When Drew Barrymore talks, people listen. People like Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore. And if Charlie's Angels are America's secret weapon, then Barrymore is Hollywood's -- the unstoppable 28-year-old actress not only kicks ass in Full Throttle, the star-studded sequel to the 2000 blockbuster, she also produced it and is largely responsible for bringing back Diaz and luring Moore to the fold.
"I never saw myself coming back to do a sequel," admits Diaz, who is close with costars Barrymore and Lucy Liu. "I like to work with different people, different directors, different stories. Then Drew called with a new twist on the storyline and said, 'Let's do it again!' And Drew doesn't stop until she gets what she wants. She is so enthusiastic and gives you so many good reasons to participate in her adventure that there's no way to go against it."
Barrymore, who made her screen debut at 11 months in a Puppy Chow commercial, first demonstrated her celestial spirit in Steven Spielberg's children's classic,E.T., and has continued to fascinate audiences as she exults in the highs and lows (substance abuse, familial disputes and failed romances) of her life journey.
The actress is well known for her passionate nature, whether she's advocating causes such as Wildlife Waystation, PETA, Women's Health Foundation and Rock the Vote, developing projects for her production company, Flower Films, or simply enjoying herself.
"The key with Drew is that she's able to juggle those roles," says Angels director McG (a.k.a. Joseph McGinty Nichol, a music video vet whom Barrymore championed to helm both films). "And she's the engine of this picture. She's able to be such an elegant, helpful, sort of mother in some respects, making sure Cameron and Lucy are heard. She's not a diva actress. She's really part of the team and really rolls up her sleeves and gets things done. Drew will interface with the studio and be a lady when she needs to be a lady, be very eloquent and elegant, and then be sort of down and dirty with the team. That's not easy."
In persuading Moore -- who sidelined showbiz in 1998 to raise her three daughters in Utah -- to play dark Angel Madison Lee, Barrymore refused to take no for an answer. "If she had turned us down -- which I definitely was not going to let happen -- I was going to camp out on her doorstep until she said yes," Barrymore recalls.
While Barrymore's infectious enthusiasm attracts a steady stream of suitors (she's dated actor Luke Wilson and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson; had brief marriages to bar owner Jeremy Thomas and comedian Tom Greene; she's currently engaged to Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti), her kooky charisma draws faithful friends and admiring colleagues.
McG, with whom Barrymore loves to dish about '70s culture, speaks to the actress's power of persuasion. "Drew has these sacred seances at 3 o'clock in the morning in her freaky Hollywood hideaway," he relates. "When I came into this picture with the three girls, we all sort of made this blood pact in the middle of the night, like if we're going to do this thing again, it's all or nothing. We just agreed that we were going to go for it."
With the three principals and Moore on board, plus comedian Bernie Mac cast as Bosley's brother Jimmy (not to mention small roles by Luke Wilson, Matt LeBlanc and John Cleese and cameos by Bruce Willis, Carrie Fisher and Pink), the goal of the new production was to develop the Angels' colorful characters and step up the comedy and action. Innuendo-infused humor abounds, while dizzying motorcross, surfing and martial arts stunts complement a bright, poppy soundtrack.
"It's exciting for my life to play this character," says Barrymore about the role of Angel Dylan Sanders, who is at the center of the film's plot. "I like to really become who I'm playing, so I'm not faking it. And with Dylan I just feel constantly inspired and empowered. I'll scuba-dive with sharks, sky-dive. I find myself jumping off 80-foot rocks. She has this lack of fear that I don't have in my real life. That is such an exciting way to live."
According to film coproducer Leonard Goldman, who with Aaron Spelling created the original TV show, "When we first started you would not have thought of Drew Barrymore as a Charlie's Angel. She's not 5 foot 10, she weighs more than 80 pounds. What Drew brought to the film was the fact that when young women looked at her they could feel good about themselves."
"If I could look like Demi at 40?" shrugs Barrymore. "I'm 28 and soft as a marshmallow!"
The actress, whose comparatively modest wardrobe more closely resembles typical teen attire than the snow bunny and dominatrix ensembles modeled by Diaz, Moore and Liu, exudes confidence in getups as a Mongolian peasant, butch New Wave wrestler, monster trucker and stringy-haired head banger.
But the beautiful Barrymore, whose assets are less a focus of the camera than say, Cameron Diaz's lissome limbs, is nonetheless fetchingly featured in a Cabaret-like striptease number and a stylish shot of the trio emerging from a bas relief.
"We're very interested in celebrating the human form," admits McG, who particularly regaled Diaz's derriere. "The idea is, you know, shake what your momma gave ya -- and feel good about it."
Barrymore's sheer productivity shows how confident she is: She's currently developing a film version of the book A Confederacy of Dunces with Flower Films partner and friend Nancy Juvonen, while in the throes of production on 50 First Kisses, in which she reprises her poignant pairing with Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer). While her romantic future with Moretti has yet to unfold, she shacks up with Ben Stiller in the fall-release farce Duplex.