“In my life, Steven Spielberg has been the only person to ever serve as a parental figure,” expressed Drew Barrymore in a recent profile published by Vulture. The bond between Spielberg and Barrymore, forged during the making of the 1982 classic “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” has transcended the realm of filmmaking.
However, it may come as a surprise that when Barrymore, a mere 7-year-old at the time, asked Spielberg to be her real father, he initially declined. Instead, he embraced the role of her godfather, solidifying a unique connection between them.
Drew Barrymore’s Troubled Childhood
“Talk about someone who was not a careerist,” Drew Barrymore reflected, sharing poignant memories of her father, the actor John Drew Barrymore. Plagued by alcoholism and marked by abusive behavior, he was a volatile presence in her life. Drew Barrymore vividly recalls her father’s defiant attitude, stating, “He was like, ‘I will burn this fucking dynasty to the ground.'” As a young child, growing up in such a tumultuous environment left Barrymore longing for stability, love, and nurturing.
It was amidst this backdrop of chaos and uncertainty that Steven Spielberg emerged as a beacon of support and guidance in Drew Barrymore’s life. Spielberg’s presence was a much-needed solace, offering a sense of safety and reliability that was otherwise absent.
As she embarked on the journey of filming “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” Spielberg’s compassionate nature and genuine care for her well-being provided a much-needed respite from the challenges she faced.
Steven Spielberg’s Role in Barrymore’s Life
When Drew Barrymore approached Spielberg during the production of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and asked him to be her real father, Spielberg initially said no. Instead, he agreed to be her godfather, understanding the significance of his presence in her life. This decision marked the beginning of a lifelong bond between them.
Preserving the Hollywood magic of “E.T.” for young Barrymore became Spielberg’s top priority during the making of the film. Barrymore, completely immersed in her role, believed that E.T. was a real extraterrestrial being.
To maintain this enchantment, Spielberg went to great lengths. Barrymore’s demand that several men operating E.T. leave the set showcases her dedication to preserving the illusion. Spielberg, ever the protector of childhood wonder, assured her, saying, “‘It’s okay, E.T. is so special E.T. has eight assistants. I am the director, I only have one.'”
Spielberg’s Efforts to Maintain the Illusion
Spielberg’s commitment to the magical experience extended beyond the confines of the film set. He arranged for operators to assist E.T. during non-filming hours, including lunch breaks, so that Drew Barrymore could continue her journey with her fictional friend.
The lines between reality and imagination blurred as Spielberg provided a nurturing environment for Barrymore. She even stayed with him on weekends, creating cherished memories that strengthened their connection. Spielberg gifted her a cat, which she affectionately named Gertie, and took her on memorable outings to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm.
Barrymore’s Personal Struggles
Drew Barrymore’s personal life was marred by struggles that far exceeded her tender age. Exposed to a tumultuous upbringing and her father’s destructive behavior, she sought solace in substance abuse at a remarkably young age.
“She was staying up way past her bedtime, going to places she should have only been hearing about, and living a life at a very tender age that I think robbed her of her childhood,” Spielberg empathized. Despite his concern, he felt helpless, knowing that he couldn’t fully shield her from the challenges she faced.
As the only parental figure she truly had, Spielberg provided stability, care, and love during a crucial period. Today, their connection remains strong, a testament to the profound influence Spielberg has had on Barrymore’s life.