Drew Barrymore has come a long way since ET first rocketed her to stardom in 1982, at the tender age of seven. In her latest movie, Going the Distance, Barrymore takes on the role of Erin, who embarks on a holiday romance with Garrett (played by real-life on-again/off-again beau Justin Long) while on a break in New York. When she returns to California, the two are determined to make their long-distance relationship work, despite persuasion to the contrary by each of their friends.
Director Nanette Burstein is renowned for her documentary work, in particular the award-winning American Teen, about the relationships of a group of high-school seniors in Indiana. No doubt audiences here will be able to empathise with her latest project: Going the Distance is the first film in recent years to look at the highs and lows of long-distance relationships in a world of Skype and text messages. It’s something more people become familiar with each year – a 2005 study in the US concluded that more than four million people were in long-distance relationships in the States alone. We can only imagine what the numbers must be like in Dubai: a city full of husbands and wives sending money home to their families, or couples pursuing their careers from different sides of the ocean.
So why did Barrymore choose this particular film to add to her CV? And what was it like working with on/off boyfriend Justin Long? We persuaded her to spill the beans.
Tell us about your character in the film. What was it about Erin that resonated with you?
I’m not a girly-girl, so I liked playing someone who’s like that. I liked being someone who has balls and is funny and has an opinion and is tough. I love being a woman and I want to make films for women. But I am definitely not prim, and I don’t relate to that über-feminine nature. Plus, I felt like it was the right opportunity. It wasn’t trying to mismatch someone who wasn’t on the page. I just wanted to be a girl in a movie, in a setting that wasn’t like: ‘I woke-up and I had a fling with the wrong guy. I’m supposed to see him in a meeting in the morning.’ I’m dealing with a relationship and I’m trying to figure out my life, and I don’t want to compromise my job in order to have a relationship. These are the problems I deal with in my life. So I was refreshed to find a movie that was so real. This is what we go through.
There’s a scene in the movie where you fire questions at Garrett on a date. Would you sit at your first date and ask the same questions?
That was all improv. That was just Justin and me. Nanette [Burstein], the director, is a documentarian. And I love improv. I did a documentary and I just love that style. Justin and I have a history, so we know each other and we can roll with it and we can fly. None of that was scripted.
You worked with a cast of comedians. Were there moments on set where you cracked each other up?
Oh, yeah. I ruined everybody’s take all the time. Christina [Applegate] and I would ruin most of her takes because she has one of the sharpest comedic deliveries. I think she’s master of her craft. She just does these things and I would just giggle all the time. I feel like I might have sabotaged some of her best work because I couldn’t not laugh. With Justin, it was easier because when he makes me laugh my character was laughing with him. But with Christina, we were trying to get a point across.
What was it like to work with Nanette?
I like working with Nanette a lot. She’s a tough girl too, which was perfect because if she was too girly, it just wouldn’t work for the film. I also love not playing totally by the rules and having it feel so staged. Her desire to get the camera and just roll with it was also why I was excited. I don’t think I would have wanted to do this movie with someone who I knew was very by-the-book. I was like, ‘I’m not in the mood to do a paint-by-numbers movie. I want to do something that’s really playful.’ I also liked the story because I’ve been in a long-distance relationship my whole life because of my job. If you travel for work, you know how it is. You’re like ‘work, love, work, love’. It’s tough. You’re like, when do I have kids? When do I get married? I just felt like this subject matter, this tone, appealed to me. And I knew Nanette would handle that properly.
Do you have any advice for the millions of people who are in long-distance relationships?
I’m one of them, so I’m one of the millions of people. It’s really difficult. But I also imagine it’s really difficult to be together seven days a week and have Chinese food on Wednesday nights. I don’t think either is ideal. I think it’s more natural to spend some time apart. It keeps it alive and fresh longer. It’s very individual for the couple. You have to figure out what works for you.
Going the Distance is out now in cinemas across the UAE.
Child stars: then and now
From her film debut at the tender age of seven, Drew Barrymore has gone on to become one of the most bankable actresses in Hollywood. But which other child prodigies have subsequently triumphed on the silver screen?
Then: Aged 14, Jodie was already hot property in Hollywood, appearing in Taxi Driver, Bugsy Malone and Freaky Friday in 1976.
Now: Having starred in Nim’s Island in 2008 with Gerard Butler, as well as nabbing three Baftas, two Golden Globes and a Screen Actors Guild Award, things are going well.
Then: Leonardo made his film debut as a 17-year-old in This Boy’s Life, before appearing in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? in 1993 at the age of 18.
Now: Leo is likely to be around for a while after starring in smash hit Inception.
Then: Jennifer’s acting career got off to a promising start; she was just 13 when her first film, Once Upon a Time in America, was released in 1984. Her young age meant a body double was used for the nude scene.
Now: Having starred in girly rom-com He’s Just Not That into You in 2009, Jen is still riding high.
Then: Corey was 14 when he became a household name, thanks to his role in box-office hit The Goonies in 1985.
Now: After a public battle with drugs, he’s back in front of the camera, but hasn’t starred in anything notable since the ’90s.