LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - She grew up a child star in a famous Hollywood family, and Drew Barrymore has gone from acclaimed actress to movie producer and now director of her first feature film, “Whip It.”
The film, about a Texas teenager played by Ellen Page who forsakes her mother’s wish for beauty queen notoriety and joins the rough-and-tumble world of female roller derby, premiered this month to good reviews at the Toronto International Film festival and opens on Friday at U.S. theaters.
At its heart, “Whip It” tells of a young woman’s coming of age and of finding comfort in her own, tough skin. Barrymore spoke to Reuters about directing her first movie.
Q: We saw the movie in Toronto, and you seemed nervous on stage talking to the audience. Were you?
A: “I was excited, not nervous. I felt confident about the film I was presenting, but it was a big opportunity for me.”
Q: An opportunity? From the perspective of playing at the festival or from the point-of-view of your directing debut?
A: ‘Both, really, but more from the directorial side.”
Q: And the reaction was good. That must feel great?
A: “It really was. It was a real dream come true. I know you are not supposed to do things just for the sake of reviews, and there’s no reason in self-flagellating if they are bad. But if they are positive and it can help the (promotional) campaign, then it’s a gift that is not always available.”
Q: You’ve told Reuters in the past that directing is something you’ve always wanted to do, but why?
A: “For me, it was just a natural progression of taking everything I learned and putting it into something different. It’s like being a bank and collecting all that money and never doing anything with it ... I can’t imagine going into museums and or art galleries or being a painter or writer or musician -- really caring about every detail -- and not doing anything with all that knowledge you’ve gained.”
Q: Did you seek out any other director’s advice, people you’ve worked with in the past?
A: “Oh yeah, I love collaborating with filmmakers and asking opinions, but I also think at the end of the day, you have to trust your own instincts. Talking to others or asking for advice helps you get a clearer sense of your own voice and your own vision of what you want on screen.”
Q: And what is your voice?
A: “My voice is one of hope and empowerment and believing you can create something special with your life ... And you can fight for things and do the homework and make them happen. Those are important themes in my life.”
Q: Did you have to fight to get “Whip It” made?
A: “Yeah, I didn’t want it to be just another chick flick. I wanted it to stay true to girl empowerment. I wanted to make something that was also irreverent and relevant for boys. I wanted it to be emotional and yet romantic and also have action and have girls doing things you’d normally see boys do. That wasn’t easy.”
Q: “Whip It” actress Juliette Lewis told me that as a director you had a “strong visual sense of what you wanted to see on camera.” But what happened on set that you hadn’t expected? What surprised you?
A: “I really liked playing music for people. I played it for the crew and found it set a great mood .... Speaking of Juliette she would love to get pumped up to Van Halen before shooting ... Playing music that we all liked or we had in common, it didn’t seem like ‘hey this is your job and this is mine,’ We could work like a symphony, work together.”
Q: Will you do it again?
A: “Yeah! I guess I‘m always surprised by people thinking if you train for something your whole life, like the marathon, you wouldn’t do it again. I would think you’d do it a lot. I must of been training for this my whole life. I can’t imagine it would be just a one off.”
Editing by Patricia Reaney