Barrymore, a talented young actress, has been as well known for her wild antics off-screen as for her acting ability. Ildiko Jaid, estranged from husband John Barrymore Jr., began taking her daughter to auditions as a baby. The youngest Barrymore appeared in her first television commercial for Puppy Choice dog food before she was a year old.
She made her big screen debut at the age of four in Ken Russell's Altered States (1980). At the age of seven, Barrymore landed her most famous role as Gertie, the adorable little sister in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982). The role pushed Barrymore into the spotlight. After the movie she appeared on NBC's The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and became the youngest-ever host of Saturday Night Live.
Jaid began taking her daughter to night clubs, and it was at Studio 54 and the China Club that Barrymore developed a pre-teenage fondness for drugs and alcohol. At age 13, an enraged Barrymore became violent when she was unable to throw her mother out of the house. She was placed in a rehabilitation center, and later wrote of the experience in her autobiography, Little Girl Lost.
Because of her reputation as a wild child in trouble, film projects were slow to materialize. Barrymore made some minor films, including Irreconcilable Differences, Firestarter and Cat's Eye. In the 1990s, she began starring in a series of films that exploited her bad-girl image, including Poison Ivy (1992), Guncrazy (1992), and The Amy Fisher Story (1993), a made-for-TV movie based on the Joey Buttafuoco scandal.
Barrymore entered into a short-lived marriage to bar owner Jeremy Thomas at age 19, which lasted from March to May of 1994. She continued her controversial behavior throughout the early 1990s by posing nude for spreads in Andy Warhol's Interview and in Playboy. She also made headlines when she exposed herself on live TV to a shocked David Letterman during his Late Night show birthday celebration.
Her luck began to change in 1995, when Barrymore founded her own production company, Flower Films. The same year, she gave a solid performance in the film Boys on the Side co-starring Whoopi Goldberg and Mary-Louise Parker. The next year she made a memorable terror-filled appearance in the blockbuster Scream (1996) and co-starred in Woody Allen's musical Everybody Says I Love You (1996).
In 1998, she proved her strength as a romantic leading lady when she co-starred in the popular comedy, The Wedding Singer with Adam Sandler and in Ever After, a version of the Cinderella story co-starring Anjelica Huston.