Drew Barrymore, Riding in Cars with Boys
Credit: Riding in Car with Boy: Andrew Schwartz

A drama about a former bad girl who grows up… Drew Barrymore would be a natural first choice to star, no? ”I was thinking Cher. I was thinking Debra Winger. It was so long ago when we started,” says Donofrio, who wrote the memoir on which the film is based, ”Drew was in diapers.”

Uh, let’s hope not. Producer James L. Brooks (”As Good as It Gets”) optioned the rights in 1989, when the book was just a manuscript — which would have made Ms. Barrymore about 14 at the time. Luckily, a decade later, when the project was finally scripted and good to go, Brooks suggested he and Donofrio check out Barrymore’s Cinderella story ”Ever After.” The two decided she was ideal to play wild child Donofrio from ages 15 to 35. ”I wanted Drew [for] this role because I’m not a very sympathetic character,” says the author. ”And Drew is inherently lovable.”

To help Barrymore capture Donofrio’s essence, the two stayed out one night until 3 a.m., visiting the writer’s old New York haunts — even dropping in on her onetime apartment super. ”Drew totally channeled me,” says Donofrio. ”She even guessed what I’d order for breakfast: a triple-egg omelette with bacon and cheese.” Barrymore also surprised her on-screen husband — in a very different way. ”Everyone knows her background,” says Zahn. ”I had to keep reminding myself that that was the same person. [I’d think] ‘Oh yeah, this is Drew, the one that did ‘E.T.’ and the drugs’ — because she comes off very normal.”

Riding in Cars with Boys
  • Movie
  • 132 minutes