Drew Barrymore asked Steven Spielberg to be her father.
Actress Drew Barrymore did not have an easy childhood. Her father was an abusive alcoholic, and Barrymore remembers him holding her hand over a candle and throwing her into a wall. According to Deadline, it was so bad that, while starring in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 family film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Barrymore asked the director if he could be her father.
Spielberg was, of course, unable to be 7-year-old Drew Barrymore’s father, since her dad John Drew Barrymore was still alive. However, Spielberg did agree to become the young actress’s Godfather and made a point of looking after the girl during filming. He also gave Barrymore a pet cat and took her to theme parks during weekends. According to Spielberg, he made a point of acting as a consigliere for the child star.
Spielberg also made a point of preserving the young Drew Barrymore’s illusion that the animatronic E.T. was, in fact, a real creature. To accomplish this, Spielberg filmed the entire movie in chronological order, had operators continue to perform with the puppet even when it wasn’t being filmed, and even allowed Barrymore to have lunch with E.T.
However, despite everything he did, Spielberg felt guilty for the effect he had on Barrymore’s life. He once mused that, by forcing her to stay up past her bedtime and forcing her to travel all over during the course of filming, he robbed the young actress of her childhood.
Drew Barrymore views things differently than the celebrated director. According to her, Steven Spielberg was the only person in her life that served as an effective father figure. Alongside her abusive (and usually absent) father, she says her mom treated her more like a client than a daughter. This led to a completely uninhibited life, where she started drinking at age eight and started doing cocaine at age 12.
After spending time in rehab, Drew Barrymore emancipated herself from her mother at just 14 years old — her mother, for her part, supported the emancipation.
Drew Barrymore took a break from movies after rehab, not appearing in a film until 1992 when she was 16 years old. She was very prolific upon her return, however, appearing in movies and one TV show in 1992, and four more movies the next year. None of them were breakout hits, but they helped transform her from a child star into a fully-fledged adult actress.
Barrymore continued to build her reputation and expand her range throughout the 1990s, delivering memorable performances in films like the self-aware horror film Scream, The Adam Sandler comedy The Wedding Singer, and the well-received romance Ever After: A Cinderella Story. Her success continued through the 2000s with films like the trippy supernatural thriller Donnie Darko, the fortunately-timed baseball rom-com Fever Pitch, and the immensely popular comedy Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
However, even decades after her experience performing for Steven Spielberg, Drew Barrymore still remembers his positive role in her life. According to Barrymore, she still asks herself, “What would Spielberg do?”