Entertainment & Arts

Drew Barrymore goes the distance

Drew Barrymore
Image caption Barrymore has established herself in a string of romantic comedies

After 30 years in movies, Drew Barrymore has quietly become a powerful Hollywood force.

Part of the Barrymore acting clan, she was thrown into the spotlight at the age of seven, appearing in Steven Spielberg's 1982 box office smash ET.

After a high-profile derailment during her teens which saw her admitted to rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, the star got back on track in the mid-1990s.

Thanks to her girl-next-door demeanour, she has firmly established herself in the world of romantic comedies over the past decade.

She also has her own production company, has produced a number of films and a TV series and, last year, directed her first feature film, Whip It.

Add to that a Golden Globe win earlier this year for her portrayal of Jackie Onassis' cousin in Grey Gardens and it's clear to see how she has earned the respect of her Hollywood peers.

For her latest film Going the Distance - in a departure from her usual kooky comic film roles - she plays a more self-assured, confident character who knows what she wants.

Starring opposite her on/off boyfriend Justin Long, Barrymore plays Erin - a straight-talking, career-driven, aspiring journalist - who ends up in a long-distance relationship after a one-night stand.

Image caption Barrymore stars in Going the Distance with on/off boyfriend Justin Long

Because the film is R-rated in the US, it afforded her the opportunity to be a bit more risque with her actions - and her language.

"I think she's refreshing," says Barrymore. "This is totally a woman I relate to. I definitely go out for a drink with my friends after a bad day and talk dirty with my girlfriends.

"And I appreciate she's trying to figure out, 'I don't want to give up everything for love, but I don't want to end up alone with a career and no love'."

When it comes to her own relationships, Barrymore - who has had two short-lived marriages - manages largely to stay out of the public eye and ensure her private life is kept private.

'America's sweetheart'

Barrymore's reputation as a hard-working professional has undoubtedly helped her rising position in the Hollywood power stakes.

Mike Goodridge, editor of Screen Daily, says the secret to Barrymore's success is her "America's sweetheart" likeability.

Image caption The actress made her directorial debut on 2009 film Whip It about a women's roller derby

"Hollywood is a highly nepotistic culture that supports continuity in clans, but you just can't help but like her and everything she does," he says.

"And she's parlayed her likeability as a romantic comedy star into getting things that she wants made."

At the age of 20, she set up her own company, Flower Films, which has produced hits including Charlie's Angels, 50 First Dates, He's Just Not That Into You and cult movie Donnie Darko.

Collectively, Flower Films projects - which the actress also stars in - have grossed nearly $900m (£583m) at the box office worldwide.

Last year she diversified still further, directing Oscar-nominated Ellen Page in roller derby film Whip It, but it was received with muted success in the US and UK.

"She's developing some of the films and that's the difference," says Goodridge. "There are some actors who just put their name to a film but that doesn't mean they produce anything.

"She has a functional production company which develops material and then takes it to film studios."

'Wonderful time'

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, Barrymore says it's a good time to be a woman in Hollywood.

"Women are kind of rocking it," she says. "There's a lot of female-driven film and television shows - it's a wonderful time for women."

But Barrymore is definitely not resting on her laurels: "I'm never going to sit around and complain about the sexist thing. As a woman, you have to pave the way for yourself and not sit around."

She adds: "Right now my heart is really in directing, but I'm doing a drama this fall and we're producing a bunch of films.

"Then I want to find that thing I can be in love with again for three years because that's how long directing takes."

Goodridge says her success will continue for a long time to come.

"She's always had hits along the way. She's sort of an evergreen and people like watching her," he says.

"She's a fixture and that's something you can't say about a lot of women her age."

Going the Distance is out on Friday.

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