Steven Spielberg says Drew Barrymore made him feel ‘helpless’ while filming ET

Steven Spielberg has explained why Drew Barrymore made him feel “helpless” while filming ET the Extra-Terrestrial.

Former child star Barrymore was seven when she starred in the director’s 1982 family film alongside Henry Thomas and Dee Wallace.

Speaking in a new interview, Barrymore said that Spielberg was “the only person in my life to this day that ever was a parental figure”.

As a youngster, Barrymore, whose parents were actors John Drew Barrymore and Ildikó Jaid Makó, would ask the filmmaker if he would be her dad. Spielberg, who was 36 at the time, said “no”, but he did agree to being her godfather.

In the interview, the actor described her father as an “abusive drunk”, and said her first memory was when he “stormed in and tossed her into a wall” when she was three.

Speaking about his closeness with Barrymore, Spielberg commented to Vulture: “She was staying up way past her bedtime, going to places she should have only been hearing about, and living a life at a very tender age that I think robbed her of her childhood.

“Yet I felt very helpless because I wasn’t her dad. I could only kind of be a consigliere to her.”

Barrymore described her troubled childhood at length in the book Little Girl Lost. As a young girl, she would often go to nightclub Studio 54. She said she first tried coke when she was 12 years old, and was placed in rehab a year later.

The Charlie’s Angels star also spent 18 months in an institution and went back to rehab when she was 14 after a suicide attempt.

She succesfully petitioned for emancipation from her parents aged 15.

Steven Spielberg and Drew Barrymore on the set of ‘ET’ in the early 1980s (Bruce Mc Broom/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Steven Spielberg and Drew Barrymore on the set of ‘ET’ in the early 1980s (Bruce Mc Broom/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Spielberg, who would take Barrymore on weekend trips to Disneyland as a child, said that he maintained the magic surrounding the ET puppet during the film’s shoot as she thought it was real.

“I didn’t want to burst the bubble,” Spielberg said, stating that Barrymore often wondered why there were a team of people surrounding the alien. The director told her: “ET is so special he has eight assistants; I am the director, I only have one.”

Barrymore, whose credits include The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates and Music & Lyrics, hosts her own talk show in the US.

Her Music & Lyrics co-star Hugh Grant recently mocked Barrymore’s “horrendous” singing voice while discussing the 2007 romantic comedy.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.