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For Drew Barrymore, romance is a way of life

"I don't think you can live or work from a place of fear," Drew Barrymore says. "I don't think you should live or work from a place of what people expect of you either. If you live your life trying to please other people and their expectations, t...

"I don't think you can live or work from a place of fear," Drew Barrymore says. "I don't think you should live or work from a place of what people expect of you either. If you live your life trying to please other people and their expectations, then I think you'll have quite a miserable life. Just my opinion."

If that seems like an unusually broad perspective for a 32-year-old, well, Barrymore has earned her wisdom. A child of America's most famous acting family and a star since making "ET: The Extraterrestrial" (1982) at age 7, she's been through divorce, substance abuse, career reversals and enough other ordeals for a woman twice her age. She even published an autobiography at 14.

"I just try to do what feels right in my heart," the actress says. "I try to be prolific in all my accomplishments. If I get ripped apart by wild animals in a field somewhere because I totally screwed up everything royally, then I'll deal with the repercussions when they come."

The actress' silvery laugh fills a suite at a Manhattan hotel where she's meeting the press to promote her new film, "Music and Lyrics." She's recently split from her rock-star boyfriend, Fabrizio Moretti of the Strokes, but she's as ebullient as ever, upbeat, optimistic and a cheerleader for her own life.

"I just think that everything is a learning experience," Barrymore says, "and every moment that you have that actually feels good inside of your heart is an absolute blessing and a gift. I just wish more of us would stop for a minute. Enjoy a moment. Enjoy looking at a beautiful picture or listening to a great song. Buy yourself some flowers. Pick some flowers. Go kiss your boyfriend in the dark at a movie. Go hug your child. Celebrate what's beautiful in your own life.

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"My other motto is that you can't just sit around in your living room in front of the TV hoping that good things happen in your life," she says. "You really do have to go out there and make them happen."

Among the things that Barrymore is making happen is "Music and Lyrics," executive-produced by her production company, Flower Films. The romantic comedy casts her as Sophie Fisher, an offbeat lyricist who finds herself teamed with a beyond-washed-up 1980s pop singer (Hugh Grant) in an effort to create a chart-topping song for a contemporary teen sensation.

The project was a natural for Barrymore, who admits to having a special spot in her heart for 1980s music.

"I loved Madonna and the Sex Pistols. I loved Duran Duran - in fact, I wanted to marry each one of them," she says with a laugh. "I have a fondness for the '80s. It was a great time in life. Everything seemed so free, you know, and full of optimism and carelessness and good times."

Grant and Barrymore are both mainstays of contemporary romantic comedy, so it's a bit surprising that this is in fact their first film together.

"It seems like I've worked with everyone in a romantic comedy," Barrymore says, "but it's true that I haven't worked with Hugh. It was all good, no bad. I always wanted to work with Hugh, because I loved his movies.

"Contrary to what Hugh likes to say about being an intense actor," she continues, "I enjoy that trait in him. For me it's also about making it as good as it can be. A lot of people that I admire are like that about work. Their motto is: 'Let's party later, but let's get the work done now and make it the best it can be.'

"Hugh is just incredibly punctual, thoughtful and professional," Barrymore says. "It's true that sometimes I'm a little bit more spacey and giddy than he is in moments, but we worked really well together, and it was a total dream come true."

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In promoting the film Grant has been making fun of his singing abilities, or lack of same, claiming that his performances in the film have been augmented by computers. His co-star scoffs.

"In the piano-store scene, in the apartment, in the City Bakery and in the restaurant where he sings 'I've Got Sunshine,'" Barrymore says, "all of that has nothing to do with computers and still sounds pretty damn good, and that's all Hugh."

As for Barrymore herself, who was the only singer whose voice was dubbed for Woody Allen's musical "Everyone Says I Love You" (1996), she says that everything Grant says about himself is true about her.

"I don't think I have any musical talent," she says. "But it was certainly fun to do this film set against the world of music, because I love romantic comedies."

As a longtime practitioner of musical comedies - her credits include "The Wedding Singer" (1998), "Never Been Kissed" (1999), "50 First Dates" (2004) and "Fever Pitch" (2005) - Barrymore thinks that the setting of the story is as important as the mechanics of the plot.

"This one is set in a world," she says. "It's not just a boy and a girl falling in love and out of love and then back in love. Whether it's a love story set against the Boston Red Sox or a girl who loses her memory in Hawaii or in the '80s with 'The Wedding Singer,' I like a love story that's set in a special place."

It's no coincidence, Barrymore adds, that so much of her filmography centers on love stories.

"I think that people should be full of romance and poetry and chivalry," she says. "I know that life is not necessarily a fairy tale, but it also is a fairy tale at the same time.

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"Fairy tales have a lot of darkness in them," she explains, "and so do love stories. In these movie love stories, you have that great moment of it's-not-going-to-work, just like most of us have in real life. I also love that these movies reaffirm that we're striving for the ultimate romance and, as people, we're not willing to throw in the towel."

To Barrymore, whose life has been thrown off track by everything from puberty and alcoholism to film flops and relationship woes, "Music and Lyrics" has an important secondary message.

"I think this film shows that there are also second chances out there," she says. "You can crash and burn at 180 miles per hour, but with the statute of limitations, and hopefully if you're talented, then you can absolutely come back again. I think the world is flexible, in a way."

Having put behind her the hard partying of her teen and preteen years, Barrymore these days is known as a workaholic actress and hands-on producer whose Flower Films has produced such hits as "Never Been Kissed," "Charlie's Angels" (2000) and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003).

Even so, she still gets more unsolicited advice than she'd like.

"This crazy woman came up to me the other night," the actress says, laughing. "She was literally psychotic and said, 'Drew, you need to go back to work!' I was thinking, 'That's funny. I think I need a freaking vacation from work!'"

Barrymore does in fact have some vacation time lined up, but not too much. Despite her screen image as a giddy blonde, she's known as one of Hollywood's hardest workers.

"I have like five things in development right now," she says, "and so it's whichever one comes up first and to the best of its ability as it's being written. I'm going to try and enjoy my time off now, because I'm such a workaholic. I'm always thinking about work, and so I'm trying to think about other things for just a minute."

As to the future, on and off the screen, the actress is, as always, optimistic.

"I just think that optimism is the best and that life is too short to be miserable," Barrymore says. "I think of it this way: Every day is a chance for happiness, love, giving, sharing, hopefully a ton of laughter, not taking it too seriously, knowing that the things that are difficult only make you stronger and you have to go through them."

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