20 Secrets About Drew Barrymore, Hollywood's Ultimate Survivor

No one has been through more and lived to talk about it quite like Drew Barrymore. In honor of her 49th birthday, we're looking at 20 of the most fascinating facts from a life like no other.

By EOL Staff Feb 22, 2024 3:36 PMTags
Watch: Drew Barrymore Admits She Was Catfished on a Dating App!

No one has lived more life than Drew Barrymore.

There's a bit of odd poetry in the fact that the iconic actress spent three seasons on the Netflix comedy Santa Clarita Diet, playing undead realtor Sheila Hammond who only truly came to life after a traumatic incident that should've left her for dead. Because if there's any actress on this planet who can relate to that concept, it's Barrymore. 

With a career that started when she was still in diapers and, brief fallow periods aside, that has never really stopped, a family history that's not without its struggles, a childhood that was anything but child-like, the actress-turned-daytime talk show host has been through it. And like her character Sheila, she's miraculously managed to live through it all and come out stronger on the other side.

She may have been born into Hollywood royalty, but she's a legend to so many because she's the ultimate example of what it means to be a survivor. Santa Clarita Diet may have been put out to pasture in 2019 by the streaming giant after three seasons, but Barrymore lives on, celebrating her 49th birthday Feb. 22.

Drew Barrymore Through the Years

"If you're going to go through hell," Barrymore once said, "I suggest you come back learning something."

But her story isn't solely about the hell that she's been through. It's also about the happiness she's been able to build out of those lessons she's learned along the way. And it's all made for the sort of life that seems only possible in Hollywood.

So today, let's take a look at 20 of the most fascinating facts from a life like no other.

Early Start

Drew Barrymore's career in front of the camera began at a very young age. Eleven months old, to be exact. In 1975, she landed her first gig, appearing in a Puppy Chow commercial. Her first movie role came five years later in the horror film Altered States. And, of course, she became a star when she landed the role of Gertie in the 1982 classic E.T. 

Famous Family

Acting literally runs in her blood. The Barrymore family has deep ties in Hollywood, with all of her great-grandparents and grandparents working as actors. Her grandfather John Barrymore, one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, played Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Paramount's original 1920 film. 

The Godparents

Even Drew's godparents were Hollywood royalty. Her godmothers were Sophia Loren and Anna Strasberg, the widow of the "father of method acting in America," Lee Strasberg. She would describe her relationship with the latter as one that "would become so important to me as a kid because she was so kind and nurturing." And her godfather? None other than her E.T. director Steven Spielberg.

Parent Problems

Drew's relationship with her own parents, however, was a bit more fraught. Dad John was an actor, too, while mom Jaid was an aspiring actress who had been born in a displaced persons camp in Brannenburg, West Germany to Hungarian World War II refugees. She's described her father as an abusive man who left the family when she was just 6 months old and never had a significant relationship with his daughter. Her mother had some questionable parenting skills, taking her along to Hollywood parties and Studio 54 before she was even a teenager. By 15, she'd been through rehab twice and successfully emancipated herself, moving into an apartment of her own. Jaid, who was caught selling her daughter's baby clothing in online auctions in the mid-'90s, was famously not invited to Drew's 2012 wedding.

First Drink

As Drew revealed in her 1991 memoir Little Girl Lost, though she'd begun pouring liquor over her ice cream at the tender age of 7, she first got drunk at a birthday party for Rob Lowe when she was 9, slow-dancing with Emilio Estevez afterwards. "We went out pretty regularly," she wrote of her and her mother's partying ways, "sometimes once a week, other times up to five times a week." A friend's mother would come to introduce her to marijuana, with cocaine use following shortly thereafter.

Dark Days

With her addiction issues spiraling out of control, Drew was admitted to rehab in 1988 at the age of 13, followed by an 18 month stay in an institution for the mentally ill. "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," she told The Guardian in 2015. "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."

A suicide attempt at 14 put her back in rehab for a second time, followed by a three month stay at the home of musician David Crosby and his wife, both of whom were recovering addicts. He told People in 1990, "I didn't want to see her go down the tubes. She needed to be around some people that were committed to sobriety."

Finding a Lost Boy

While Drew dated several famous men over the years, one in particular sticks out: her early relationship with another iconic child star, Corey Feldman. The two even attended the 1989 Academy Awards together.

Telling Her Story

Drew has written two memoirs about her life. The first, 1991's Little Girl Lost, told the dark tale of a childhood gone off the rails just as the recovering star was coming out the other side. The other, 2015's Wildflower, was written from a place of happiness, reflecting on just how far she'd come.

An SNL Legend

Not only is Drew the youngest person to ever host Saturday Night Live, taking center stage in Studio 8H at only 7 years old, but when she returned in 2009, she became the first female to have hosted the show a total of six times. Tina Fey would come to tie her record in 2018.

A Godfather's Advice

When Drew was 19, she posed nude for the January 1995 issue of Playboy. Reacting to the titillating images, her godfather Steven Spielberg sent her copies of the images with clothes photoshopped on them for her 20th birthday with a note that read, "Cover yourself up."

A Gift for David Letterman

The same year she posed for Playboy, she had an infamous appearance on CBS' Late Show With David Letterman. As it was the comedian's birthday, Drew jumped on his desk, danced and flashed him her breasts. Speaking with his successor Stephen Colbert in 2018 about the iconic moment, she said, "It's like a distant memory that doesn't seem like me—but it is me. And that's kind of cool. I'm still down with that. I'm a mother of two...I'm such a different person now that it doesn't feel like me, but I'm still into it. You only have one life!"

That's a No

In her career, Drew hsd turned down some pretty major movie roles. In 1995, she was offered the leading role of Nomi Malone in Showgirls and (wisely) turned it down. Saved by the Bell star Elizabeth Berkley would later star in the trashy cult classic instead. She was also offered the lead role of iconic final girl Sidney Prescott in Scream, but wound up accepting the brief role of ill-fated teen Casey Becker. And her loss was Neve Campbell's gain, as she would go on to star as Sidney in the franchise.

Love for Courtney Love

In the early '90s, Drew was BFFs with Hole frontwoman and Mrs. Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love. Through Courtney, she met a boyfriend, Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson, who attended the premiere of 1995's Batman Forever with her. And, Drew was even named godmother of Courtney and Kurt's daughter, Frances Bean. However, they're not as close as they used to be. In 2007, Drew admitted, "Courtney and I have not seen each other in a while, so I haven't had the pleasure of being in Frances's life for a few years. That's a great loss for me, and I hope to reconnect with her."

The Many Loves

Not only has Drew dated stars like The Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti and actor Justin Long, but she's been married three times—once for two months in 1994 to bar owner Jeremy Thomas, again for a few months to comedian Tom Green in 2001, and for four years to Will Kopelman, the father of her two daughters, Olive and Frankie. She's also been engaged twice, both in the early '90s when she was still a teenager.

The Chanel Connection

When she married Will Kopelman in 2012, she married into the family of the former CEO of fashion house Chanel. (Her father-in-law Ari Kopelman held the title.) She's come to wear the brand regularly, even donning a custom-made gown at her wedding. Unfortunately, the marriage didn't last. "Sadly our family is separating legally, although we do not feel this takes away from us being a family," the couple said in a statement in 2016. "Divorce might make one feel like a failure, but eventually you start to find grace in the idea that life goes on."

The Sandler Story

Drew appeared in three films with Adam Sandler over the years, beginning with The Wedding Singer in 1998. And that relationship has proven to be a cornerstone of not only her career, but her life, as well. In her book Wildflower, she wrote about how she had to "beg, borrow, and steal" to just get a meeting with him. "I thought Adam had a goodness that was so unique. I could tell that he possessed something different, and I was drawn to his light," she wrote. "I wanted to make love stories, but I wanted them to have a certain energy that was about true love and chemistry and timelessness, and I was convinced of us doing something together."

A Life-Saving Pup

While Drew and her then-boyfriend Tom Green were sleeping in their L.A. home in 1998, they were woken in the middle of the night by her adopted yellow lab Flossie. It turned out that a fire had started in the house and the heroic pup "barked and literally banged on the bedroom door," Drew's publicist told People. As she and Tom stood outside with reporters who'd arrived shortly after the 70 firefighters (who were unable to save the house), she said, "Thank God for Flossie!" Sadly, Flossie died in 2010 at the age of 16. To mourn her, Drew traveled to India and scattered some of her ashes at Gandhi's home in New Delhi.

Fallon's Matchmaker

In 1995, Drew and her friend Nancy Juvonen founded the production company Flower Films after meeting two years prior through Nancy's brother Jim, a writer-producer who was working on the set of Drew's film Mad Love.

A decade later, as the two produced the film Fever Pitch, co-starring Drew and SNL breakout star Jimmy Fallon, a love connection blossomed when Drew invited him at a birthday party she was throwing for her partner. A few months later, Jimmy proposed to Nancy and they tied the knot on December 22, 2007.

Barrymore Wines

In 2014, Drew teamed with Carmel Road Winery to launch her own line of wines, appropriately entitled Barrymore Wines. "I love the camaraderie of sitting around the table, sharing wine and making memories with family and friends. Pinot Grigio has been a perennial favorite because it's vibrant and complements such a variety of situations and foods," she said in a press release announcing their first offering. "Working with Carmel Road was a natural fit because they focus on creating expressive wines with unique personalities, and it's such a privilege to make this wine in California."

By 2017, they'd released three varietals. As she told Haute Living that year, "Art and many things out there are about opinion and what you personally really love. However, I do think there is obviously such an amazing art to making wine. I'm just happy to be a part of that aspect."

Getting Animated

If you've ever been watching an old Family Guy episode and thought to yourself, "That character sounds an awful lot like Drew Barrymore," you were probably right. She made her debut on the show in 2005 as Mrs. Lockhart, returning in 2006 through 2013 for 11 episodes as Jillian, Brian's girlfriend.

(Originally published on March 29, 2019 at 12:15 p.m. PT.)

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