At 46, Hollywood’s most famous ‘wild child’ DREW BARRYMORE She has accepted her past. She tells Caroline Graham about her chaotic upbringing, her three divorces and the ‘long, juicy’ breakdown that helped her turn her life around

 Backstage at her eponymous television talk show, which is filmed in New York, Drew Barrymore grins in delight when I ask if ‘rebel child’ Drew would ever have envisioned being 46, a single mother of two and head of a multimillion-pound empire which includes her own cosmetics line, kitchenware brand, a hugely successful Hollywood production company and a new cookbook. ‘I’m an eternal optimist,’ she says. ‘What would I say to the younger me?

I wouldn’t say anything – she wouldn’t have listened. You can’t get in a time machine and change your past, and I can tell you what I won’t spend my life doing is regretting s***. I’m not going to beat myself up.’

In a world where it increasingly seems that every celebrity, sports star and, yes, even former members of the royal family are hellbent on ‘sharing’ the minutiae of their painful emotional journeys (and often blaming others), Drew isn’t just a breath of fresh air – she’s a hurricane. One thing Drew doesn’t hide is her history. A child star at seven thanks to Steven Spielberg’s E.T., her experimentation with alcohol and drugs before her 13th birthday is well documented. Fast forward to today and she’s talking exclusively to YOU about the new book, her third divorce (‘it nearly broke me’), co-parenting two daughters with ex Will Kopelman (whose new wife she ‘worships’) and the perils of online dating. Over the course of the past three decades she has, she says, learnt to embrace ‘every f*** up’.

 Divorce was my worst fear. It was the worst fear I had.

Her personality is simply captivating. She is known for her doe eyes, which were captivating the world as she played charming Gertie in E.T. You can see her expressions. Each question she answers is met with expression. This woman is the kind of friend you’d love to have.

In fact, she has known some of her closest girlfriends for decades: ‘I first met Cameron [Diaz, her Charlie’s Angels co-star]When I was 16, my first job was in a coffeeshop. My friend Mel was a young model. Mel, another friend of mine and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. My girlfriends are more important to me – aside from my children – than anything else because they have been most like family to me. These girls are the reason I am so in love with them.


‘I’m unguarded because I don’t want to come across as someone who has their s*** together. I’m not a total clown but I don’t relate to people who glide through life or parenting. It’s the struggle and conquering of it, the humor, the chaos, that I can relate to. I can’t stand fakeness.’

We are here to discuss Drew’s new cookbook Rebel Homemaker, which she has written with close friend and professional chef Pilar Valdes. Drew and her two daughters, Olive, nine, and Frankie, seven, spent lockdown in a 1920s beachside house in Long Island (she also has a flat in Manhattan) and, like many of us, turned to food for ‘comfort’ during the pandemic.

‘I relate food to love, to feeding my family. I didn’t want the food in the book to look perfect. I’m a mum, not a chef.’ The book contains photographs of a make-up-free Drew in her kitchen while her dishes are mostly food she makes for friends and family – such as roasted chicken and steaming bowls of pasta – enhanced with flavours she’s picked up on her travels.

Child star Drew with her mother Jaid, 1982

Drew as a child star, with Jaid, her mother. 1982

She loves Jamie Oliver and MasterChef (they are ‘real chefs, unlike me’) but says her book, born out of the pandemic, is ‘honest’: ‘The reason I love the word “rebel” is because it’s me. I can’t stand rules and even when I try to create them they blow up in my face. I’m a messy cook – I spill, I splatter and I laugh.’

Just before pandemic hit, she moved her family to New York and sold the Hollywood Hills house that she lived in for almost a quarter century. In typically optimistic style, she says the 2,500-mile move allowed her to ‘reset’ her life which had been spiralling downwards after her four-year marriage to art consultant – and father of her children – Will ended in divorce in 2016.

Drew’s own parents divorced when she was nine. John Drew Barrymore, Drew’s father, was a prominent member of the acting family. Drew was barely able to live with his violent alcoholism. Her mother Jaid, an aspiring actress, ‘wasn’t prepared’ for motherhood. ‘Divorce was my worst fear,’ she says. ‘It was something I never wanted to put my own children through. ‘I felt broken. Truly, truly broken.

I made some big, sweeping changes to my life and luckily I made them right before the pandemic because I fear the place I would have been in if I hadn’t. I just about managed to hold the nose of the plane up before it crashed and then the pandemic hit.’

I’ve been such a love junkie all my life. it’s a relief not to be obsessed with a relationship 

Did she have a nervous breakdown in store? ‘I think I had one, a nice long, juicy one. You must believe that you can get up during the rollercoaster ride of life. However, there were very high stakes as it was my children involved. Being a parent is the most important thing, but raising babies is terrifying and exciting and very hard.’

Drew, who didn’t have any experience drawing from, may agree. The fact that she has managed to put this book together is incredible. Like other celebrity vanity projects this is an affirmation. Although she never had anyone show her, she is a caring parent and homemaker. ‘I didn’t have parents. I was the “parent” to them. Everything was completely upside-down. So I didn’t know what I was doing.’ Her father died of cancer in 2004 after years of alcoholism. She now has ‘an accepting’ relationship with her mother.

However, she insists that the past will never repeat itself. ‘When people would talk to me about parenting I felt like an outcast. It took years for me to finally pluck up the courage to say: “Can you speak to me as someone who is desperately trying to learn? Can you teach me?”

‘There is so much pressure in life, particularly on mothers, to get it right, to get it perfect. I’ve travelled the world and I’ve seen many different styles of parenting. People get so concerned about parenting it confuses me. I feel inadequate, defensive, and insignificant. I’ve got love and humour, but we’re all learning on the job. I don’t want to be my kids’ friend – I am their parent.’

She has spent the five years since her divorce working on her relationship with her ex to the point where she has embraced Will’s new wife Allie, a Vogue editor, who he married this summer. When I tell Drew some women might find it strange that she says she ‘worships’ her husband’s new wife, she looks genuinely surprised.

‘Why? She’s a dream: sweet, kind and funny. She and Will need to be respected. I must not become too friendly. This is what I consider lucky. I’ve got this woman who, thank god, embraces me and doesn’t want me out of the picture. Her parents are wonderful and she has a beautiful sister. I worship the ground she walks on.’

On The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, 1982

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 1982

 In stark contrast, when Drew was a teenager, her mother placed her in a psychiatric institution for 18 months because her behaviour was so out of control. ‘My mum put me there because she couldn’t cope with me any more but it was the best thing that happened to me. This taught me how to be a good person. Until that point I had none.’

There’s that breath of fresh air again. You can imagine any Hollywood celeb saying that they were made to be under psychiatric supervision. Drew realized that she had to be free from her parents soon after being admitted. So at 14 she did, and it’s here the seeds of her new life were sown.

She bought an apartment (not a nice one, recalling previously: ‘There was fungus growing everywhere. The apartment was located in dangerous areas, and it was difficult to get into sleep. The window had bars. I was terrified’). Then she taught herself to cook (‘mostly Pot Noodles and mac and cheese from a box’) and started putting her life back together. A life that – 30-plus years later – sees her as content as she’s ever been.

‘Will and I have worked so hard over the years. I can’t tell you how hard it was. People who make co-parenting look easy… well, good for you. We tried our best, it was hard and messy but ultimately we focused on the prize: our children. The best thing for our girls was what we did. It’s taken five years to function this way but

I’m so glad we got there and didn’t give up. Baby, it’s the high road. Less traffic.’ As for her own love life, she has been single since splitting from Will but has started dipping her toe in the dating world. ‘I go on dates occasionally. Some of them are terrible.

I’ve never been in the zone of hating dating. It’s fun to flirt. Making plans for the date can be fun. I don’t care if the date sucks – it’s the excitement of possibility, it’s a nice feeling. ‘I’ve been such a love junkie all my life it’s a relief not to be obsessed with having a relationship. I’ve got kids who are at a crucial age, where they still need me. The thought of being with someone else…’

Dancing on chat-show host David Letterman’s desk, 1995

Dancing on chat-show host David Letterman’s desk, 1995

She sounds a little hushed. ‘I did try a dating app but I gave up. It seems to bring out laziness, like there are many fish in the ocean. Also I’m not actually attracted by a photograph. I fall in love with someone for their personality, and that’s hard to get in an app. I’m not really looking. It’s very low stakes.’

Drew and comedian Tom Green are reunited for nearly 20 years on the same stage as their interview. In 2001-2002, the couple were married for just one year. Prior to that, Jeremy Thomas was married for a shorter time in 1994. She says: ‘It was lovely to see Tom. It was great to reconnect. I’m glad there’s peace and respect there.’ She pauses. ‘You know, I never thought I would still be here. I thought my life was a f***-up and that it would always be f***ed up. This is the best time in my life right now because I finally believe that maybe I won’t end up being a f***-up, and that’s so exciting to me. ‘I don’t regret anything. It was easy to know what I was doing, and it was a great experience. I wouldn’t change any of it even if I could. There are no negative feelings.’

With longtime friend Cameron Diaz on the set of Drew’s talk show

With longtime friend Cameron Diaz on the set of Drew’s talk show

It makes me wonder if she is investing in herself and her self-care. ‘I hate that term. It’s so passive. There’s no fight in it. To me, the whole idea feels annoying and cheesy. I can’t say “I love myself” without it sounding like bull****.’ She has learnt to listen to her inner ‘Jiminy Cricket’ – a reference to the Disney character who acts as Pinocchio’s conscience. ‘We all have the Jiminy Cricket which lives on our shoulder and never shuts up. Every single day he would tell me: “These are the things you do that are wrong. These are the things that make you broken.” I would gag him but finally I’ve let Jiminy out and I’m listening to him.’

Being a mom is her priority. ‘I joke about being a doberman mum, but I hope my experience growing up in an industry toxically riddled with vanity can help me be better with my kids. That’s why I have an anti-perfection thing. It was then that I realized I needed to make it work. [failure] into strength.’

Cooking and relaxing at home: ‘This is the best time in my life right now,’ she says

She has a strict policy about how much time her daughters spends on social media. ‘I want them to be kids. We’re still in a world that talks a lot about age and body image. It can sometimes feel so sad. I had a lot of rejection when I was young – “You’re washed up” or “You’re overweight.” ‘I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. And I’m OK with that. But I hope that my experiences make me a better mum.’

As she doesn’t have her parents as role models, I wonder who she looks up to? ‘Ernest Shackleton,’ she fires back. Seriously? ‘Yes. I read Alfred Lansing’s book Endurance about Shackleton’s [Antarctic]It inspired me to learn more about his expeditions and the way he saved his soldiers. It was his example of how weakness can turn into strength. When you are in survival mode – as I was for much of my life – rule books go out of the window. Shackleton wanted his men to live, which they did. He’s my role model and hero.’

Another mentor and ‘father figure’ who is very much still alive is E.T. director Steven Spielberg. Her voice cracks as she talks about how they remain ‘extremely close’ and speak constantly on the phone. ‘He changed my life because he’s willing to stick by me. As a young child, he was my first friend. His consistency is unwavering. He’s safe. He is still safe. ‘I have such deep love and respect for him. He is like a parent to me. When he fails me, I feel ashamed. I want him to be proud of me.’

As she prepares to leave to record a late-night talk show it is hard not to imagine Mr Spielberg must be very proud of his protégé. Drew Barrymore, 46 years old is at the top of her game. She is enjoying every moment. 

Rebel Homemaker – Food, Family, Life by Drew Barrymore with Pilar Valdes is published by Ebury, price £25. To order a copy for £21.25 with free p&p until 5 December, go to or call 020 3308 9193. has exclusive recipes and extracts from the book.