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The taming of little Ms Drew

You can't help but like Drew Barrymore. In spite of the huge number of mediocre movies. Here's a true Hollywood survivor, the scion of an acting dynasty that became famous just as much for their on-screen work as their off-screen shenanigans. Just like Drew Barrymore.

By the age of seven, she was hosting Saturday Night Live, and was on nodding terms with legendary nightclub Studio 54's bouncers.

By 13, the cutest kid in ET was something of a narcotics aficionado.

By 14, she was a rehab regular, having attempted suicide. By the age of 15, Drew Barrymore had her autobiography, Little Girl Lost, hitting the shelves just as she was in juvenile court, being granted emancipation from her mother, Ildiko Jaid Barrymore, "a bad influence".

At 17, she was posing naked for Interview magazine. At 19, it was Playboy. For her 20th birthday, Steven Spielberg sent Drew a quilt with a note that read, "Cover yourself up". Later that year, she climbed up on David Letterman's desk and flashed him.

The fact that Barrymore was able to take this spectacular nosedive of a career and turn it into a multi-billion-dollar success story is pretty miraculous.

A self-confessed workaholic these days, with Flower Films, Barrymore has bankrolled the likes of the big-screen Charlie's Angels outings (criminally underrated, by the way), Donnie Darko, 50 First Dates, He's Just Not That Into You, HBO awards magnet Grey Gardens, and Barrymore's recent directorial debut, Whip It.

Not bad going for a one-time Lindsay Lohan. Not that Ms Barrymore isn't averse to making mediocre movies still, as her latest, Going The Distance, proves. As the title suggests, it's a long-distance romantic comedy, Barrymore acting alongside her former boyfriend, Justin Long, in this hip but flat, affair.

Still, when I caught up with this leading lady at London's Claridge's Hotel recently, she was in fine fettle. And in a playful mood.

That's why I thought I might just get away with asking her if there was any research whatsoever involved when it came to Drew Blyth Barrymore and Justin Jake Long playing a young couple falling in and out of love. Mercifully, Barrymore lets out a laugh.

"Yeah, him and I have a history together," she says, "so, I thought it was kind of a cool opportunity for someone watching the film to actually believe in it more, and relate to it more. Because we've actually been through this.

"And I just thought the chemistry would be more real, and he really genuinely makes me laugh. So, that sort of joy would be more authentic, and the emotionality. So, I thought it was a kind of a rare opportunity."

Love is, of course, all we need, but it can also be a major pain in the ass, something Going The Distance bravely addresses. So much so, I tell Barrymore, that it sometimes played like (500) Days Of Bummer. That was part of the attraction, it seems.

"For sure. First of all, I like my character. I got to put a lot of myself into her. I go out and have a drink at the end of a bad day, and I swear, and I talk dirty with my friends . . ."

Outrageous.

"Totally, I know. The term 'romantic comedy', in some ways, I feel that's unfair to the movie. I love those movies. I've done those movies, but this is much more kinda true to what we go through in real life, but it's really funny."

So, it's like the anti-McConaughey & Hudson?

"I don't want to say," Barrymore replies, with a wry smile, "because it'll get misconstrued . . ."

Time's almost up.

Having an Irish great, great grandfather, and having spent two weeks driving around Ireland back in 2001, Ms Barrymore has been back to our green and peasant land, right?

"I cannot wait to go back to Ireland," she answers. "I loved it so much, and being a workaholic, I almost never get to go anywhere for a couple of weeks, but I just had the most extraordinary experience there.

"Really, just getting to drive, and pull over to run through these great parks and fields, and find secret beaches after a three-hour walk through the woods. I love Ireland. I love the people. It's just a wonderful place, and I'll be fortunate to return.

"I ran through fields naked, totally . . ." Really? Here's to your next visit, Drew . . .

Going The Distance hits Irish screens September 10th