like the biggest piece of shit on the planet. I left the day I got married and didn’t come back for four weeks. So, here I was trying to be altruistic, doing this favor and the whole world is going, ‘What an asshole!’
“I realized that living a lie was not fucking worth it,” she continues. “I said to [him], ‘We’re two people that tried to have the right intentions and it got so screwed up and now I want to make the wrong right.’ And that, Stephen, is the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God.” So, is he out of her life? “I hate him,” she growls, nodding in assent and shuddering. “I don’t want to talk about him. But he’d better run the other way if he comes into a room that I’m in.”
As she lights up a Marlboro and blows smoke like a postmodern film noir jeune fille fatale, I mention that some people have accused her of self-sabotage. She mulls that over, then asserts, “I’m just out there living my life. The only fuck-up in my life is my marriage, and, the truth is, that’s only for me to say. If I’m out there living my life and people don’t like it, I don’t know what to say about that. If I lived my life according to other people, I’d be going crazy. Hey, my whole life has been blown out of proportion, so, you know, let everyone fucking judge me if they want to. My marriage didn’t hurt anyone else. It certainly didn’t have anything to do with my career. Why would people think that that’s an example of me fucking up?”
Because, I tell her, it seems impetuous, flaky, and a throwback to the fast-lane behavior that nearly got her blacklisted out of “A” movies. “It’s like Johnny Depp, who’s just living his life,” she says, referring to the actor on whom she once had a major crush, but swears she has gotten over it. “You know, I get married. He gets upset one night and trashes his hotel room. Who fucking cares? We both make the fucking cover of People. People gotta get over it.”
People will or won’t get over it, but, on both the personal and career side, Barrymore seems to be heading up and up and up. Since her winning turn in Boys on the Side, she has partnered herself with two of her closest friends and associates in Flower Films, her own movie and TV production company. Piles of scripts litter the dining room where we’re now sitting. She asks my advice. Should she star with Daniel Day-Lewis in a movie version of Arthur Miller’s witch trials parable The Crucible? Yes. Should she play The Honest Courtesan for Legends of the Fall producer Marshall Herskovitz? Pass. Should she play a drug-ravaged, Judy Garlandish show-biz dynamo in a big-screen Return to the Valley of the Dolls, the sequel to Valley of the Dolls? In a heartbeat. I also urge her, although she will not confirm rumors that it’s been offered to her, to play Joan of Arc in producer Joel Silver’s violent, in-the-works epic about the young French warrior and religious martyr.
That’s done. She thanks me. I bring up her new movies and she’s fine with that–in fact, if that’s what you’re into, skip ahead, because we do talk about her new films Mad Love and Batman Forever, one of which she trashes mercilessly–but right now she’d rather talk about the new love in her life. For the last nine months she’s been touring with, living with and madly loving Eric Erlandson, a 32-year-old, 6’4″ musician in Courtney Love’s kick-butt rock group, Hole. She calls her honey “String Bean.” Most of what he’s nicknamed her is unprintable, even here.
“He’s a Buddhist, I’m a total geek head, so somehow, we seem to make this great combination,” Drew asserts, now guiding me through the house, which features a breakfast room with a dome ceiling she had painted with shooting stars, light switch plates ablaze with floral designs, and walls washed in subtle sherbet hues. While showing off the work-in-progress that she shares with Eric, she’s pointing out tokens of her lover’s esteem. Explosions of cut flowers in vases. Potpourri of her favorite flower (daisies), which he has picked for her on their adventures around the world. A lamp that splashes rainbows across a wall. Pictures of Eric displayed with vintage portraits of the chiseled profile of John Barrymore. The whole house screams: Love Feast.
Drew’s eyes brim when she talks about Eric. Damn if she doesn’t shimmer. How did it all begin? “I threw up on the man’s shoes,” she says, dead-pan. “He sort of rescued me one night. I was at this party at Jabberjaw seeing a band play and I had eaten some bad food and there was the most claustrophobic, hot-and-sweaty atmosphere because there were 300 people in this club with a 100-person capacity. A friend of Eric’s owns it and Eric was standing outside. I was really sick and running out of the place throwing up and he comes and stands by me. I’m going, ‘Aren’t you grossed out?’ but he was just totally there for me, saying, ‘Humans do it. It’s a very natural thing. It doesn’t gross me out.’ I loved that immediately. It was like, ‘I’ve found someone who’s totally on my wavelength.
“We sat on the stoop for 45 minutes just chatting,” she recalls, “and I was, like, ‘This is the coolest. This person is so amazing.’ I just loved the way he thought. I was, like, I’ve never felt this comfortable around anybody. And I’ve always wanted to feel comfortable around people. But the truth is, people are uptight, I’d rather be alone than invite bad company, you know? I said, ‘If I say “thank you” now, it’s just not going to say as much as I really mean. You won’t get the gist of it. So, I really hope that I find you again.'”
“Two weeks later, my friend Ellen gave me a wrong hotel room number at the Ma Maison and I knocked on the door and Eric opened it, saying, ‘Macaroni and cheese girl!’ because that’s what I was throwing up that night. I grabbed him, gave him this huge kiss and said, ‘Want to go out later and see some bands play?’ He and [Hole] were in town shooting the cover of their album. It was so, like, fare. But then, I didn’t see him again for a long time because I had to go and get married and figure my fucking shit out, learn my lesson in life, mold myself once again onto the road of a happy, healthy destiny.”
It must have been so, like, fate, too when Mad Love, in which Drew plays a manic-depressive teen whom boyfriend Chris O’Donnell tries to save, was shot in Seattle, where Eric lives. Five months after she threw up on his shoes, they rekindled their relationship over herbal tea, eight hours of conversation, a long walk and earth-shaking smooches. “Kissing–and I mean like, yummy, smacking kissing–is the most delicious, most beautiful and passionate thing that two people can do, bar none,” she says.
“Better than sex, hands down. I’ll never forget the first time I kissed Eric. We had hung out for hours having tea and we went for a walk and I ended up just walking him home and went up to his place with him. His bedroom is one of my favorite rooms. It just has the greatest fucking vibe. We’re sitting on the edge of his bed playing records. I look up and go, ‘Oh, my God, you have a blue light in your bedroom.’ That’s so wild because the first verse of one of my favorite songs in the whole world goes, ‘There’s a blue light in my best friend’s room.’ You know the one, ‘Blue Light’ by Mazzy Star on her second album, right?”
So, then what happened? “Eric had the Mazzy Star tape, put it on, turned off the lights and put on the blue light. Like I said, he was sitting next to me on the edge of the bed and he’s six-foot-four. He’s really long. He just, like, put his head on my back and wrapped his arms around me. They wrapped all the way around my body and he had his hands together under my legs. This warm, honey-like energy just poured into me. I sort of had to take a deep breath and go, ‘Whoa.’ because, the whole night, we were trying to figure out whether we were gonna be best friends or totally in love. And the moment he wrapped his arms around me, it was like, ‘OK, I think it’s an “in-love” thing.'”
What about the smooching? “It happened right then.” she says. “It was very, very gentle, at first. Small kiss. Then, it went just a little bit bigger, then a little bit bigger, bigger, then we were just kissing for a long while. Just kissing. And that’s all it was. Just the softest, most beautiful, non-threatening kiss I’ve ever received in my life. After that, he was with me every day shooting Mad Love. He got me through that job. He would have to wake me up in the morning because [the movie] was so emotionally debilitating and strenuous.”