With her free-spirited career choices, Drew Barrymore has been a genuine version of Hollywood glam ever since she appeared in ‘ET’. This month, Barrymore hits the box office with the new chick flick ‘Going the distance’, in which she plays Erin a late-blooming intern in her early 30s who’s traveled to New York to take up a summer internship at a city newspaper and that’s when she meets her love interest. Drew spoke to us on love, life and cinema.
Do you see that almost as another role? And are you also presenting designers that you like?
I’ve been raised in costume houses. I’ve watched period films. I’ve studied fashion. All my walls were covered with the Halston and the Interview magazines. I like the combination of fashion and art and expression. So, I don’t care about like a perfect gown and perfect hair. I do love playing with the idea of all those elements working or not. I think there’s such a vast difference in people’s forgiveness of a runway and a red carpet. And I feel like they should be closer together. People on the runway are so expressive and it’s so artistic and so interesting. People with costume in movies, it’s so liberating. They’re visionaries. But all of a sudden you’re on the red carpet and you’re supposed to have liked a low bun and a simple gown. It’s like, ‘No.’
Do you feel uncomfortable on the red carpet?
I just think it’s boring. I love that people do it and they play it safe. And that works for them. And sometimes, to me, it is playing a character to play it safe because it’s not who I am. So, I just like to have fun with it and I don’t think there are any rules, again. And I just don’t care if people like it or not because if I live for someone’s opinion, that would be very schizophrenic because I don’t really know who those people are.
What kind of fashion elements do you like or not like in a man?
I don’t think men should wear pleats. [Laughs] I don’t need a pleat. I do like when men express themselves. I am definitely drawn to a guy who does like one thing, something expressive. I’m very weird about shoes. I really do judge a man on his shoes. [Laughs]
What does Erin, your character in the film, express through her clothes?
I love the way she dresses. I asked Cat Thomas, the costume designer. I had done Grey Gardens with her and I did Whip It! with her, and she’s not a girly-girl. And so there were just these little details, like Erin wore little, old pieces of jewelry. I think it’s all about combining things that are found and thrifty and vintage and new. Erin is not one of those women who is put together. And I think that’s a big difference. She’s relaxed and drapey and cool.
How did you like the experience of directing a movie and did it change the way you approached doing this film?
Yeah, definitely. I think I’m a control-freak by nature, but it’s because I care so much. I care about every detail. I think every choice ends up affecting what you do that day and then ultimately the end result. So, luckily, Nanette was someone who was a cool chick whom I could really collaborate with. I felt like I had someone there that I could really work with. But I also really love being an actor and this was not that kind of movie. So, it was really a collaboration and a collaboration with the other actors; and I was really involved. And Justin and I wanted to bring our personal stuff to it, but in the right way, so it was very collaborative, this film.
So where does this movie fit in this phase of your life?
Well, this movie was shot last year, but I did it because I think that a good, realistic story about relationships is timeless. I also love comedy and I hadn’t done a comedy in a couple of films. And I just need to laugh in life. I like doing movies that I just want to watch. I love dramas and I love Sturm und Drang and I love torture and darkness, but it’s not necessarily one I need to watch all the time. I like to watch stuff that I relate to or that’s entertaining or that makes me think but feel better, and this is one of these movies. I think the tone is very unique. I think it’s got all the fun and the funny, but it gets surprisingly real about the difficulty of making a relationship work. I also like how the people talk to each other. I sit and talk about sex and life and love and relationships with my girlfriends and we say dirty words. You know, this is how girls talk in this movie and I like that. And I think in my twenties I was in more of a PG fairytale stage. And I’m thirty-five now and I feel a lot more realistic about things.
The language is out in the open and how girlfriends talk. Was it planned from the beginning that way?
It was definitely always that way. There was great writing to begin with, and a lot for us to work with, and then everybody started to improvise. Justin’s amazing at improve; Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate and Jim Gaffigan, everyone has that skill. So, we just played around a lot. I’m so much more into the reality than the fantasy and this was, like, how Christina and I would talk when we weren’t at work, when we were girl-talking. She’s so funny, we’re very similar. We both grew up in similar circumstances and there’s a real symmetry. I think we look like sisters. I mean, we act like sisters. And we talk dirty and joke around and it’s great. It’s nice not have to be someone in one corner and then go pretend to be someone else in another. This, I feel, is very real to how it is in real life.
Can you tell us about your character and what resonated with you about this particular character?
I am not a girly-girl and so I liked being someone who’s not a girly-girl. I liked being someone who has balls and is funny and has an opinion and is tough. But she’s not not feminine, which I like, because I am girl. I love being a woman and I want to make films for women. But I definitely am not prim, and I don’t relate to that uber-feminine nature. So, I just really infuse her with that because that’s how I am in life. And I felt like it was the right opportunity to do it. It wasn’t trying to mismatch someone who wasn’t on the page. I just wanted to be a girl in a movie in a setting that wasn’t like: ‘Oh my god, I woke-up and I slept with the wrong guy. I’m supposed to see him in a meeting in the morning.’ And someone misheard something or other. No, I’m dealing with a relationship and I’m trying to figure out my life and I don’t want to compromise my job in order to have a relationship. These are the problems I deal with in my life. So, I was refreshed to find a movie that was so real. This is what we go through. It’s not like the universe is parallel, where everything is different. No, this is just trying to deal with reality. But it’s funny along the way because anything that’s too serious has it’s time and place, but I think comedy is always welcomed.
So, would you sit at your first date and ask all the same questions that you did in the movie?
That was all improvised. That was just Justin and me. Nanette Burstein, the director, is a documentarian. And I love improvisation. I did a documentary and I just love that style. So, we were like, ‘How can we get as much on the street?’ And Justin and I have a history. So, we know each other and we can roll with it and we can fly. None of that was scripted.
How did you work out the improve? What was the atmosphere like when you were on the set?
I think there’s a real balance. The film was not meant to feel like voyeuristic and hand-held. It’s supposed to feel like a polished film. But within that, there is a lot of improvisation and a lot of things that weren’t planned and a lot bringing your own humor or ideas to the table. There’s a really nice mix and I think you feel that in the movie. It feels like it could have been all set this way, but there’s something more free-flowing about it. So, we would try to responsibly get everything that we needed, and then, we would just play or we’d play first and then get what we needed. And then, obviously, in editing, everything gets put through the sifter. So, I think it’s just being with a group of people that aren’t afraid to go for it, but also stay true to the story you’re trying to tell so that it’s not just feeling like something you’d find on YouTube. [Laughs]
Are you very critical with your own work?
Very much. I care about every detail.
Do you take apart every scene?
Yes. And I saw every version of the film along the way. I’m just very happy with where it ended up.
How was working with Nanette?
I like working with Nanette a lot. She’s a tough girl too, which was perfect because if she was too girly, it just wouldn’t really work for the film. So, I think she’s sort of like an Erin, like the character, too. And I also really love not playing totally by the rules and having it feel so staged. Her desire to get the camera and just roll with it was, I thought, why I really was also excited. I don’t think I would have wanted to do this movie with someone who I knew was very by-the-book. I was like, ‘I’m not in the mood to do a paint-by-numbers movie. I want to do something that’s really playful.’ And I liked the story because I thought whether they’re in a long-distance relationship or not, I’ve been in a long-distance relationship my whole life because of my job. If you travel for work, you know how it is. You’re like work, love, work, love. It’s four in the morning but it’s seven in the morning; it’s tough. You’re like, when do I have kids? When do I get married? Is that really what the status quo is? I want to talk to my girlfriend about this guy that I made out with last night or I don’t know what the rules are. And when do you decide a relationship is totally monogamous? What works for me? These are very modern times. We’re asking totally different questions. And they’re all allowed. There are no rules.
So, I just felt like this subject matter, this tone, really appealed to me. And I knew that Nanette would handle that properly.
Do you have any advice for the millions of people who are in long-distance relationships?
I’m one of them, so I’m one of the millions of people. It’s really difficult. But I also imagine it’s really difficult to be together seven days and a week and have Chinese food on Wednesday nights. I don’t think either are ideal. I think it’s more natural to spend some time apart. It keeps it alive and fresh longer. The problem is there’s no consistency. So, you always feel like you’re in flux. And then, you start to put these weird pressures on the relationship, like, ‘Well, I need to know what’s going on so I can be happy when we’re apart.’ And that’s when I just realized that there really are no rules. It’s very individual for the couple. You have to figure out what works for you. And you change along the way, and those changes have to be acceptable. You grow and what was okay one year isn’t okay another. I think making plans is difficult. Some people really like to know what their day is or their next month or their future. And some people aren’t like that. So, if you’re long-distance and you’re that couple, that’s hard. Because then one person always wants to know what’s going on. I don’t need to know what’s always going on. And the other person’s like, ‘I never know what’s going on. This is so hard.’
Is there a ‘too far away’ line for you?
No, I think if somebody makes you feel like they care and there’s an effort, it’s a feeling inside. It’s not a schedule. If someone’s putting in that effort and you feel good and you’re by yourself for a month walking around the world but you feel confident in that person’s effort and their love and it makes you feel good, I think you’re fine. It’s when you don’t feel that connection or you don’t feel like they’re making effort, then it’s a problem.
Do you use technology to stay in touch, like Skype and chat?
I don’t like any of that stuff, I write letters.
Have you always written letters?
You tried to say earlier how funny everybody in the cast was. Were there moments on set where you guys just crack each other up?
Oh, yeah. I ruined everybody’s take all the time. Christina and I would ruin almost most of her takes because she has one of the sharpest comedic deliveries. I think she’s master of her craft. And it doesn’t feel too much effort; she just does these things and I would just giggle all the time. And I feel like I might have sabotaged some of her best work because I could not laugh.
With Justin, it was easier because when he makes me laugh my character was laughing with him, but not as much with Christina. I mean, Erin is enjoying Garrett, so it could be funny to me. But with Christina, we were trying to get a point across and it wasn’t so easy.