In 1981, Drew auditioned for the part of Carol Anne in Poltergeist. She lost out on the role, but the film’s producer Steven Spielberg asked her to come back to read for his other project, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Drew’s wild imagination & bubbly personality were exactly what they were looking for in the character of the little sister Gertie. Drew landed the part and filming began, which she still considers the best experience of her life. On the set, especially from Steven, Drew found the acceptance she had long been aching for. When the film was released in the summer of 1982, it became the highest grossing movie of all time. Drew became a celebrity literally overnight. Unprepared but excited for this change, she went on a whirlwind publicity tour around the globe, charming everyone wherever she went. She even hosted Saturday Night Live at the tender age of 7, making her the youngest host in the show’s history, a record she holds to this day.
Coming back to reality was a whole other story. At school, her classmates treated her differently due to her new fame and she endured endless teasing. Her mother Jaid decided to give up her own acting career to become Drew’s full time manager. Although Drew was happy to spend more time with her mom, this new role would create confusion and difficulties in their relationship. She also had a few painful and abusive encounters with her father, but that didn’t stop her from constantly seeking his love.
Drew’s next film was Irreconcilable Differences. It was a tense and argument ridden shoot. Afterward she questioned if she wanted to continue making movies (although she would receive a Golden Globe nomination for her performance). When the opportunity arose to star in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter, which was one of Drew’s favorite books, her interest in acting was reignited. During filming in North Carolina, she became close friends with her stand-in Jennifer Ward. Drew spent most of the summer with the Wards. She loved having a dad and brother around and feeling like she was part of a family. Having to leave them at the end of the shoot was yet another case of her getting close to people only to then have to be torn away from them. Thankfully, the following summer she would return to film Cat’s Eye, which King tailor made for Drew. At Firestarter‘s wrap party, Drew bet a few crew members that she could down two glasses of champagne. She passed out and Jaid told her to stay away from alcohol, but Drew would continue to seek the thrill she experienced from it.
Back home, school became more and more difficult for Drew. She and Jaid began to go out to parties and clubs several times a week, where she felt confident and like part of the crowd. Comparatively, school was boring and restrictive. The relentless teasing by her classmates (and sometimes teachers) added to the mix only fueled her quest for ways to escape. Drew began smoking cigarettes and easily hid the habit from her mother. The few times Jaid caught her, Drew would be grounded, but then an event would come up, suddenly giving her permission to go out. It was becoming clear to Drew all of the things she could get away with. Drinking, smoking, clubbing, and boys all became ways for Drew to feel older and accepted. And thanks to a friend’s mom, marijuana use was quickly added to the repertoire.
Information and photos compiled from various sources. Please do not reproduce this content without permission.
© The Drewseum 2010