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Drew Barrymore hits her stride

/ Source: Dateline NBC

A famous family, some infamous behavior. America watched, and sometimes winced, as Drew Barrymore grew up. But the once precocious child star has now become a powerful, inspirational woman, an actress, producer and major Hollywood player. Her newest title is that of 30-year-old. Drew Barrymore was never a girl scout, but she's wearing this new milestone like a merit badge. She spoke with NBC’s Stone Phillips:

Stone Phillips: “You just had a big birthday.”

Drew Barrymore: “I did.”

Phillips: “Turned that first digit.”

Barrymore: “Yes, I have a three now. I'm 30. I'm so excited.”

Phillips: “You're relieved to turn 30?”

Barrymore: “I'm so relieved to be here. Like the last six months, I've been like: And I'm 30!" 

Phillips: “Jumping the gun?”

Barrymore: “Most women stayed 29 for 10 years. I was like, couldn't wait to get out of being 29. It's like the pieces are starting to feel like they're falling into place. I don't feel out of control as much anymore. And I love that.”

Phillips: “Being in control feels better?”

Barrymore: “Yeah, well I'm definitely a control freak.”

Drew Barrymore, control freak? The newly minted 30-year-old surprised us with that revelation. But then, we had a surprise for her.

Phillips: “This is pretty amazing.”

Barrymore: “You know you're showing this to me. I'm seeing this for the first time with you!”

We gave Barrymore a sneak peak at her first cover spread in Vogue Magazine. For her, it's a dream come true and another rite of passage. Goodbye blue jean baby, hello corsets and couture.

Phillips: “This is not the Drew Barrymore that we're used to seeing.”

Barrymore: “I'm so glad.  I feel like-- not a new person.  But I have a clean slate all of a sudden.”       

Phillips: “And there you are with your leading man.”

Barrymore: “They said it was going to be the first cover in their history with a lion! And I was like, here kitty, kitty, kitty.”

Make no mistake, she still prefers a  barefoot walk on the beach, like the one we took when we caught up with her in Cancun, Mexico. She was there for an MTV spring break special playing to the young fans who remain her core audience. But Barrymore says there's a message in those very grown-up photographs about where she is in her life. 

Barrymore: “I'm still a very dorky youthful person who needs to be a dorky youthful person, but I feel like I finally moved off the fault line.”

Phillips: “You've been quoted as saying you never thought you'd make it to 30.”

Barrymore: “I remember thinking the other day when I was driving how much I never thought I'd make it past 25 and does every young person feel like that or am I just one in a very particularly emotionally crippled group? I don't know but I—“

Phillips: “What made you feel that way?”

Barrymore: “I just couldn't see the future.”

Maybe that's because she was blinded by her past. Drew Barrymore's life story is more dramatic and, at times, more heart-wrenching than many Hollywood movies.

Born February 22, 1975, into the famous Barrymore acting family, she became famous herself at age six, when Steven Spielberg cast her in "ET." Her performance won her worldwide acclaim and a 1982 "young artist" trophy that brought her to tears.

Barrymore's been in the spotlight ever since, and so have her personal struggles. Her father, an alcoholic, left the family when Drew was an infant. She had a turbulent relationship with her mother, who also became her manager. By age 10, the child star was a club hopping regular on the Hollywood party circuit, experimenting with alcohol and then drugs. In her 1990 autobiography, “Little Girl Lost,” Barrymore chronicled her descent into cocaine addiction. She was in and out of rehab, at age 13.

She attributes her turmoil not to the Hollywood fast lane, but to a volatile home life and family history. Her grandfather, acting legend John Barrymore, drank himself to death at age 60.

Phillips: “For a long time for your family wasn't okay.”

Barrymore: “No. Definitely not, it was I think one of the most biggest hurdles I constantly had to overcome on a regular basis. I was always sort of looking around like, what's going to happen with the people I love in my life? Are they going to go away? Are they going to stay? So you feel like you're sort of juggling, you know, those burning sticks.  And you're not a professional at it yet.”

She never finished high school and in her late teens went through a period of unemployment before landing roles in a few small films like "Poison Ivy" in 1992.

At 19, she posed for playboy and followed that with a famous flashing on the Late Show with David Letterman.

But that same year, 1995, was a turning point. She teamed up with friend Nancy Juvonen and launched a production company. Flower Films blossomed with hits like “Never Been Kissed,” “Charlie's Angels” and “Fifty First Dates.”

Barrymore admits she's come a long way.

Barrymore: “When I was 20, I thought I knew a lot more than I did. I thought I knew how to take care of myself better than I did. I'm trying to live in the moment more.”

Phillips: “I'm surprised to hear that. I mean, if anybody I thought lived in the moment, it was Drew Barrymore.”

Barrymore: “Well maybe, I just want more, you know? I'm never afraid to pose myself as the clown who wants to learn. Because that's been my life's process. I don't know how to take care of myself. I have to learn. I don't know how to function in school. I need to go out there and learn what I want to learn, what I'm passionate about.”

Today, her greatest passion remains filmmaking. She told us she's a workaholic and an insomniac who thinks about  everything from casting to costumes while the rest of us are sleeping. So much for beauty rest.

Phillips: “So, how do you account for this, for how you look?”

Barrymore: “Oh thanks, um, professional help, is how I account for it, really nice people who are willing to help an old stray.”

Phillips: “A little spray here, a little dab there, right?”

Barrymore: “To like put the poodle through the machinery.”

Phillips: “But you're not a poodle owner I understand, labs and...”

Barrymore: “Yes, I love my dogs. I have two lab-chows mutt mixes and an Australian border collie. They're all rescues and I think one of the most grounding things in my life.”

Phillips: “You know, they say people are like the dogs they have. Do you consider yourself a rescue?”

Barrymore: “Absolutely, I am without question a rescue.”

Barrymore says her close circle of friends has helped her put the years of family acrimony and addiction behind her. But during our interview, she spoke for the first time about a deep loss that, ironically, led to a newfound peace. Last November, her father, John Drew Barrymore, from whom she was estranged for so long, died of cancer.

Barrymore: “The last year of his life I spent with him, by his side and taking care of him.”

Phillips: “So, you were with him a lot?”

Barrymore: “Yes, I was with him a lot. And we got to say things to each other. Which was, you know, I'm sorry we didn't understand each other in our lives. And can we try that now?”

Phillips: “Did he feel a need to ask you for forgiveness?”

Barrymore: “Yes, he did. And that was amazing. Because secretly I kind of wanted to hear, you know, 'Gosh, I'm sorry, I wasn't there.' Or, 'I love you.' And then what I ended up finding myself doing was saying 'I'm sorry I didn't know exactly how to function around you.' And I found myself like giving him love and asking for his acceptance. And there was a sense of calm and peace and connection, which had always been missing for both of us.”

Phillips: “Do you think he was proud of the woman you've become?”

Barrymore: “Yeah, I do. “

Phillips: “You could see it.”

Barrymore: “I could feel it, yeah.”

Phillips: “That's a rescue of sorts, isn't it?”

Barrymore: ”It really is. “

With those old family wounds now healed, we wondered if Barrymore's been thinking about starting a family of her own. She's been through two brief marriages, the last to comedian Tom Green four years ago. Lately, the tabloids have been playing a guessing game on her future with the new man in her life, 24-year-old musician Fabrizio Moretti. 

Phillips: “Got to ask a question for the fan club. Is it on? Is it off?”

Barrymore: “Right.”

Phillips: “Fabrizio Moretti.”

Barrymore: “Yes.”
Phillips: “Is the relationship on? Is it off? Is it serious? Is it not?”

Barrymore: “This is definitely another change. I feel like for the first time holding it a little bit closer, which is an odd feeling. Because I've always been like, blah! I love this person. Let me skywrite it. Let me tell you every detail about my relationship. Let me take you through our nights and our days. I love this man. I know it, he knows it, and somehow that's enough for me all of a sudden right now.”

Phillips: “You've been married twice. Do you want to get married again?”

Barrymore: “No. I really don't and I would now say if I could go backwards, I would tell myself you have to be with someone for like five years and not get married before you're thirty. But I wouldn't know this if I hadn't just totally fallen on my face.”

Phillips: “Have you felt any maternal twinges?”

Barrymore: “Not yet.”

Phillips: “Do you think about it? Do you fantasize about it?”

Barrymore: “I think it's the one thing I haven't just fallen into, walked into blindly, tried without thinking about it. It's the one thing that I think is probably the most thoughtful and important decision I will ever make. I would like for my child to feel like there is safety, protection, light, humor, calmness. And total adventure!”

Phillips: “I'm so glad you didn’t leave that out.”

Barrymore: “No. Totally! I'm like spontaneity first.”

For now, she's happy to focus on career. In her new film, "Fever Pitch", she plays Lindsey Meeks, a driven career woman who falls in love with an obsessed Boston Red Sox fan, played by Jimmy Fallon, who loves the team, win or lose. Barrymore calls "Fever Pitch" a love letter to the team and Sox fans everywhere and says during filming, she even became a fan herself.

Barrymore: “I mean I got to run through Fenway Park during the middle of a game.”

Phillips: “That  was an actual game?”

Barrymore: “That was an actual game. The second they finished, the crowd stayed. And I'm running across the field, and there are 33,000 people. I'm like a corgi dog. I was like, oh God, oh God, this is so-- do I look like a pot sticker running across this field? I feel like one. I feel like a dumpling who's rolling out of control. And my little legs were going so fast, I thought they were going to buckle underneath me, and I was going to go down. And I thought how embarrassing that was going to be. And, no way, Lindsay is way too cool. She is athletic. She can do it. And I like strapped on the jogging bra, and was like I am Lindsay. I am going to do this.”

Initially, the script had the Red Sox ending their season in frustration, as usual. But the story had to be rewritten when, of all things, the Sox finally won the World Series for the first time since 1918. 

Barrymore and Fallon were there filming during that fairytale ending. And millions of TV viewers watching the celebration saw the post-game kiss that seemed to come out of left field.

Barrymore: “We look like two nut jobs out on the field kissing, and no one understood what was going on.  And I just had to breathe and think, this will all come clear momentarily."

Phillips: “Did you get it in one take?”

Barrymore: “Well, we kind of had to.”

Like her new favorite team, those Boston Red Sox, Drew Barrymore feels she's finally on top of her game. Getting there wasn't easy, but that only makes it that much sweeter.

Phillips: “Your character in this movie delivers a line. You say to your boyfriend, Jimmy Fallon, you know, the fact that you love the Red Sox, and you've suffered with them, just shows that you're a lyrical soul because you can love in the best and worst conditions. Sounds like a description that could fit you.”

Barrymore: “Thank you.”

Phillips: “You feel like that's something you are able to do?”

Barrymore: “Absolutely. In my job, in my relationship. I like fairy tales because they have such a happy ending, but they have such interesting clever darkness to them. And that always excites me. 'Cause I think that life throws everything at you, and it's how you handle it that's the interesting part.”

Phillips: “The darkness and the light.”

Barrymore: “Absolutely.”