Drew Barrymore found the Hollywood spotlight early on in life. And since then it seems like she’s been living the dream. Yes, fame, fortune and happiness, the actress has it all. However, in a recent tribute to her famous late father, Barrymore revealed more about her widely known and turbulent upbringing.
Indeed, Barrymore took to social media for Father’s Day and paid her respects to her late dad, John Barrymore. And the actress spoke candidly about the relationship she had had with John in the Instagram post. The emotional outpouring contained more than fond recollections, though. You see, it showed what life was really like for the young Barrymore.
That’s right, the actress’ words shattered the image you might’ve had of a fairytale upbringing in a family of actors. Instead, her post reflected a somewhat complicated relationship with John that had helped shape her as a person. And among the revelations, she addressed some sad truths about her father’s lifestyle and his nature.
Now, this goes some way to explaining why Barrymore had the upbringing she did. It’s also all the more impressive that she became the woman she is today considering the challenges she faced. With that in mind, let’s turn briefly to Barrymore’s successful movie career.
If you’re an 1980s’ child or a fan of that Hollywood era, you’ll probably be familiar with Barrymore’s early work. You see, the six-year-old shot to fame in Steven Spielberg’s classic family sci-fi hit, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that she really started to shine.
Initially, Barrymore seemed to play the “bad girl” in the movies she got . For example, she was the manipulative seductress in 1992’s Poison Ivy. That same year she stepped into the shoes of an abuse-victim-turned-serial-killer in Guncrazy. Then in 1994, Barrymore appeared in Bad Girls as prostitute gunslinger, Lilly Laronette.
However, Barrymore was perhaps better known for the characters she played on the right side of the law. Yes, she won hearts as a genial girl-next-door in several romantic comedies leading up to the mid 2000s, beginning in 1998. For starters, she starred alongside comedian Adam Sandler as lovable Julia Sullivan in The Wedding Singer.
And Barrymore continued her romcom run that same year with EverAfter and, a year later, Never Been kissed. Also, she reunited with Sandler for 2004’s 50 First Dates. That’s not to say she’s without versatility, though. Yes, Barrymore has proven herself in other roles. But the aforementioned ones earned her a reputation among fans for her quirky, amiable personality.
In most cases, people should avoid confusing actors with their characters, but the line seems more indistinct with Barrymore. At least, that’s what a journalist for The Guardian found during an interview with her in 2015. Yes, when the subject of Never Been Kissed came up, the actress compared herself to her movie counterpart Josie Gellar, or “Josie Grossie.”
During their conversation, the journalist mentioned how his daughter loved the movie and watched it repeatedly. “Wow, I love that,” Barrymore said. “I am Josie Grossie, if you say that to your daughter, she’ll understand.” The actress was alluding to how she shared her character’s lovably awkward and clumsy qualities.
These days, Barrymore not only operates in front of the camera but also behind it. Specifically, she played a main character in Netflix’s dark zombie comedy series, the Santa Clarita Diet in addition to producing the show. And it bore her trademark goofy humor, albeit more adult oriented.
Actually, according to IMDb, Barrymore was debating an early retirement from acting before Santa Clarita Diet. You see, Victor Fresco, who created the show, wrote the part of mom-turned-maneater Sheila Hammond for her specifically. Yes, he based the character on Barrymore (personality-wise, not because of the cannibalism) and apparently she couldn’t refuse.
Furthermore, IMDb reported that the Santa Clarita Diet’s script was so perfect for Barrymore, it enraged her. As a result of finding such an ideal role, she had to cancel her retirement plans. As it turns out, the part renewed the actress’ passion for acting.
But Barrymore’s happy-go-lucky disposition doesn’t mean she’s had a carefree path through her life. Indeed, it’s quite the opposite – she’s experienced a plethora of hardships dating back to her childhood. It would seem the actress was even struggling with life back when she was filming E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
This is evident by a touching request the young Drew Barrymore made to director Steven Spielberg. Perhaps seeing Spielberg as a dependable father figure, the actress requested he become her godfather. And he was happy to accept, but unfortunately it didn’t prevent Barrymore’s tragic downward spiral over the years that followed.
Indeed, Barrymore said that she couldn’t cope with her newfound fame at such a young age. It set the stage for her troubles to come. And she elaborated on her decline in an interview with People magazine back in 1989. To say the article was heartbreaking would have been an understatement.
That’s right, Barrymore said, “From the time I became famous in E.T., my life got really weird. One day I was a little girl, and the next day I was being mobbed by people who wanted me to sign my autograph, or pose for pictures, or who just wanted to touch me. It was frightening.”
And the young actress explained how fame detached her from regular life. “I was this seven-year-old who was expected to be going on a mature 29,” Barrymore continued. “By the time I was eight-and-a-half, I felt like I was some abnormal, crazy girl. I could walk up to the door of any nightclub, and they’d say, ‘Hi, you’re that little girl. Come in.’”
Although Barrymore enjoyed work, when she wasn’t on-set she felt alienated from her own age group. This, combined with her fear of academic failure, resulted in the actress becoming more isolated. So she started ditching school frequently, before seeking an escape from the life she no longer felt a part of.
So where were Barrymore’s parents while she was playing truant? Well, mom Jaid divorced from John when Barrymore was nine. Therefore, the actress’ dad wasn’t around, and her relationship with her mother wasn’t very maternal. As Barrymore told Today in 2018, “I had a mom, but she was more like my best friend.”
Yes, according to Barrymore, Jaid encouraged her to miss school in favor of partying at the famously hedonistic nightclub Studio 54. As Barrymore went on to explain, “[Mom] was like, ‘Do you want to go to school and get bullied all day, or do you want to go to Studio 54?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, absolutely!’”
Sadly, it was Barrymore’s introduction to an early life of addiction. She told People, “I started smoking cigarettes when I was nine-and-a-half. I was, like, smoking constantly, and going out and doing everything I could do to be bad.” She explained that it wasn’t long before she turned to alcohol. “I thought, ‘Well, if I smoke cigarettes, I can drink,’” she said.
“I would drink not to have fun,” the actress continued. “I would drink to get drunk. I was also a club-hopper at ten, as much as a ten-year-old can be.” Chasing a series of escalating thrills, young Barrymore first pursued pot and then cocaine. By 12 she was a full-on addict, and her vices began to rule her life.
The following year Barrymore wound up in hospital after cutting her own wrists, which seemed to be the last straw. Indeed, her parents couldn’t cope with her any more, or as she put it, “locked me up in an institution.” And in 2016, she told newspaper The Guardian about her experiences – with the hindsight of being an adult.
“It was like serious recruitment training and boot camp,” Barrymore recounted. “It was horrible, and dark, and very long-lived. A year and a half. But I needed that, I needed that whole insane discipline.” Although she understands her parents’ decision now, at the time Barrymore saw it as denying her acting work – and that was the only positive influence in her life.
Consequently, Barrymore decided she no longer wanted to be tied to her parents and legally became an adult. “When I was 14, I was emancipated by the courts,” she told The Guardian in 2015. “It’s no secret that I had to part ways from my mother because we had driven our relationship into the ground.”
As the actress continued to explain, “She had lost credibility as a mother.” The decision had serious consequences, as it meant Barrymore faced living as an adult would. “I wanted to start my life over,” she said. “I wanted to do things on my own terms.” The actress described this time as being “on a hiatus from being employable” in Hollywood.
Thankfully, Barrymore lived a regular life for the next three years or so. And she returned to the big screen in the aforementioned bad girl role, Poison Ivy. Now, although she’s always spoken frankly about her unique relationship with her mother, what about her father, John?
Well, John Drew Barrymore was the son of another famous actor, John Barrymore. And just like his daughter, John Barrymore Jr. was a wild child. He got into the acting scene at 17, but his behavior only allowed him sporadic success at best. Furthermore, he faced similar battles to his daughter, too.
Yes, not only was John an alcoholic, he was a violent one and took his anger out on his spouses. Furthermore, his drinking and drug abuse led to several arrests and stints behind bars. But John did manage to get a few on-screen roles under his belt in both film and TV.
For example, John played both Judas and Jesus in the 1962 film Pontius Pilate. He had multiple roles on cattle drive TV series Rawhide from 1959 to 1965. And John was Stacey Daggart in 1966’s pioneer TV series, The Road West. When the show received a TV movie called This Savage Land, John also reprised his role as Daggart.
Ultimately though, drink and drug abuse ruined John’s career and any attempts at family-making. In fact, Barrymore was a product of just one of his four marriages. And she described life with her father as “chaotic” and “abusive” in her autobiography, Little Girl Lost. After remarrying again, John later became a recluse.
Yes, over the years physical and mental strain took its toll on John, rendering him disabled. As a result, he was unable to care for himself and resided in an assisted-living property. Despite his absence from her life, it was Barrymore who provided him with financial support to stay at the facility.
In fact, John was rarely seen until 2003, when he attended court over who would claim guardianship over him. He was apparently unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair. And it would be one of his final public appearances because the retired actor passed away the following year. So how does Barrymore feel about her late dad?
Well, now she’s 45 and a mother herself, Barrymore doesn’t hold any grudges against her parents. For evidence of this, you need look no further than the Instagram post she uploaded on Father’s Day 2020. It was a poignant tribute to the man John was, rather than the person he could have been.
Indeed, Barrymore wrote, “My mom chose a wild card for my dad. He was a mad poet hedonist man child! But I understood that as a kid. Somehow I have zero baggage or dad issues. I think I would have liked to have a dad who didn’t look so out there. Or who stayed. Or was capable of anything really.”
As the actress continued to explain, “But his wildness runs through me. His gifts are here. His demons to overcome are mine to break! I love him not for who I wanted him to be, but for who he was. And as I look at all the photos of dads today, doing their dad job, sure, there is my tiny self that wished for him to fit in.”
Barrymore went on, “But I do know this… both my parents have played a major role in who I am as a parent. And none of it looks perfect. But it functions with so much love. And togetherness. And availability. I don’t have a picture of a dad today to show how great everything was. I have a picture to show what it was.”
“And that is my story,” the actress concluded. “And that is perfect in itself. My dad gave me the gift of life! A wicked sense of humor! And that wildness that I truly do cherish.” Barrymore’s sentiment reached a lot of hearts, including some famous ones, such as actress Gwyneth Paltrow. She replied, “Drewbs this is gorgeous.”
Meanwhile, Savannah Guthrie, co-host of Today, wrote “Whatever alchemy adds up to creating you – that’s magic. This I know.” A fan added, “What a beautiful way to say what is unspoken and shared by so many of us on this day.” So Barrymore’s honesty about her father touched many. And here’s hoping that others feel confident enough to do the same – even in Hollywood.