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LA People 2009: Fucking With Drew Barrymore 

Wednesday, Apr 22 2009
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Drew Barrymore loves fucking. Mostly it happens when she gets excited. And she gets excited about a lot of stuff — movies, music, historical icons, roller derby, challenging herself. She likes fucking so much, she starts up with it before the interview. Like when I present her with an ancient Lou Reed cassette I find in a crumb-infested corner of my car while searching desperately for a tape because I seem to have forgotten one for my recorder, and Barrymore insists that no human hand can keep up with how much and how fast she talks.

“No way,” she says, when I hand her the Lou Reed. “This is the greatest gift ever. I fucking love cassettes.”

Dylan Tichenor, the guy editing Whip It, Barrymore’s directorial debut, and who also edited There Will Be Blood, Brokeback Mountain, The Royal Tannenbaums, Magnolia and Boogie Nights, to name a few, is “fucking dope.”

click to enlarge KEVIN SCANLON - Drew Barrymore

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At one point, she’s so excited that she interrupts a discussion about Donnie Darko — the 2001 film, written and directed by a then-unknown kid named Richard Kelly, which Barrymore got made when nobody else could or would — just to start fucking with the Weekly:

“If I could say one periodical that is my favorite and most important and I live or die and breathe from and can’t fucking function without, it’s the L.A. Weekly.”

By my calculations, Barrymore drops an F-bomb every two minutes. “I’m a dirty girl,” she confesses with a sly grin.

I have to admit, I’m a bit taken aback when I encounter Ms. Barrymore on a shimmering Friday afternoon at the postproduction house a stone’s throw from the Arclight Theater, where she’s overseeing the editing on Whip It. And it’s not because of the ribald language she deliciously slathers on her speech like mustard on a hot dog. Even the dirty-girl joke isn’t dirty. It’s sweet, and the slyness is about inclusion, not about using sex as a weapon. Her F-bombs are about enthusiasm, not aggression.

What surprises me is how tiny she is. Greeting me in some sort of workout pants that look like she picked them up in the ’80s and decided to remain loyal to, a concert T-shirt, and a surplus-store Army jacket, with her hair undone and no makeup, Barrymore seems smaller and more vulnerable than I’d expected given her oversize personality. And she’s very skinny, most likely a symptom of the stress she’s been under while directing her first film and having recently tackled the enormous role of “Little” Edie Beale for HBO’s dramatic rendering of Grey Gardens.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” says Barrymore, of taking on “Little” Edie. “She such an icon and . it’s the scariest part. That and directing are the two scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. If I haven’t given myself a cancer ulcer, I’ll be shocked because I’ve never been more fucking freaked out than in the last two years of my life.”

Grey Gardens is based on the famous Maysles brothers’ 1975 documentary about “Big” Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, “Little” Edith. An appetite for the eccentric (some would say tragically so) mother and daughter and the East Hampton mansion where they went to seed, while clinging to their affectations like life preservers, has been fed over the years with numerous books, more documentaries, a Broadway musical, etc. And now, posthumously, thanks to HBO, these two collateral Kennedys have crossed over from a subcultural obsession to the full-blown stardom they so desired, perhaps delusionally, during their lives.

Like Jackie O, if you’ll allow a minor comparison to Little Edie’s cousin, Barrymore has also been part of the public firmament for so long she seems a permanent part of the culture. Think about it, 28 years ago, she played the adorable Gertie in her godfather, Steven Speilberg’s, ET: The Extraterrestrial. She was 7 then. We’ve watched her grow up and go through well-documented trials and triumphs along the way. (And I’d certainly count her table-dance and boob-flash birthday gift to David Letterman back in 1995 — a spontaneous eruption of the goofy, Everywoman sexiness that is one of her trademarks — as one of her triumphs.)

She is the girl next door, who became a preteen megastar and substance abuser, who was institutionalized and went to rehab when most girls were just getting their periods. She emancipated herself at 15 and before she could legally drink, she’d already gained the sort of perspective that would set her on the path to being a role model for female empowerment. Yes, I really said that. On the one hand, I’m talking about how Barrymore started her own production company, Flower Films, with partner Nancy Juvonen when she was just 20 because she knew by then that she wanted to be in Hollywood but not of it.

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