More complicated was mastering Edie’s idiosyncratic cadences. Barrymore worked with a dialect coach for a year before shooting began, learning to project forward, and not speak out of the right side of her mouth, as is her habit. “She’s always brought so much of herself to her parts,” says Diaz. “This was the first time she was able to leave all of that behind.”
When I mention that her restrictive regimen sounds a lot like being in rehab, she replies quickly, “It’s weird that you bring that up. I got institutionalized as a kid, and I felt like I was back there. A lot of times I found myself unhappy and isolated, and the only other time I felt that way was when I was in there. It was absolutely trying to relearn to live. You are learning to become someone else.” Says Lange, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor accomplish that as completely as Drew did.”
The pair spent most evenings together, sipping wine in each other’s hotel room as they watched dance musicals from the Thirties and smoked cigarettes. “We fell in love. When we’re together, we hold hands and sit really close,” says Barrymore, who appeared to be practically entwined with Lange at the Golden Globes in January. Lange recognizes aspects of Edie in Drew. “For all of her strengths, resilience and tenacity,” Lange says, “there’s also something incredibly tender and vulnerable and childlike about her.”
Barrymore readily saw the parallels—and the differences. “All roads could have definitely led me to being a little bit cloistered and insane,” she says with a laugh, “but I’m not afraid to put it out there, and Edie had a lot of fears that really held her back.”
Each was descended from a storied family, Edie from the Bouviers and Drew from one of the most famous acting clans in American theater. (Grandfather John Barrymore, great-aunt Ethel and great-uncle Lionel Barrymore all died before she was born.) And each was tied to a controlling mother, whose own stage ambitions had gone unrealized. Drew’s mother, Jaid, a struggling actress, raised her in Hollywood. Drew made her first commercial at 11 months and had already done two TV movies when Steven Spielberg cast her, at age six, in the 1982 megahit E.T. Overnight she was the “hot tot,” as People dubbed her, and the youngest person ever to host Saturday Night Live. “I feel like I came out of the womb and was punted—there you go, out in the world!” she says. The family breadwinner at age seven, she was soon the wild child, spending her days on movie sets and nights clubbing with her mother. She had her first drink when she was nine, and by 13 was in rehab; her best-selling memoir, Little Girl Lost, published when she was 14, is a cautionary tale of parental neglect, forfeited childhood, and cocaine and alcohol abuse—and then recovery—that should have been required reading for Britney and Lindsay.