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TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest is Drew Barrymore, who we've been watching in movies since she was about six playing one of the children in "E.T." Her new role is a contrast to the romantic comedies we've come to associate her with.

She's starring in "Grey Gardens," the new HBO adaptation of the famous 1975 documentary "Grey Gardens," which was made by the Maysles brothers. It premieres Saturday night.

"Grey Gardens" is the story of Big Edie Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Little Edie, who were the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis but ended up living in squalor after Big Edie's husband divorced her.

She refused to leave Grey Gardens, the East Hampton mansion she'd become accustomed to living in, even though her alimony wasn't nearly enough for the upkeep. Over the years, the house deteriorated until the local authorities deemed it unfit for human or animal habitation. When that story became public, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stepped in to fund the mansion's renovation.

Big Edie and Little Edie's relationship is a complex brew of love, dysfunction, delusion and probably mental illness. In HBO's "Grey Gardens," Jessica Lange plays Big Edie. Drew Barrymore is Little Edie. Here's a scene in which Big Edie and Little Edie are talking to each other and to the Maysles brothers, who are off-camera filming them.

(Soundbite of film, "Grey Gardens")

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. JESSICA LANGE (Actor): (As Big Edie) Edie, oh Edie? Never answers me, that woman.

Ms. DREW BARRYMORE (Actor): (As Little Edie) I suppose I won't get out of here until she dies or I die.

Ms. LANGE (Actor): (As Big Edie) Who's she, the cat?

Ms. BARRYMORE (Actor): (As Little Edie) I don't know when I'm going to get out of here.

Ms. LANGE (Actor): (As Big Edie) Why do you want to get out?

Ms. BARRYMORE (Actor): (As Little Edie) Because I like freedom.

Ms. LANGE (Actor): (As Big Edie) Well, you can't get it, darling. You're being supported. You can't get freedom when you're being supported.

Ms. BARRYMORE (Actor): (As Little Edie) I thought you always said you can't get freedom when you're not being supported, remember? Oh, it's awful both ways, I guess. I'd just like a couple of days on the beach, that's all.

Ms. LANGE (Actor): (As Big Edie) Everything is good you didn't do. At the time you didn't want it. Everybody looks and thinks and feels differently as years go by.

Ms. BARRYMORE (Actor): (As Little Edie) It's very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present. Awfully difficult.

GROSS: A scene from the new HBO "Grey Gardens." Drew Barrymore, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Thank you, Miss Terry Gross, someone who I listen to on such a regular basis I can't believe I have the privilege of being on your program.

GROSS: Oh, thanks for saying that. It makes me feel very good. No, from what I read, you worked really hard to get cast as Little Edie. Why does the original "Grey Gardens" mean so much to you that you wanted to be in this dramatized version?

Ms. BARRYMORE: Well, I really - I always loved - I liked the documentary very much. I had seen it about eight years ago because I wanted to know what this cult phenomenon was all about. And I was very taken by it, but I sort of put it back in its DVD case and moved on with my life. And I wasn't one of the die-hard fans. It was just something that really moved me and touched me, and I wanted to be educated on what the phenomenon was about.

However, my friends put on headdresses and dance around and quote her and love her, and I just have always been in awe of what an impact she's had on these people's lives, how loyal they are to her, how sort of ferociously protective they are of her.

So when I got the script, what I was really taken with was Michael Sucsy, the writer-director, had done in sort of a Bob Fosse-esque, unlinear, uncheesy, biopic-y way, had sort of filled in the holes of telling us and informing us how these two women got to this moment that the Maysles captured.

So when I had a better understanding of their lives, and I started researching them, I fell in love, in a way, and as an actor, I also had never seen a project that had this level of so many challenges.

First of all, she's an icon. So to imitate an icon is just very dangerous and intimating. Then to span the age range of 18 to 58, which the film takes place for Little Edie in those years, to be able to do a voice that's so familiar, so recognizable and yet so distinctively unique - I mean it's got Boston. It's got New York. It's got Long Island. It's got Hamptons. It's got East Coast. It's got Southern. It's got English tones to it.

GROSS: And it also has, it also has aspirations to the theater.

Ms. BARRYMORE: It's very theatrical.

GROSS: It's like she always sees herself as being on stage, even though she's, you know, living this hermit-like existence in Grey Gardens, in this mansion, this dilapidated mansion with her mother.

You know, we're so used to you being in generational roles, in roles about people of your generation, and so you can use a very naturalistic voice.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yes.

GROSS: But this is completely different. She's not of your generation, and she didn't have a naturalistic voice. She had this very kind of put-on voice in a way. It's a combination of regionalism and theatricality.

Can you talk a little bit about what you did to get her voice in your head and in your mouth?

Ms. BARRYMORE: Well, I actually retrained my face. I studied for a year and a half with a woman named Liz Himmelstein(ph), who's one of the most renowned vocal coaches in our industry, and I spent every day, five days a week with her for a few hours a day training. And what I really learned to do is I wore contacts and fake teeth and 13 pieces of prosthetics to look and be like her.

So I started working with the teeth, and I had them made early, and I retrained my face, because I talk out of the side of my mouth and in the back of my throat, and her lips are completely forward, and everything is in the front, and she speaks very much in sort of the nose and almost like a singer. And I also did things like, you know, I studied her curriculum at all the schools she went to. I read all of her journals that she wrote.

GROSS: So tell me something that you read in Little Edie's journals that made you comprehend her a little bit better or that surprised you about her.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Well, her hair loss was something that really ate her alive. When she was younger, she went through a spell of alopecia that she didn't think she was going to recover from, but she did. And she was a very beautiful young woman who was, you know, fashionable and a model and had all this potential and promise. And you know, there's a line in the film, they did call her the golden girl.

And you know, she really believed her future was bright and she bought into that. And when she started losing her hair at a young age, I think this immense fear riddled her, riddled her in her bones. She was obsessive about it. She wrote a lot about it.

I think she also felt sorry for herself in certain ways, where it was crippling to her. She was really afraid of a lot of things, and it's ironic because she's one of like the boldest, most quotable, entertaining characters, on the other hand, who is completely willing to expose herself and dance around the room, and loves being the center of attention, but she would also hide painfully inside of herself.

So again, that stream of contradiction really for me was the thing that I kept hooking into when I tried to, you know, honor her by bringing her to life.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Drew Barrymore, and she's starring in the new HBO movie "Grey Gardens," which premieres Saturday night.

This might be pushing things too far in terms of making kind of a psychological connections. So just tell me to stop. But you know, this is a mother-daughter story, and it's a story of, like, deep love and deep dysfunction. And I was wondering if part of the reason why you really wanted to play Little Edie was because of your relationship with your mother, which probably also combined love and dysfunction in pretty large degrees.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yes.

GROSS: And I mean, your - the story of you and your mother's relationship is kind of famous too, since you were, you know, a child star and your father left - your father was not in the picture by the time you were born, and your mother, you've said your mother had to work day and night in order to support you and so she was never home and left you with babysitters, and then when you started working, you became the earner of the family as a child. So just to kind of sum up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: But anyway, does the "Grey Gardens" story in some way - do you relate to some of that love-dash-dysfunction?

Ms. BARRYMORE: I can always, you know, for myself, I've always brought my own emotions and experience, whether that be pain or joy, to the characters that I play. And this was unique because the anguish that I feel over the relationship with my own mother is incredibly intense, but her and I really decided that our dysfunction was something that needed us to part ways, and we actually haven't really been in each others' lives for many years now.

So it was interesting for me because there are elements and moments of emotions that I could bring that I could relate to, identify and bring from a real, true place in my heart about a mother-daughter relationship, but my own story has been now written quite differently than the Beales, which is that my mother and I decided to part ways, and the Beales turned off the world, isolated themselves, and were each other's salvations and partners.

I also don't relate to someone who is isolated because I'm a very social person who has created my own family via a tremendously wonderful group of friends.

So there was a new thing that I had to challenge myself with, which was not only this level of technique and acting and vocal coaching and, you know, etiquette lessons and learning her curriculum and reading her journals and understanding who this person was and learning perfect imitation and figuring out exactly how many breaths she would take in her famous speeches so that I could hit every single word as perfectly as I possibly could.

What I did was - is I shut the world out when I made this film. I turned off my phone, my computer. I didn't read a newspaper, a magazine, watch television, radio, drive a car, or do anything with the outside world, including - I told all the people who, like I said, are my family that I can't speak to you for three months because I really wanted to understand what it was like to lose everything and be isolated and be on that island.

And it was one of the most painful experiences of my life, but I thought the only way that I can bring honesty and relatability to this woman is to go into a monastery of Edie Beale.

GROSS: My guest is Drew Barrymore. She's starring in the HBO adaptation of "Grey Gardens," which premieres Saturday night. We'll talk about some of her other films after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Drew Barrymore, and she's starring in the new HBO movie "Grey Gardens," which premieres Saturday night.

Little Edie always wanted a stage.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yeah.

GROSS: So she didn't have one until after her mother died, when she became, as a result of the documentary, she was able to become something of a performer. But she always wanted a stage, but the only stage she had was, like, the world, and so she didn't mostly live in the world; she just lived in her home. It was a really teeny, tiny little stage until the Maysles brothers came along and made this documentary.

But you always had a stage. I mean, you were I think like in a dog food commercial when you were 11 months old. You were in "E.T." before you were seven. So it's another way in which you're completely the opposite of her.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Different, yes.

GROSS: What was it like to have that stage before you even understood what a stage was?

Ms. BARRYMORE: Well, I think that's why I had to give it all up in order to understand her and to be her, because it is a totally different mentality.

I'm the opposite of isolated. I am completely exposed, and it is - it's surreal at times. It's very liberating at times. I feel like the Norm of, you know, the "Cheers" of, like, the world. I walk in and everyone's like, Norm! I mean, it's a funny way to live.

I feel like I could hitchhike across the country and get from one end to the other just by sheer, you know, hey, we've all known each other our whole lives, like there's sort of a natural, friendly vibe that comes with that. It's very, very surreal and very, very wonderful too. It's such a privilege and such a gift that I never abuse.

GROSS: How did you know that you liked acting when you were a child? I mean, you obviously were good at it right from the start.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Thank you.

GROSS: And we could certainly see that in "E.T.," even if we didn't see the things that you did before that. But did you like it? Did you know as a child, yeah, this is for me?

Ms. BARRYMORE: Well, there were two things. One is I cosmically and magnetically, with all of the blood running through my veins, felt this connection to this family that I was born into, the Barrymores. I felt a real honest to goodness desire to act.

I felt it because they instilled it in my soul, and I never wanted to deny myself of that. In fact, I was very proud and excited of the fact that at such a young age that I was in tune and in touch with that connection with them and wanted to honor them and play in their field and keep their name going and be like them. I admired them.

GROSS: Your father, John Barrymore, Jr., left - I mean, he wasn't part of the picture when you were growing up, and you never really spent a lot of time with him. How close were you with other members of the Barrymore family?

Ms. BARRYMORE: Not close at all, because they mostly were deceased before I was born, and - but I would read their books, and I would watch their movies, and I saw my face in their faces. Unlike other families who aren't close, I have a wealth - trunks and trunks and trunks of research material.

You know, there's a great book called "Minutes of the Last Meeting," written by Gene Fowler, who also wrote "Good Night Sweet Prince," and just the adventures that he writes about with, you know, Sadakichi Hartmann and John Decker and W.C. Fields and my grandfather and the escapades that these gentlemen went on, their mentality, their zest for life - you know, I can get lost in that and understand more profoundly who I'm connected to, who I'm born from.

And the reason that I love acting is because of them and because I feel it in my blood that this is what I need to do. This is my creative, cathartic outlet, and if I didn't have it, I'd go - I'd be in a straightjacket, I'm pretty sure.

And on the other level, there's another kind of tribe, which is that when you don't have a family, such as I did not have a family growing up, when I went on film sets, there are these amazing, eclectic, interesting groups of people who are like the Island of Lost Toys, a band of misfits, and they're little families in themselves.

And when I did "E.T.," that really changed my life because I had really just done TV, movies and commercials, so I never really had an experience as profound. And I also met my godfather there, Steven Spielberg, and he was a gift to me, a real father figure, and he showed me and gave me a sense of safety and inspiration and security and someone to look up to like I had never had in my life.

GROSS: Well, why don't we play a clip here from "E.T."

Ms. BARRYMORE: Okay.

GROSS: And this is a scene where, you know, you have seen E.T. for the first time, and you've just been, like, screaming in, like, shock, and so now you're asking your brother questions about E.T., because you were initially, like, shocked and kind of afraid, and now you're just really confused. So here's the scene.

(Soundbite of film, "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial")

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Gertie) Is he a boy or a girl?

Mr. HENRY THOMAS (Actor): (As Elliott) He's a boy.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Gertie) Was he wearing any clothes?

Mr. THOMAS: (As Elliott) No. But look - you can't tell, not even mom.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Gertie) Why not?

Mr. THOMAS: (As Elliott) Because grown-ups can't see him. Only little kids can see him.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Gertie) Give me a break.

GROSS: That's Drew Barrymore in a scene from "E.T." What did Steven Spielberg do to guide you through this movie?

Ms. BARRYMORE: He, you know, he encouraged my imagination. I loved that - forever, as long as I can remember, I've loved comedy. I love to make people laugh. I love when people make me laugh, or something's funny. I love that he encouraged me to improv and be playful, and a lot of that is in the movie.

I mean, my character in that movie is a bit of a wisecracker. I mean, she really is. So I loved that he brought out that sense of humor and sense of play in me, and then I loved how nurturing he was when we did the emotional scenes and how kind and gentle he was.

He just sent me a picture of us from doing an emotional scene, and he has his hand on the Panavision camera and I'm crying in his arms, and it's - we were doing the scene were E.T. is dying, and you know, not many directors are that nurturing when you have an emotional scene.

And then personally, you know, he would show me movies. He introduced, you know, old cinema to me. He - we would have food fights in the commissary during lunch. He gave me a sense of hope and humanity because I really was a little bit scared and lost as a kid because I didn't have that guidance, and he was the person who sort of made me feel like everything's going to be okay.

GROSS: Did he stay in touch with you after the movie, or did you feel like…

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yes.

GROSS: …somebody else in my family abandoned me?

Ms. BARRYMORE: No, quite the opposite. Him and I have remained close. In fact, I just showed him a rough cut of the first film I directed, called "Whip It!" starring Ellen Page. I've worked on it for the last two years.

And I took it to him, and we watched it in his old movie theater, and he gave me notes on it, and we talked, you know, scrupulously, for hours at length about it, and he's very much still a part of my life, and it's just a relationship that I will forever, until the day I die, value.

GROSS: Drew Barrymore will be back in the second half of the show. She stars with Jessica Lange in the HBO adaptation of "Grey Gardens." It premieres Saturday night. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Drew Barrymore. She is starring with Jessica Lange in the new HBO adaptation of the 1975 documentary "Grey Gardens." It premieres Saturday night. Barrymore has been acting all her life and she was born into an American acting dynasty. Her grandfather was John Barrymore. Lionel and Ethel Barrymore were her great aunt and great uncle. Her father, John Drew Barrymore, separated from Drew's mother before she was born. Many of the films Drew Barrymore has made were produced by her company, Flower Films, which she founded in the mid '90s.

Now, I want to play a clip from another film that you're famous for from earlier in your career, and this is "Scream."

Ms. BARRYMORE: Uh-huh.

GROSS: One of the classic, you know, contemporary horror films - Wes Craven - and the opening scene, which I think is by far the best part of the film, is like the scene you're in. You get killed in the opening scene.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yes.

GROSS: And most of - most of our listeners will know the scene, but for those who don't: you're - you're alone at home. The phone rings and it's somebody who appears to be a wrong number or something. Then it becomes clear that he is threatening you and that he can see you. You think you're alone, but he is close enough so that he can see you. And then he is threatening you that if you don't play ball with him, he's going to kill you. And then you realize that he's tied up your boyfriend on the front porch, and your boyfriend is sitting there bound and bleeding. And then this like terrifying caller starts to play this game with you. He knows you're a horror movie fan. He starts to play this game and everything is on the line.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yes.

(Soundbite of movie, "Scream")

Mr. Roger Jackson (Actor): (As Phone Voice) Here's how we play. I ask a question. If you get it right, Steve lives.

Ms. DREW BARRYMORE (Actor): (As Casey) Please don't do this…

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Come on. It'll be fun.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) No…please.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) It's an easy category.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) Please.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Movie trivia. I'll even give you a warm up question.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) Don't do this. I can't…

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Name the killer in the "Halloween."

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) No…

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Come on. It's your favorite scary movie, remember? He had a white mask, he stalked a babysitter...

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) I don't know…

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Come on, yes you do.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) No…please.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) What's his name?

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) I can't think.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Steve's counting on you.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) Michael - Michael Myers.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Yes, very good. Now for the real question.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) No…

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) But you're doing so well. We can't stop now.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) Please stop. Leave us alone.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Then answer the question. Same category.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) Oh, please stop.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Name the killer in "Friday, the 13th."

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) Jason, Jason, Jason.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) I'm sorry. That's the wrong answer.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) No it's not. No it's not. It was Jason.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Afraid not. No way.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) Listen, it was Jason. I saw that movie 20 goddamn times.

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Then you should know Jason's mother, Mrs. Vorhees, was the original killer. Jason didn't show up until the sequel. I'm afraid that was a wrong answer.

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) You tricked me…

Mr. JACKSON: (As Phone Voice) Lucky, for you there's a bonus round. But poor Steve - I'm afraid he's out.

(Soundbite of gagging)

Ms. BARRYMORE: (As Casey) No…

(Soundbite of gagging)

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: That's such a great scene. That's like my nightmare come true, that there's going to be like a real life game show and you're going to get the answer wrong.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BARRYMORE: Oh, it's just terrifying. I really wanted to do that movie. I had just started my company, Flower Films, and we sort of unofficially produced it, and I teamed up with Harvey Weinstein.

GROSS: Oh, I didn't realize that.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yeah. And we went - and we found the director together and we asked Wes to do it. And I said, you know, let's ask the man who has every 10 years created some of the most important films of that genre. Then, after speaking with him, I just knew I had the right take on it. And I was originally supposed to play another character but I wanted to play that character because it was my favorite scene in the movie. And I said the problem with scary movies is that always know the main character is going to make it. So it's like this, you know, screwy mind game but she always survives. So if I bite it in the first scene, all bets are off. That means anyone can get it. That's scary. That's like flipping the genre on its head. And I just got this wild idea, one night, in my apartment, sitting alone in New York, and I called Harvey on the phone and I was like - I've got it. I was - like I've got to play this girl and we sort of said, let's do like a Janet Leigh in "Psycho."

GROSS: Right, right.

Ms. BARRYMORE: And pull the rug out from under people and nobody's safe. And - and it was just so much fun to do it. And the reason I wanted to do that, on an acting level, was because that scene took a week to shoot and I've never ever, ever had to cry that much, and be hyperventilating, and fear-ridden, and on the verge of like passing out because of, you know, lack of breath and fear and anxiety and tears and hysteria, and to be in that state for five days was a total blast. It was wild.

GROSS: So are you as big horror show - horror movie fan as your character in "Scream"?

Ms. BARRYMORE: No, the opposite. I'm terrified of scary movies. Like I don't - I don't want anything to do with them, ironically. I don't go see them. I'm - I'm absolutely terrified of them. But I wanted the acting challenge of, you know, having to get to that level of - of fear and tears and you know…

GROSS: Okay. So if you're so scared by horror films, what was it like to watch you as the person in jeopardy?

Ms. BARRYMORE: I didn't mind it because I knew the tricks, you know. I was there shooting it - I knew there was a camera. I knew there was a crew. So I was okay. But I readily can't suspend that disbelief when I see other scary movies. They just scare me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: You're such an interesting mix of - on the one hand, coming from this like, pedigree, this like famous family; and on the other hand, feeling like you didn't have a family, because your father wasn't with you, your mother was - was working a lot and not with you and became your manager for a while. But as you said before, you and she officially parted ways. And I guess it's - it's such a kind of inherent contradiction of your life, that you're part of this like really famous tribe, the most - perhaps the most famous acting family in American history - and at the same time, you feel like you grew up without a family.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yeah. It's - like I said, we're dealt the cards we're dealt with in life and it's up to us on how we want to play them. And I feel anything less than sorry for myself, what I'd really like to do is to keep their name alive and well and honor them. And, you know, when I go to the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, which is where I try to have most of my premieres, they - my grandfather's face is in the cement. He put his profile because he's known as the great profile. And my star is actually, you know, ten feet away from his and here is the place at another time he was and here I'm now. And I want to keep that tradition alive.

GROSS: Of your family's movies, which made the biggest impression on you?

Ms. BARRYMORE: Well, different ones for various reasons, but I loved "Twentieth Century" because I think my grandfather is just funny and genius as that mad director, he's just wonderful in it. But when I watch "A Bill of Divorcement" with Katharine Hepburn, I get so emotional because it's about a father and a daughter reconciling. And I picture myself in her shoes and me getting to have these conversations and moments with him, the way that she got you have them with him in that movie, and so that one is very personal for me.

And I loved "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," I loved that he used very little prosthetics and makeup and - and took the risk of acting out those physical differences between the characters. I mean, sure he had some hair and some nails, but really it was his - he trusted his own facial features and body language. He's definitely the one I'm the most connected to and - and - and feel this - this deep longing for. I love Lionel in "It's A Wonderful Life." Potter is one of the, you know, greatest characters ever created and I can't believe that's my - my uncle and…

GROSS: I know he's just like the mean banker.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BARRYMORE: I know and he's awesome, and he was in a wheelchair at the time so…

GROSS: For real?

Ms. BARRYMORE: For real…

GROSS: Yeah.

Ms. BARRYMORE: …so he performed it in a wheelchair and it's, you know, it's just, I just love them. I love watching them. I…

GROSS: Did - did having them as your family send you back to lots of other early movies too?

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yeah, I - I grew up watching the classics, and I still, I keep Turner Classic Movies on my television at all times. So, I'm always watching old movies, coming home to old movies, and lot of the times my family is on TV and it just feels…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BARRYMORE: …welcoming home - that warm fireplace of good vibes. And I have their pictures all over the wall. And it's not an obsessive thing, it's just like, you know, I'm connected to these people and that connection makes me feel good. So, I always love when I come home and I'm like, hey guys how are you? You're on the TV. It's a sign. And yeah, so I - I - I absolutely love - and it's interesting because one of my favorite love stories growing up was "Captains Courageous" - which is actually a film, like Lionel is in as well.

And Spencer Tracy and Freddie Bartholomew have this incredible relationship that evolves into something very deep and meaningful and life changing for both of them. And the reason I fell in love with "Grey Gardens" is because I've always loved unorthodox love stories that don't have a sexual connotation to them. That there - it's about love. And I was raised on those movies as a kid and they were more ubiquitous in the old fashion classics, a little bit more than they are now today. But, you know, "Paper Moon" by Peter Bogdanovich - even "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is a phenomenal love story, and funny and - and heartwarming and - so I've always been a fan of that type of film.

GROSS: People who have come from troubled families or, you know, families that broke apart like - like yours. I think a lot of them tend to want to have a family and make it a more better family, like - make it the kind of family that they wish they had and didn't, or - or to not have a family because families have like bad - bad memories for them. Where do you fit on that scale if you - if you don't mind answering it, if it's not too personal.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Not at all. I'm definitely for option A. I believe that I'm going to be a great mother. I cannot wait to have a family. I'm so looking forward to - all the challenges that I've taken on in my life -I can't wait to take on the one that shall be my greatest and most selfless if I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to have a child. And I know that I will provide the exact family that I would have always wanted. And I do think that you can take damage and pain and dysfunction and use it as the blue print of what not to do.

GROSS: So, I guess one of the things you wouldn't be doing is what your mother did with you, take you to Studio 54, you know, like the big club where a lot of people were doing cocaine, back when you are still a child.

Ms. BARRYMORE: Yeah. It seems irresponsible and I don't want people to hate her for doing that because, you know, it's not the orthodox way of motherhood. On the other hand, selfishly, from my own experience, I can't believe I got to party in that hay day and be the part of a cultural phenomenon. And I'm - I'm glad because she inadvertently gave me the opportunities that I needed, to have the career and the life and the job that I wanted. So, you know, trial by fire - but I - I hope people will forgive her for something like that because I - I don't believe she did them with malcontent intentions.

I think she just, you know, was a bit of a kid herself, and, you know, I got - I got where I was. I got, you know, I got that I was at Studio 54. And I was like, you know what, I'm glad. I'm glad I got to be in this moment and, you know, I saw a lot of amazing things growing up. May be they weren't for children to see, but that was my life and I have no regrets. It's what's formed me.

GROSS: Well, Drew Barrymore, it's been great to talk with you. Thank you so much.

Ms. BARRYMORE: I'm so honored to be on your program. I'm not kidding I listen to you all the time. I just can't believe I'm not, like, in my Crown Vic driving down the road listening to this myself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BARRYMORE: …I don't believe it's really happening, so thank you -thank you, thank you for having me on.

GROSS: Drew Barrymore stars in the new HBO adaptation of "Grey Gardens" which premiers Saturday night.

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