'Veteran' actress Barrymore adds 'producer' to resume
April 7, 1999
By Andy Culpepper
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Most actresses are still wet behind the ears at the tender age of 24, hardly qualified to be considered a veteran of anything. Drew Barrymore, the winsome movie star and offspring of that famous acting clan, proves to be one very notable exception to the rule.
Think back to 1982 and a wide-eyed impish blonde filling up the big screen opposite that pint-sized alien in "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." The movie became one of the biggest box office hits of all time. Drew Barrymore was all of seven years old.
Today, the survivor of a well-documented bumpy adolescence has become one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood. Last year, she took a comic turn opposite Adam Sandler in "The Wedding Singer" and gave audiences her own vigorous rendition of Cinderella in the romantic drama "Ever After."
She followed those projects with a quirky comedy set in rural Texas. In "Home Fries," Barrymore starred opposite then-boyfriend Luke Wilson and played an unwed expectant mother having an affair with a married man.
Single again, Barrymore's new film casts her in the role of a young woman in search of true love -- hence the title, "Never Been Kissed." It's another comedy, one of those classic "fish out of water" stories. Barrymore's character, Josie Geller, is a 25-year-old newspaper copy editor who goes undercover on a reporting assignment which puts her back in high school.
Geller is a young woman whose love life leaves something to be desired. Josie was terribly unpopular in her own high school days -- the kids called her Josie Grossy -- so going back to school -- under any pretense -- gives her the opportunity to make up for a rotten adolescence.
The blonde beauty who appears this month on the covers of Teen People and Parade magazine says delivering Josie's lines on screen wasn't so much of a stretch. "Getting to be Josie Grossy was so much fun," says Barrymore. "And I related to her so much."
Hard to relate to a geek?
And how could a movie star relate to someone so unpopular as Josie?
"We all tend to feel so awkward at moments in life, you know, and though this takes place in high school, it's not necessarily just a teen movie," the actress says. "It's so much more universal than that. I think school's really tough because it's the most contained, and kids are really harsh."
Barrymore's own childhood troubles were well-chronicled in news stories at the time and later in her autobiography, "Little Girl Lost." In the book, the one-time child star of such films as "Irreconcilable Differences" and "Firestarter" dealt frankly with her own substance abuse problems and her chaotic upbringing.
Still, it's disarming to hear this young adult talk frankly about the image she had of herself as a youngster.
"When I was a kid, I felt really awkward in grade school. I was a total Josie Grossy. I had a double chin, bad body, awful hair, you know, like overly enthusiastic, like, 'Hi!'... and the whole show, you know.'"
She punctuates the greeting with an over-the-top snorting sound. It's self-deprecating and effective. She makes her point with endearing gusto.
"And it just did not work with people," she explains with a smile. "And I was just devastated because I really wanted to try to make people happy and they didn't want me around."
New job on resume
Well, times have changed. And so has Barrymore's resume.
"Never Been Kissed" marks her debut outing as a producer. Barrymore and her partner, Nancy Juvonen, launched Flower Films and have a two-year, first-look deal with Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind her latest film.
That meant Barrymore and her all-woman staff were in charge of everything -- not the least of which was putting together a cast including David Arquette, "Saturday Night Live" star Molly Shannon, and 16-year-old actress Leelee Sobieski, who stars as Joan of Arc in the upcoming NBC miniseries.
Sobieski fairly gushes when she's asked to describe what working with Barrymore was like.
"She just radiates. She's effervescent," says the teen-age actress. "She just sparkles and bubbles and pops and shines and makes everybody feel so good about themselves. She's just amazing."
Not to be outdone, Shannon expressed her own amazement at Barrymore's on-set demeanor.
"In my office, I'm the one who's the cheerleader and I thought, next to her I'm nothing," she says, recalling Barrymore's own cheerleading skills on the set between scenes.
"You know, you would do like a take in her movie, I would do a scene," she explains, "And then when I was finished, she would be like, hooray!"
Maybe it's the memories of an awkward teen-ager which make Barrymore so conscientious. Whatever the case, the actress-cum-producer says it's going to be her modus operandi.
"Absolutely. And I'm gonna keep on insuring a good working environment," she declares with a satisfied smile. "'Cause we're all so fortunate, so it should be positive, you know?" And it's not so much a question as a statement of will.
Wait, there's more
But wait. There's more.
Somewhere in the midst of all that producing, Barrymore uncovered another talent. She's funny -- and seriously so. We're talking Lucy and Ethel, slapstick-as-the-day-is-long funny, as critics have noted in reviews of her new movie.
The observation pleases Ms. Barrymore to no end. She screws up her face in a delighted grin hearing the praise and points once again to her own days feeling like her character, Josie Grossy.
"I have done so many things wrong -- and accidentally -- and I've seen people laughing at me, and I was like, this is just such a perfect venue for doing that." And she means it.
"And I didn't care if people were laughing at me. But when people have made me laugh, I am so indebted to them because for moments of my life they have made all the problems go away."
Spoken like a veteran she is. Even at the ripe old age of 24.
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