The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Drew Barrymore

It almost feels like Drew Barrymore has lived two lives. First, the tragic child star, the '90s wild child who was given a seat at the adult table too young, left to navigate the pitfalls of fame alone. Then second, the Barrymore who's in Hollywood today: she's the mother of two, the author, the kind of producer and director with enough indie cred that she could simultaneously make a Best Coast music video and voice a character on Family Guy. It's easy to forget that the actress was born to a long line of fame, hard-partying, and addiction.

At just seven years old — reeling from the success of E.T. — Barrymore became a bona fide movie star, honoring her family tree's 400-year legacy in entertainment. Her mother, Ildiko Jaid Barrymore, was a sometimes actress-turned-momager, and her father, John Drew Barrymore, had more than two decades of acting credits under his belt. Her grandfather was perhaps the most famous of them all, starring in Paramount's original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. All of the above had a dubious past with substance abuse, according to People.

In more recent years, Drew Barrymore has done her best to break the cycle her parents struggled to escape and give her children the stability her childhood lacked, but it wasn't an easy road.

Drew Barrymore lied her way into becoming a movie star

Drew Barrymore was so young when she started acting that she probably doesn't even remember it. According to her 2015 memoir, Wildflower, she was only 11 months old when she first appeared in a commercial, but success wasn't instant. Like most Hollywood actors who spend years honing their craft before making it, Barrymore didn't get her big break until about five years later when she was cast in Steven Spielberg's E.T. At the time, People reported that it was the most popular movie in history, but Barrymore's involvement only happened because she lied during her audition. Even at six years old, the star did whatever it took to get the role.

In Wildflower (via Vulture), Barrymore admitted she originally tried out for Poltergeist and made up stories during her audition to catch the attention of the casting directors. This included claiming she was a chef and a drummer in a rock band. "They all sat around observing me and asking questions. I was a dry-witted, lying, thieving six-year-old," she wrote.

As we know, Spielberg didn't cast Barrymore in Poltergeist, but according to Entertainment Tonight, he loved her so much that he gave her the part in E.T.

Want some liquor with your ice cream?

Drew Barrymore didn't waste any time hitting the Hollywood party scene — alarmingly under the guidance of her mother. In her first shocking memoir, 1990's Little Girl Lost, the actress revealed that she started "pouring liquor over her ice cream" (as paraphrased by E! News) when she was just seven years old and got drunk for the first time at Rob Lowe's birthday party when she was only nine. 

According to The Guardian, her mother first took her to Studio 54 that same year, and the pair often went to clubs throughout Barrymore's childhood. "It was like Disneyland for adults, only I got to be a part of it. We went out pretty regularly, sometimes once a week, other times up to five times," she wrote in Little Girl Lost. "But nothing was ever enough for me."

By the time Barrymore was 11 years old, things escalated. In Wildflower, she revealed that she got drunk and listened to heavy metal at a hotel room in Munich while filming Babes in Toyland. When a rock band came through, they proceeded down a path of drunken debauchery by "stealing dozens of laundry bags full of clothing," per Vulture, and throwing them into the river from the hotel's balconies. The moment was so egregious that Barrymore actually started to feel guilty and reined it in for the rest of the shoot.

Drew Barrymore started doing cocaine when she was 12

At an age where most girls are playing with Barbie dolls or picking out colors for their braces and haven't even gotten their first period, Drew Barrymore was getting into drugs. People revealed that she had already been smoking cigarettes for about a year when she first picked up weed at the age of 10 and a half. Reports conflict on where the drugs actually came from (People says it was from a group of young adults, while E! News claims it was given to her by a friend's mother), but the main takeaway was that it wasn't enough.

"Eventually [pot] got boring, and my addict mind told me, 'Well, if smoking pot is cute, it'll also be cute to get the heavier stuff like cocaine,'" Barrymore told People back in 1989. "It was gradual. What I did kept getting worse and worse, and I didn't care what anybody else thought."

At the age of 12, Barrymore was nurturing a cocaine habit. By the time she was 13, she had "undergone extensive drug rehabilitation treatment" twice, according to People. Today, the actress doesn't touch the stuff. On Netflix's Norm Macdonald Has a Show (via People), the Santa Clarita Diet star revealed that "nothing would make [her] have a panic attack and seem like a bigger nightmare" than cocaine.

Rehab still wasn't Drew Barrymore's breaking point

In a 1989 People cover story, things were looking up for Drew Barrymore, who had just left drug treatment. Unfortunately, the actress had yet to reach rock bottom, but it didn't take long. By the time her 1990 cover story was published, she'd broken her sobriety, and tabloids were swirling with rumors of an attempted suicide.

Things started unraveling when Barrymore celebrated six months of sobriety by smoking a joint with her friend. The night ended in a car accident, where she cracked her head against the window, but miraculously walked away unscathed. The guilt began to eat at the actress and her relationship with her mother deteriorated. She moved out, her depression got worse, and then her estranged father — who she hadn't seen in eight years — called her begging for money. Finding out her friends were mad at her was the final straw.

"I thought, 'My dad hates me, I'm fat, ugly, I've got no money, I'm living on my own, nobody likes me, I can't stand this,'" Barrymore said. " ... I grabbed a knife, and I thought, 'Well, what shows the most pain?' So I went in the living room, and I cut." Drew's incident was widely reported as an attempted suicide, but she insisted she "didn't want to die." 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Drew Barrymore's 18-month stay in a mental institution

Drew Barrymore's mother institutionalized her following the cutting incident. According to E! News, the then-13-year-old actress spent 18 months in the facility — a long stay that was vastly needed, however much she would have resisted going if given the chance. Barrymore told The Guardian that her mother didn't even tell her she was being committed or she "would have run away." But her mom wasn't wrong, per Barrymore, because it was finally the thing that helped the Never Been Kissed star change her life for good.

"I realized, honestly, yeah, my mom locked me up in an institution," she told The Guardian. "Boo hoo! But it did give an amazing discipline. It was like serious recruitment training and boot camp, and it was horrible and dark and very long-lived, a year and a half, but I needed it. I needed that whole insane discipline." Barrymore added, "My life was not normal. I was not a kid in school with normal circumstances. There was something very abnormal, and I needed some severe shift."

During her stay, Barrymore formed lifelong bonds. As of 2015, the actress claimed she's still maintained a friendship with one of the other girls, who she described to The Guardian as "kooky but great."

Drew Barrymore divorced her mom

Drew Barrymore always had a complicated relationship with her mother. She even admitted in Wildflower (via The Guardian) that her mom lost "credibility" as a parent for taking her to Studio 54 instead of school. By the time she was 14 — with her institution stay behind her — the young actress really wanted to change her life, but that meant she had to change her relationship with her mom. In her words, the pair had "driven [their] relationship to the ground," so she filed for emancipation

"On the day of my hearing, my mother was there in full support of my emancipation, which would mean me living on my own," Barrymore wrote in her memoir (via The Guardian). "I felt so sad, but too much had happened. The judge walked in and the day went on in a blur."

In an interview on Netflix's Norm Macdonald Has a Show (via People), the actress revealed that becoming an adult at the age of 14 sort of wiped the slate clean on everything that happened prior. "I got my s**t over with at, like, 14," Barrymore said. "Like, midlife crisis, institutionalized, blacklisted, no family. Got it done. And then got into the cycle of being my own parent." At the time Wildflower was published, Vulture reported that Barrymore had barely spoken to her mother since her emancipation, but still financially supported her.

At age 14, Drew Barrymore felt washed up

Drew Barrymore has managed to have a monumental career, both front and center in multi-million dollar blockbusters and behind the scenes. This has included producing and starring in her own Netflix series, Santa Clarita Diet, as well as executive producing the 2019 Charlie's Angels reboot (you know, the one with that Lana Del Ray, Miley Cyrus, and Ariana Grande song). She managed to subvert the washed-up cliché of other child actors, but it wasn't easy. 

At age 14, Barrymore already felt completely past her prime and struggled to book new work. In an interview with The Guardian, she revealed it was so bad that casting directors would laugh at her just for showing up to an audition. "To have such a big career at such a young age, then nothing for years — people going, you're an unemployable disaster — that's a tough trip to have by the time you're 14," she said.

During this time, Barrymore tried to support herself with a normal job. In her Wildflower memoir (via The Guardian), the actress revealed that it was tough to do without a driver's license and little experience beyond acting and partying. She dropped out of school and ended up working at a local cafe, but was admittedly not so great at her job, and her boss eventually told her to "go out and find 'herself.'" As we know, serving up latte's wasn't exactly Barrymore's calling. She's been consistently working in Hollywood ever since.

Flashing David Letterman was a turning point

Drew Barrymore is now leagues beyond her wild child image: she's a mother of two, admittedly horrified at the idea of doing cocaine like she's done in the past (though, she told Norm Macdonald that she does still drink). This wasn't an easy image to shake, and it took a single, televised moment of clarity to make it happen. The actress wrote in her memoir, Wildflower (via Marie Claire), that her 1995 appearance on David Letterman — the one where she flashed the talk show host — was her turning point. What felt like a "fun thing to do for laughs" didn't seem as funny when she watched back the tape.

"As I watched myself and my friends laughing from an objective perspective, I realized right then and there that this was the end of an era for me," Barrymore wrote. "And so I started my journey into no sex scenes in movies, modesty clauses in my contracts, and a total lack of nudity in any public forum from there on out."

With the days of Poison Ivy long behind her, Barrymore's now known for her more wholesome roles, like when she embodied a shy journalist in 1999's Never Been Kissed or Adam Sandler's love interest in 50 First Dates.

Drew Barrymore's first marriage lasted 19 days

Drew Barrymore is in a club that's even more exclusive than Studio 54. In 1994, she joined the ranks of celebs with marriages lasting less than a month, though Britney Spears still comes out on top with her 55-hour marriage. According to Radar Online, Barrymore's first blessed union lasted just 19 days (though other reports put it at slightly longer, but not by much). So, who was the lucky guy?

The Star reports that Barrymore tied the knot with British bar owner Jeremy Thomas after just six weeks of dating. They met in his Los Angeles bar, where she was a patron. At the time, she was 19 and he was 31. Per Radar Online, this brilliant idea came about at 4 a.m. while the two were partying with some friends. Thomas somehow found a 24-hour minister who helped them tie the knot at 5:30 am. Barrymore wore combat boots, and a pit bull was reportedly the maid of honor.

Clearly, this holy union had all the markings of a marriage meant to last. Thomas told Radar Online that he married the star "because she was cute." Barrymore told the Star that she instantly knew it was a bad idea. "I realized my mistake on the day I married him," she said. To be fair, she isn't the only celeb who got married after partying all night long. According to some reports, Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman took that same, likely hungover, road. The '90s were wild.

Her whirlwind romance with Tom Green was filled with hard times

Tom Green is a blast from the past — the comedian roared into the new millennium by putting his bum on stuff and playing a makeshift sausage organ. It's also easy to forget that Drew Barrymore was in Freddy Got Fingered, a film that deserves a place in the Library of Congress so future generations can look back and think about what we've done. Oh yeah, she also married its star, and their marriage was surprisingly unfunny.

The pair met on the set of 2000's Charlie's Angels and tied the knot in July 2001. Time reports their short marriage — which also included a fake wedding and break-up on Saturday Night Live — lasted just 163 days. Nonetheless, their relationship was filled with hard times. According to the Los Angeles Times, a two-story fire ravaged their home, causing about $700,000 of damage. Entertainment Tonight reports their dog woke them up by banging on their bedroom door, which may have just saved their lives. According to E! News, they also stuck it out through Green's battle with testicular cancer.

By the end of 2001, the marriage was over. Per E! News, they bizarrely split the rights to intellectual property in their divorce. Barrymore kept 46 titles, including Never Been Kissed. Green walked out with 52 potential film ideas, including P. Diddy's Party, which clearly would be deserving of an Oscar if the rapper would ever let it happen.

Drew Barrymore's battle with postpartum depression

Drew Barrymore's adult life has been extraordinarily tame compared to her past. In 2012, the actress tied the knot with art consultant Will Kopelman, and according to People, really strived to raise her children in an "ultra-traditional way" — unlike her own upbringing. Four months after her wedding, Reuters reported that the actress gave birth to their first daughter, Olive. Her second baby girl, Frankie, came in 2014 — along with a wave of postpartum depression.

In an interview with People (via Health), Barrymore revealed she suffered from postpartum depression for about six months following Frankie's birth. "I didn't have postpartum the first time so I didn't understand it because I was like, 'I feel great,'" she said. "The second time, I was like, 'Oh, whoa, I see what people talk about now. I understand.' It's a different type of overwhelming with the second. I really got under the cloud."

Ultimately, Barrymore's depression helped her appreciate the time she got to spend with her daughters, especially as she went back to work. In 2014, the same year she had Frankie, two films she executive produced — Happy Camp and Animal — premiered, along with her Adam Sandler comedy, Blended.

Drew Barrymore's third divorce put her in a 'dark' place

Drew Barrymore's marriage to Will Kopelman really seemed like the one that would make it. According to People, they were married for nearly four years — much longer than any of Barrymore's previous unions — before separating in 2016. Though the pair had two beautiful children to show for their relationship, Barrymore couldn't help but feel like "the biggest failure." The newly-single actress admitted as much to Chelsea Handler on the comedian's eponymous Netflix talk show (via Entertainment Tonight).

In an interview with Today, the Blended actress revealed that she sunk to a "very dark and fearful place" during her divorce. Santa Clarita Diet, a brilliantly underrated dark comedy, was the project that came out of it, but it almost didn't happen. "I was not looking for a job. I had actually stopped acting for several years because I wanted to raise my kids, but then a shift happened in my life and I was separating from their father and it was just a very difficult time," Barrymore explained. " ... And then this script came along, and I was like, 'Yeah, I don't think it's a good time.'" 

Barrymore took the project anyway, which thankfully ended up pulling her out of that hole.