People think they know Drew Barrymore—but oh boy, they have no idea. Not only was her childhood even more messed up than we think, but she’s also kept her more recent struggles under wraps. She may look sunny and well-adjusted from the outside, but Barrymore has overcome a lifetime of trouble to get there.
People commonly call Drew part of an "acting dynasty"—but few people know just how intense her lineage is. While her mother, Jaid Barrymore, acts only sporadically, her father John Drew Barrymore and her grandfather John Barrymore Sr were prominent actors; her grandpa was actually one of the greatest talents of his generation. But there is an enormous dark side to her family.
If acting is in Drew Barrymore’s blood, so is the Barrymore curse. Her grandfather John Barrymore was a frighteningly committed alcoholic, and passed at the age of 60 from cirrhosis. Her father, however, was somehow worse. In fact, Drew’s first memory of her dad was him shoving her into a wall to get at a bottle he wanted to drink.
It was enough to mess anyone up…but more was on the way.
By the time Drew was born in 1975, her father had already up and left the family, leaving her mother Jaid to raise her on her own while he floated in and out of his daughter's life for the next three decades. Then the problems really started. Jaid, who had spent her formative years in a displaced persons camp for WWII refugees, didn’t know—or want to know—how to properly care for a child.
It was the beginning of a very dark path.
Everyone knows that child stardom is one of the worst things you could do to your kid…but Drew Barrymore’s mother apparently didn’t get the memo. When Drew was only 11 months old, her mother put her up for a dog-food commercial. Disturbingly, the little girl ended up booking the job because when the dog bit her, she only laughed.
Unfortunately, Barrymore soon learned how to laugh off all kinds of pain.
In 1982, When Barrymore was just seven years old, she got a terrifyingly big break. None other than Steven Spielberg cast her in the now-iconic ET the Extra-Terrestrial, where Barrymore played Gertie, the spunky younger sister in the film. It catapulted her into fame, and suddenly little Drew was doing things like becoming the youngest host of Saturday Night Live.
It was also a complete and total disaster.
Barrymore was now one of the most famous people on the planet, and it was still over a decade before she could even vote. Sadly, there were far too few people in her life who wanted to give her boundaries—her mother least of all. High off the excitement of having a famous daughter, Jaid Barrymore began truly partying it up…and then she came up with a jaw-dropping idea.
When Drew was just eight or nine years old, her mother made a notorious decision. Apparently fed up with trying to find babysitters, Jaid took Drew along with her to the famous Studio 54 club—indeed, she probably used the girl’s fame credentials to get in the door. Now, taking a pre-pre-teen to any club is a bad move on its own, but Studio 54 was one of the most debauched watering holes in town.
This was the moment it all started falling apart for Barrymore.
While at the club that night, Barrymore was no doubt exposed to all kinds of substances and party favors that were far too adult. Still, no one seemed to mind. They laughed as she danced with famous men, and soon Drew was going out with her mother and her friends as many as five days week, self-identifying as a “party girl”. Her innocence wasn’t long for this world.
Talking about this time in her life, Barrymore made a gut-wrenching confession. Surrounded by all the casual partying, it wasn’t long before she began to partake in substances, too. She had her first drink—handed to her by an unnamed member of the Brat Pack—when she was just nine, at Rob Lowe’s 20th birthday party.
Harder stuff followed soon after, and Barrymore’s life turned into a black hole.
The next years were full of some of the most ridiculous antics in Hollywood history, never mind the fact they were happening to a child star. Barrymore partied with Rod Stewart’s band in West Germany, hung out with Purple Rain actress and singer Apollonia, and generally tore up every town she was in. But her time was running out.
Eventually, Barrymore completely overloaded on partying and had a full-on breakdown. At the age of 12, she was so addicted to substances—particularly the kind you put up your nose—she underwent a rehab program, and even participated in Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign. Only, it wasn’t enough. Just a year later, the worst happened.
At the age of just 13, Drew Barrymore relapsed. She has called this point in her life her rock-bottom, confessing that she would run away constantly and that, “It was a really rebellious time…I was very, very angry”. Her anger spouted endlessly from her absent parents, especially her wild child mother Jaid.
Still, even the irresponsible Jaid noticed her daughter’s behavior—it’s just that her reaction was also a kind of betrayal.
With Barrymore circling the drain again, she woke up one day to a nightmare. Her mother had her forcibly put in an institution for the mentally ill, and their methods were…not ordinary. Barrymore has described it as “like serious recruitment training and boot camp, and it was horrible and dark and very long-lived”.
“Long-lived” is no exaggeration; they kept Barrymore there for an agonizing year and a half. And that’s not the worst detail.
For all the shock of her own mother sending her to an insane asylum, Barrymore admits that the discipline the institution provided was exactly what she needed at the time, and helped her get clean at last. As she put it, "My life was not normal…and I needed some severe shift”. However, during her entire 18 months inside, her mother only visited her “occasionally”.
Perhaps that’s why Barrymore’s doctors made a very unorthodox suggestion.
When Barrymore finally got out of the institution, she was 14 years old—and on the advice of her physicians, she performed a shocking act. She went straight to the courts to emancipate herself from her mother and father. Her mother was in the room when the judge granted it to her, and heard when the judge told her, “You never have to go to school again”.
Barrymore didn’t, and still doesn’t have a high school diploma today, though she is currently working toward her GED. But lest you think what followed was all sunshine and rainbows…it wasn’t.
In the wake of her release from both the institution and her parents, Barrymore struggled to reorient herself in her new life. At the age of 14, she even tried to take her own life, went back to rehab, and finally ended up staying with musician David Crosby and his wife, who knew of her struggles and had experienced similar things.
This was the final piece of stability Barrymore needed, and she got better every day. But every day was also a battle.
Barrymore was finally on the straight and narrow—but for the casting directors of Hollywood, it was still too little too late. With news of her partying, addictions, and rehab stints in all the tabloids across the country, no one thought she was employable. She was on a virtual blacklist, and admitted that people would actually laugh at her for even having the nerve to show up to auditions.
So there was only one thing Barrymore could do.
Her stint in the institution had humbled her deeply, and Barrymore knew if she wanted to survive, she had to keep that mindset. It drove her to desperate acts. While she waited for better times, she worked in restaurants and even cleaned toilets. Then again, even this had its problems: The owner of the coffee shop she once worked at called her a “bad employee”.
The whole time, she waited for a comeback. Then she finally got one.
After three years in Hollywood Siberia, Barrymore finally got someone to give her a chance when she starred as a bad girl seductress in Poison Ivy in 1992. She was still just 17 years old, but demonstrated enough maturity on set for the film to kick-start a series of other roles for her. Still, as it turned out, Barrymore hadn’t quite settled down from her raucous early years—and more scandal was on the way.
You’d think with her bumpy introduction to the “adult” world, Barrymore was at a risk for turning self-serious and fearful of fun. Not so. She retained something of her wild child past, and at one point notoriously flashed David Letterman while appearing on his talk show. Of course, one of her biggest rebellions was much more public than that.
In 1995, one publication changed the way people thought about Barrymore. In 1995, at the age of 19, she posed for Playboy. Baring it all for Hugh Hefner and the gang was a way of firmly telling the world that she was most definitely not a child star anymore. It’s hard to think of sunny, motherly Drew doing that now—but still, I’ve got another surprise for you.
As it happened, this round of photos weren’t even Barrymore’s first rodeo with taking it all off. When she was 17 years old, she and her then-fiancé, actor Jamie Walters, posed unclothed together for a cover of Interview magazine. And even after their engagement crashed and burned—they lasted only a year together—Barrymore still seemed to have a thing for bad guys.
Over these next years, Barrymore dated a series of musicians—Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson and The Strokes drummer Fabrizio Morretti among them—and even married bar owner Jeremy Thomas when she was still just a teenager. But Barrymore’s most talked-about relationship wasn’t with a bad boy…not in the traditional sense anyway.
Besides bad boys, Barrymore has always loved comedians, and was a long-time fan of Tom Green and his eponymous show. She was such a fan, in fact, that when she began making Charlie’s Angels with Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz, she asked him to come on board for a cameo. The rest was history: They quickly turned into an engaged couple—but they were about to have some bumps in the road.
Tom Green and Drew Barrymore were the odd couple of the early aughts, and people couldn’t get enough of how they ended up together. The couple’s response to this was bizarre. As if to both ward off and make fun the scrutiny, they both appeared together on Saturday Night Live and hinted that they were going to marry by the end of the show.
That is, before Barrymore said she got “cold feed" to the audience and they canceled the ceremony. Viewers everywhere scratched their heads, wondering if a wedding was ever supposed to take place—but Green wasn’t done with the antics.
Both Barrymore and Green were perhaps a little too into joking around, because their odd pronouncements didn’t stop at a maybe-fake, maybe-canceled wedding. When Green later went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, he casually mentioned that Barrymore might be pregnant (she wasn’t). Yet the next event in their lives was no laughing matter.
Back in 2001, Barrymore was happily with Tom Green, and they were enjoying their home in a canyon north of Beverly Hills. Then disaster struck. The home caught fire while they were sleeping. Their dog Flossie likely saved their lives by barking at their door, but the fire led to about $700,000 in damage, and the house was ruined.
Maybe it was a sign that their love wasn't meant to be, because the end came soon after.
Barrymore finally wed Green on July 7, 2001...but they didn’t even make it to Christmas. On December 17 of the same year, the pair filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences”. They are, however, on good terms today—something that Barrymore seems to strive toward with all of her exes. Well, her next relationship put that resolution to the test.
Around 2007, Barrymore began dating actor Justin Long—and it was chaos personified. The pair got together and broke up almost constantly. Although they thought they quit for good in 2008, by 2010 they were starring in Going the Distance together and dating once more. Even then, they only lasted another year…and Barrymore had some interesting reminiscences about this time in her life.
When Barrymore reconnected with Long on her new hit show The Drew Barrymore Show, the actress almost immediately teared up recalling how young and immature they were together. She characterized their relationship as “hedonistic” and “chaos,” but also “hella fun”. But while Barrymore clearly enjoyed some chaos in her dating life, her professional life was much different.
Barrymore had been through enough trauma to last a lifetime by the time she was 12 years old, so perhaps it’s no surprise she intentionally works on films, like Charlie’s Angels and Never Been Kissed, that are more feel-good and don’t require her to dip into a dark, emotional well. But there was one role that stretched her—right to her limit.
One of Barrymore’s only recent roles to challenge her was her stint as the historical recluse Edie Beale in Grey Gardens—but the consequences were heartbreaking. Besides a grueling process in hair and makeup every day, Barrymore also recounted how, “I didn’t talk to anyone for four months” while playing the near-hermit Beale. As she said, “I went so cuckoo on that”.
But soon, Barrymore got an even bigger reason to avoid going so method.
In 2011, Barrymore met art consultant Will Kopelman, and the pair began dating. It went incredibly fast from there, with the two of them marrying a little over a year later. Then again, at the time Barrymore walked down the aisle, she was already pregnant with their first child, a daughter she named Olive.
By 2014, the couple had another girl, Frankie, and they looked set to settle down into domestic bliss. That’s not what happened.
Barrymore tried her hardest to make it work with Kopelman, who was after all the father of her children. But in 2016, after just four years of marriage, the couple announced their divorce, and Barrymore found herself a single mother just like her own mother had been. Although there was no scandal involved in the split, we’ll see that scandalous things did happen after. But first, Drew had to get back on the saddle.
For a long time after the end of her marriage, Barrymore remained staunchly single—or, if she ever did go on dates, they were firmly very casual. Barrymore has said in the past that she’s very cagey about the idea of even introducing anyone new to her children, and purposely dated people who didn't have children of their own. Recently, though, life threw her a curveball.
Barrymore has been open about her struggles dating, particularly her difficulties with dating apps. Then one day, something changed. She recently revealed, again on The Drew Barrymore Show, that she actually did meet someone through the app, and it seems like it could be a serious relationship for the first time since her divorce. The details are even juicier.
Although Barrymore hasn’t revealed the name of the person she’s dating, she has dropped several hints about who it could be—and the clues have turned the gossip mill into overdrive. First, she shared, “the dating app brought me around to someone from my past, that I would have never ran into otherwise”.
Suddenly, the internet was a flurry of guesses—was it an old flame? An old co-star?—but Barrymore gave further information.
In addition to saying that she was “still seeing” this mystery man, Barrymore also revealed that she realized this one might be a keeper after she mentioned she liked postcards, and he promptly sent her one. She explained, "It's the first guy I've met out there in the last several years who calls and texts and makes a plan and sends a postcard, and those don't seem like big crazy asks”.
Barrymore certainly seems to love her life right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s what she wants for her daughters, Olive and Frankie. When someone asked if Barrymore would ever consider letting them act, her response was a very firm no, saying, “I would unfortunately have to risk them hating me".
For Barrymore, acting was a wonderful, crucial way to escape her horrific childhood circumstances. But, she says, “For my children, it will not be better than their circumstances”.
During an appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden, Barrymore engaged in a game of “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts,” where she either had to eat/drink something disgusting or answer a tough question. At one point, Corden asked her to rank her co-stars Adam Sandler, Hugh Grant, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Her response raised eyebrows.
She named Gyllenhaal at the bottom of the list. Has she seen Nightcrawler?
Barrymore’s birth name is Drew Blythe Barrymore. However, at least at one point ,she actually didn't like to be called Drew, maybe because it's a holdover from her dad’s middle name. As Barrymore put it in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1995, no one who cared about her called her Drew. Her preferred names, at least back then, were “D” or “Daisy”.
Barrymore has revealed that her first kiss was with fellow actor Breckin Meyer, who is probably best known for his role in Clueless and Rat Race. The over-mature pair were only 11 years old when it happened—and there were some kickback benefits. Barrymore got him an audition with an agent afterward, thereby creating the foundation for his career.
Barrymore spent most of her life nursing the wounds from her father John Drew Barrymore’s abandonment of the family—until her father came back into the picture in a horrible way. In 2004, while he was still crippled with addictions, John became terminally ill with cancer, and Drew had to confront her hurts all over again.
As usual though, her response was far more generous than you might think.
Instead of turning her back on her father, Drew helped find and pay for his hospice care—even after the ornery old man got kicked out of one facility—and found it in her heart to forgive him before he passed. Indeed, these days she also says she has forgiven her mother for her own role in her horrible upbringing, though she does exercise good boundaries in their relationship.
For years, people thought Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman’s split was nothing less than amicable, and that both of them had healed and moved on with little to no drama. But Barrymore recently made a big confession. She admitted that in the years following her divorce, she struggled deeply, and found accepting the split “cripplingly difficult”. And that wasn’t all.
In the wake of her divorce, Barrymore admitted that she “broke” and began drinking for very unhealthy reasons. Namely, as she put it, “It was just trying to numb the pain and feel good—and alcohol totally did that for me”. It got so bad that Barrymore began to feel she wasn’t showing up for her daughters enough…and that’s when she knew she had to change.
Although Barrymore had struggled with substance issues as a child, she never fully gave up drinking; she said it was “a constant” even through her adult years. But in 2021, she revealed that she had been sober for two years at that point. As she said, “It was a messy, painful, excruciating walk through the fire and come back to life kind of trajectory”.
By now, Drew Barrymore’s opening scene in Wes Craven’s slasher film Scream is iconic, but few people know the whole story behind her appearance. Barrymore actually fiercely campaigned to be in the film, and producers originally slotted her to be the lead, Sidney Prescott.
However, after other commitments forced her to back out from a lead part (which ended up going to Neve Campbell), she got to play Casey Becker in that unforgettable establishing scene. As it happens, there were more secrets from the Scream set.
Barrymore’s storied and checkered past provides some convenient fodder for getting genuine emotion when she wants, and Scream director Wes Craven found this out firsthand while filming. Barrymore shared some of her secrets with Craven so that he could make her cry easily during the week-long shoot of her scene.
When she was just a little girl, Barrymore begged her mother to let Steven Spielberg be her godfather, and the director took his duties, er, very seriously. For her 20th birthday, which was right around the time Barrymore posed for Hugh Hefner's infamous magazine, Spielberg sent her a passive-aggressive present to end all passive-aggressive presents.
He sent along a quilt so she could, as he put it “Cover yourself up". He also included an array of her racy photos, which he’d had his art department alter already so she was fully clothed. Ha, THANKS DAD.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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