Drew Barrymore was attached to "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" longer than most the film's stars, even longer than actor/director George Clooney.
In "Confessions," Barrymore plays Penny, the long-time friend and love interest of Chuck Barris. When Barrymore heard that Sam Rockwell was coming onboard to play Barris, she couldn't have been more pleased.
I think that Sam and I have this great chemistry. This is our second film together ['Charlies Angels' was their first collaboration] and I feel that we are just constantly inspiring each other. On set, we listened to our music, we danced, we talked a lot, and we worked each other up into these funny lathers it was great, says Barrymore.
Rockwell is equally as effusive when discussing his co-star. I hope to work with Drew over and over again. We were on the exact same page. We knew who these people were and what they meant to each other. Penny and Chuck are so perfect for each other and yet he takes her for granted. In a way its a typical kind of relationship between a man and woman that goes awry. You just hope he will get it together, explains Rockwell.
DREW BARRYMORE ('Penny')
How did you get along with George Clooney as a first time director?
He's amazing. He's one of the best directors I've ever worked for. He makes your acting better. He really watches you like a hawk, and then comes in and tweaks and adjusts things that you're doing and just makes them better. [He] gives you incredible suggestions that you weren't thinking to go there. Most of those takes are what's in the movie. [He has] just a really amazing way of articulating what his vision is and what he wants. He's very loving and very nurturing, but he's just incredibly objective. He's really, really good. All actors come prepared enough - most actors, I should say - come prepared enough that if they weren't directed, they could figure it out on their own. But everybody wants to be directed. He's amazing. He made me so much better than I would have been on my own.
He seems very secure for a first timer.
He's very secure, very confident and with no arrogance whatsoever. He just came really prepared so that he could have the most fun while he was doing it. Everybody felt that energy. It was just a really amazing, idyllic atmosphere. It was the best time ever.
How tricky was this role? Played wrong it would be 'marry me' for two hours.
Totally. I'm glad you said that. When I read the script many years ago, I was obsessed with playing her because I not only liked her, I loved the way that Chuck [Barris] had imagined her and Charlie [Kaufman] had written her. I just thought there was a real challenge. And nobody even mentions that, and I guess that's a good thing, because I tried so hard to go against that. I was so protective of her. Even as well written as she was, [she] could have been misconstrued by somebody as being bitter or needy or glommy or un-independent. I just thought there was [a] real challenge in making her seem like a grounding light in his life, who pretends like she's a beatnik who doesn't need commitments and isn't really into that kind of stuff, but who secretly is still a girl at that point inside. Then [she] becomes a woman and does want and need those things. As she gets to know him, [she] feels a little bit more daring in bringing that up to him and hoping it won't push him away. And of course it does.
What's your sense of what she gets from Chuck Barris?
They're playful together; they've known each other for so long. The heart chooses what the heart chooses. She loves him madly and she's proud of him. He's at his best when he's with her. She does get a lot of his good sides. I think also she's sort of like, "Look, I know we should be together. I know we're good for each other. If you don't see it yet, well then I just have to wait until you do."
How helpful was the "Charlie's Angels" experience, having already worked with Sam Rockwell?
Great. We definitely already had an amazing conformability together. I think it helped a tremendous amount. Had we not know each other, I'm sure it would have been a little different. But we were so close at that point because not only did we spend six months on "Charlie's" together, but we became very good friends, and have been very social since then. So, there was an amazing shorthand.
But you too weren't quite as naked in "Charlie's Angels."
No. We have a make-out scene, so it was like all working up to that. Then we had this crazy shower scene, and we're like, "Oh my God." We're like really kind of brother and sisterly in real life.
Would that have been easier if you didn't know each other that well?
No. I was glad I knew him. I felt comfortable. It's vulnerable to get in those positions, and I felt really safe with George and really safe with Sam. I actually hadn't done that in a really long time. I've gotten naked and stuff, but I haven't had a love scene like that in a while. I just got into it and did it, then afterwards I was like shy and embarrassed. But those two men are so wonderful, and I feel very family, brotherly, protected.
Why do you think women weree so drawn to Chuck Barris?
There is something incredibly sexy about a man who is so motivated, and can juggle all those balls in the air, and have show after show, and be a constant thinker and be reading and writing, thinking of music, making movies, doing TV. He really was the first person to have people do unscripted, what we call 'Reality TV' now. Though I think our 'Reality TV' is very different. His was more playful and now it's about exposing people's problems.
It's uglier now.
It is. I don't ever watch reality TV now. It pains me to see it. He let us expose all our problems with no help or good advice on how we can fix them, you know? I think he was about, "Hey, I really do like riding a unicycle with a bunny suit on, but none of my friends know it. Hey, here's a forum where I can express that." I just thought there was something very great about his shows.
Do you believe his spy stories?
I know he has an amazing imagination and I'm impressed with the way he articulated it into a novel. I also love when people sort of tweak the history as we know it and show a different way of how they got about it.
So you read it as a novel?
I don't know what to believe. I don't want him to have hurt anybody, so in that way I hope it's not true. I just keep coming back to that. He has a really interesting mind that he was able to come up with this.
What do you make of the idea of lionizing this guy who could be lying through his teeth or mentally disturbed?
That's it, that's the whole point, that it is a really interesting story - and well written. [It's] very well written by Charlie Kaufman and amazingly directed by George, and perfectly acted by Sam. I just think a lot of great people came together on this, whether it's real or an idea, and told a very interesting story that I think a lot of people can weirdly relate to. The double life, you want to live this sexy cool hit man CIA '60s movie star like rock and roll, Julia Roberts saying, "kill for me, baby" life. Do you want that life, or do you want the nice girl who's stable and sweet and you're an executive and you create shows? Everyone fantasizes about the dual life, I think, too. But all in all, I just think it's an amazing story, and it was a great forum if done by the right person, and George was that person to make a movie out of it.
Who does your character represent?
Well, she is slightly based on one real woman in his life, and I think she's an amalgamation of other women. I think she's a combination of an ideal woman in his mind, but I know there is one woman he was particularly thinking of.
What's your idea of romance?
We're talking about me now? I don't know. My idea of romance is someone who makes you laugh and is consistent, and is playful but there for you in moments when you need a real friend and someone to talk to. Someone who is just sweet to you and you have a good time with. I know that sounds general, but those are great, important criteria for having something great.
Is it strange to have done so many films and still be so young?
It's all I've known, so no. But I get excited because I'm going to be 28 in a couple weeks or whatever, and I start thinking about, "OK, I've spent pretty much all of my 20s doing my company, and that's really what the goal has been about. I'm really interested to see what are my 30s going to be about." If I can live as many lives as I can in this one lifetime, how lucky I would be. I'm in a job, too, where I wonder sometimes why I just keep doing it, but it's like, if you really do have the desire to live many different lives, than this is an amazing job for that. I can go and play and create a story or find a script, create a forum to live out these fantasies for three to six months at a time, two years at a time when you're producing because you go through the whole process, then go and move on and do something different. But I actually would like to physically to go and live different lives with different people in different places in different occupations. I may never end up doing that. I may just find that this is the one forum that allows me to do everything I want. But I just love it, I'm really happy doing what I do.