Forget John Travolta. Hollywood's true comeback kid is Drew Barrymore, the child star-turned-teenage drug addict who managed, by the age of 21, to resurrect her career as a blonde bombshell for the Gen X generation. Bubbly and uninhibited, with a child-like sexiness reminiscent of her idol, Marilyn Monroe, the Los Angeles native made 1995 The Year of Drew, starring in three high-profile movies: "Boys on the Side," with Whoopi Goldberg and Mary Louise Parker; "Mad Love," with up-and-coming hunk "Chris O'Donnell, and the summer blockbuster, "Batman Forever," with Val Kilmer and Jim Carrey. In each role, she played her pouty, Monroe-esque persona to the hilt. Off-screen, Drew worked to ensure her stardom by engaging in some risque, extracurricular hijinx. There was the time she flashed her breasts on "David Letterman" as a birthday gift to the host. Or her Playboy pictorial and her tendency, on numerous occasions, to strip in bars at the drop of a dime. "Freedom," as the spirited actress has oft-declared, is her mantra.
As heir to an acting dynasty that began with 19th-century English thespian Maurice Barrymore, Drew was born in 1975 to sometime-actor -- and disappearing father -- John Drew Jr. and his wife, Ildiko Jaid. At 11 months, she made her first commercial for Puppy Choice Dog Food. At seven, the pudgy-faced cherub starred in "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial," capturing America's heart in a way that no other child actress had since Shirley Temple. Lesser vehicles, including "Firestarter" and "Cat's Eye," both based on Stephen King stories, soon followed. Before reaching puberty, Drew was both a star and national icon.
Her burgeoning career, however, was soon eclipsed byher off-screen antics. It became increasingly evident that Drew had inherited her family's tragic legacy of substance abuse. From grandfather John Barrymore, a Shakespearean actor of the '20s and '30s who drank himself to death at age 60, to her father, who had a long history of alcoholism and drug arrests, the excesses of the Barrymore family were legion. To cope with her early stardom, Drew took her first drink at nine, progressed to marijuana at 10 and began using cocaine at age 12. She told PEOPLE in 1989, "From the time I got famous in 'E.T.,' my life got really weird. One day I was a little girl, and the next day I was being mobbed by people who wanted me to sign my autograph or pose for pictures or who just wanted to touch me. It was pretty frightening." By 1988, Drew was in rehab. She finally got clean a year later, but not before a subsequent relapse and failed suicide attempt. Ever the precocious one, she told the world her story in her 1989 memoir, "Little Girl Lost."
Barrymore might have lived out the rest of her years as another washed-up child star. But after a two-year absence, she returned to the screen in the pivotal "Poison Ivy." In the 1992 film, Drew played a teenage femme fatale who seduces her best friend's father. Next came a slew of other nymphet roles. In "The Amy Fisher Story," based on the sordid real-life case of the Long Island teenager who shot her former lover's wife, Drew's performance won raves even though the movie was dismissed as sensationalized trash. In "Guncrazy," she portrayed a pistol-toting runaway. A brief stint as the Guess! jeans model and a nude photo layout in Interview magazine cemented her raucous, Bad Girl image. As she is the first to admit, the typecasting --which seemed fitting, based on her personal history, was no accident. She told one reporter, "I don't give a [bleep] about sex appeal in my real life, but I knew I could work it for something. Everyone is fascinated with sexuality. I knew it was going to turn heads."
But a funny thing happened on the way to theexploitation movie: it turned out Drew could act. Lauded for bringing depth (Quicktime 1.3 MB) to otherwise one-dimensional roles, Drew made the A-list in 1994, starring alongside Andie MacDowall, Madeline Stowe Mary Stuart Masterson in the forgettable Western "Bad Girls."
But it's not just Drew's career which has gotten on track. With sobriety -- although she does admit to the occasional beer-- has come a new-found confidence and maturity in her personal life as well. She has come to terms with her family history ("They were all out of their minds," she told GQ matter-of-factly in 1994). Not only has Drew forgiven her father for abandoning the family, she has reconciled with her mother, Jaid, with whom she had fallen out, as well. And After a two-month marriage to British pub owner Jeremy Thomas in 1994, Drew found stability in her relationship with Eric Erlandson, guitarist with the rock group Hole. With no less than six movies on the immediate horizon -- including a starring role in the Woody Allen musical "Everyone Says I Love You", opening Oct. 18, Drew's star seems destined only to rise. As she told USA Today in 1995, "I'm a really happy person. I think there were a lot of years in my life when I wasn't so happy because I was confused.... And when things come clear to you, no matter how you have to get there, as long as you grow and come out the other side of it, then it's all worth it."