It wasn't some fad Hollywood diet that caused Drew Barrymore to lose a considerable—and noticeable—amount of weight during the making of Grey Gardens.
"I got really thin while I was making the movie because I was so fraught with anxiety," Barrymore explained to me. "I couldn't eat for a while."
Director Michael Sucsy more than suggested Barrymore increase her calorie intake.
"Michael kept chasing me around with food," she said. "He kept trying to shove quiche in my face and I was like, 'Why the f--k are you trying to shove quiche in my face?' He said, 'The prosthetics aren't fitting, your fat suit is swimming on you and it's unhealthy!' "
The HBO production is based on the 1975 cult documentary of the same name about Jackie O's eccentric aunt, Edith "Big Edie" Beale, and her daughter, Little Edie, who lived in squalor in a 28-room mansion in New York's East Hampton. As Little Edie, Barrymore ages from a glamorous 18-year-old in 1930s New York City to a 61-year-old recluse. Jessica Lange costars as Big Edie.
"I'm very relieved," Barrymore said, when asked how she's feeling now that the movie is in the can (it premieres on HBO April 18). "The expectations I put on myself were definitely life-changing for me, ones that absolutely caused physical and mental despair for a long time. I cared so much about wanting to do a good job on this that I did things I've never done before in order to achieve it."
That included preparing for the role by forcing herself into total seclusion for about three months to actually live as Edie. "I had no one to talk to except for Jessica and Michael because I didn't feel comfortable talking to anybody else about it," Barrymore said. "I also wrote on an IBM Selectric typewriter at night and wrote these manifestos about the way I felt."
One has to wonder what Little Edie, who died in 2002 at age 84, would feel about the movie? "I'm sure she'd have some funny one-liner, which would then become another one of her famous quotes," Barrymore said with a laugh. "And everything about her is a walking contradiction, so I think she'd be insulted, thrilled, angry, celebratory and absolutely divine about the whole thing."