Steven Spielberg has always been a father figure to Drew Barrymore, but he actually said no when Barrymore asked him to be her real father during the making of their 1982 classic “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” Barrymore was only 7 years old at the time.
In a new Barrymore profile published by Vulture, Barrymore praised Spielberg as “the only person in my life to this day that ever was a parental figure.” He eventually agreed to be her godfather. Barrymore’s own father, the actor John Drew Barrymore, was an abusive alcoholic.
“Talk about someone who was not a careerist,” Barrymore said. “He was like, ‘I will burn this fucking dynasty to the ground.’”
During the making of “E.T.,” Spielberg made it his top priority to preserve the magic of the title character for the young Barrymore. In other words, she thought E.T. was real and he wanted to keep it that way. A couple weeks into filming, Barrymore noticed several men operating E.T. and demanded they leave set.
“I didn’t want to burst the bubble,” Spielberg said. “So I simply said, ‘It’s okay, E.T. is so special E.T. has eight assistants. I am the director, I only have one.”
Spielberg also kept operators on hand during non-filming hours such as lunch breaks so that Barrymore could eat with E.T. As Vulture reports, Barrymore even stayed with Spielberg “on weekends; he gave her a cat she named Gertie and took her to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm.”
At the same time, Barrymore’s personal life was in the early stages of spiraling due to her abusive father. She’s been vocal about starting marijuana use at age 10 and snorting cocaine at 12. She also checked into rehab at that age. When she was 7 and making “E.T.,” Barrymore would come to set wearing red lipstick and Spielberg would tell her to take it off.
“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 told Vulture. “Yet I felt very helpless because I wasn’t her dad. I could only kind of be a consigliere to her.”
Spielberg and Barrymore remain close to this day.