There are no airs and graces to Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore as she arrives at the luxurious Rosewood London hotel and makes a beeline for resident golden retriever Pearl, who is wandering around the stylish lobby.
With her hair in loose waves, Drew, 40, is looking boho chic in a black, embroidered Topshop dress. “I’ve had it about 15 years and I think today might be the last day I can wear it,” she says. She likes high-street stores because they “have the price point I like”.
Despite worldwide fame that began when she starred in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial aged seven and carried on through an acting and producing career featuring films such as Charlie’s Angels and Never Been Kissed, Drew retains a girl-next-door quality. She’s charming and polite, asking hello! for advice on restaurants she should visit, and the only request she makes is for some ice for her iced tea. She’s the sort of woman you’d want to be your best friend.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST
Mum to daughters Olive, three, and 18-month-old Frankie with her art consultant husband Will Kopelman, she is at a happy point in her life.
“I felt that my life started the day my kids were born and everything I had before was something to be used as wisdom and experience for them,” she tells us. “It’s like life really wasn’t important before they were born but yet you don’t want to have not have existed because it gives you tips along the way.”
The actress has plenty of life experiences to draw on – many of which are documented in her new book, Wildflower.
Descended from Hollywood nobility – her grandfather John and his siblings Ethel and Lionel were regarded as the royal family of cinema – Drew began her acting career in a dog food commercial when she was 11 months old.
Her “life changed forever” when she landed the role of Gertie in E.T., but there followed darker years that included smoking at the age of nine, drinking soon after and rehab remained in my life and is holding my child, it is such a wonderful full-circle moment,” she says.
With her trip to London being a whirlwind visit, her children haven’t joined her. “But I send videos and pictures all day,” she tells us. “I’m like, ‘Here’s the museum, here are some little birdies that live in the hotel – they are called love-birds and they are in love – and here’s a tree and here’s me walking down the street.’ It’s exhausting and by the end of the day, Olive is probably sick of me.”
Drew is a successful actress, author, director, model, businesswoman and producer – but has “no idea” what motivates her to work so hard.
“My parents were both total hippies. They had no work ethic,” she says. “But I’ve had to really figure out how it works with children because they come first so it’s been a shift for me, but a very easy shift.
“I’ve put films aside for a while as my kids grow up,” she adds. “My choice to work less, for me feels like no sacrifice at all. I’ve worked my entire life and I wouldn’t trade time with my children.
“Film was a really good springboard for me to do things I really wanted to do in life.”
She now spends most of her working hours on her beauty line, with her acting relegated to shooting a movie every year or so. However, this year’s Miss You Already, the story of two best friends (one played by Drew and the other by Toni Collette) whose relationship is tested when one gets cancer, she chose to film five months after Frankie was born.
“I was torn alive by [the decision],” she says. “But I wanted to tell this story for my daughters. I’m so relieved I did it. It’s better than I ever hoped.”
The film also deals with relationships – so why does Drew think that she and Will are a good match?
“As far as advice and understanding of men – the older I get, the less I think I understand,” she says. “You think you know everything when you’re young only to realise that you don’t know anything.” She pauses. “I think the thing that is important about love is: does it make you a better person? And I have become such a better person through this family. You don’t find yourself saying, ‘Well this is who I am.’ You find yourself saying, ‘Right, okay, I’ll change it.’
“When you’re younger, you’re like, ‘But I love him,’” she adds. “Love isn’t enough sometimes. It’s not a fantasy. It’s about: how do you make love function?
It becomes a much more interesting question as you get older.”
INTERVIEW: DAWN EMERY
PHOTOS: DAN KENNEDY
HAIR & MAKE-UP: ROBIN FREDERICKS
LOCATION: GARDEN HOUSE SUITE
AT ROSEWOOD LONDON