From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Drew Barrymore is looking through photographs of herself—as a child in 1982's E.T., as a teen at the Oscars, as a beaming young woman getting her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame a few weeks ago. But it's a photo from 1984's Firestarter, based on the Stephen King story, that gets her excited. "I really liked him," she says of King, whom she visited at his home in Maine when she was 8. "He had the most interesting family to me. They lived in this wild house, and the kids had their own styles. There were trinkets and photographs everywhere. It was, like, love clutter—and I was like, 'Okay, that's the kind of family I want to have one day.' " She stops and rolls her eyes. "By the way, I got this by visiting them once."

These days Barrymore—who turns 29 on Feb. 22—has family on her mind. "I am definitely starting to think about kids," she says. When she's in meetings with other Hollywood working women, she questions them about juggling careers and children. What's behind the quizzes? For one thing, Barrymore is deeply in love. For the past two years she's been dating Fabrizio Moretti, 23, a drummer for the rock band the Strokes. "It's the most positive relationship I've ever been in," she says. But after more than enough drama for a star twice her age—worldwide fame at 9, drug-and-alcohol rehab at 13, two divorces by 28, a resurgent career as a producer and Hollywood's go-to girl for sweet, goofy comedy—she's feeling fulfilled in a larger sense too: "I'm happy where I am in my life. I'm happy with my age. I've made mistakes that I don't have to make anymore."

Sure, she uses the words "like" and "totally" more than your standard Hollywood mogul. But lately Barrymore has been showing off a blossoming elegance and maturity—and a sleek new shape: Since taking up running last fall and reintroducing meat to her diet, she has shed 20 lbs. (see box). "I picked up running because I needed an outlet," she says. Plus, "gravity definitely does have an effect on the body at a certain point." Says her close friend and Charlie's Angels costar Cameron Diaz: "She's more athletic than even she would admit. I think [running] brings clearness to her mind."

She's also been dressing up her hippie-chic style lately. The vintage T-shirts are still there, but now paired with tailored skirts or Dolce & Gabbana jackets befitting her status as a major motion picture producer. Her decade-old company Flower Films has launched six impressively varied movies, from 2001's edgy Donnie Darko to the mammoth Charlie's Angels flicks. "She doesn't ever drag you down with business things," says Diaz. "She fights for what is right, and she never compromises creativity for business." In her new romantic comedy 50 First Dates, Barrymore plays a woman with an impaired memory, so her boyfriend (Adam Sandler) has to rewoo her each day. "That message is so beautiful," says Barrymore, who's also a producer on the movie with her old Wedding Singer costar. "To reinvent love every day is what people should be doing for each other." But Barrymore has learned to approach romance with caution: "I know that something I've done in my past is jump into something far too quickly." She describes the Brazil-born, Manhattan-bred Moretti as "gorgeous, beautiful and so kind to me." He bought a home for them in New York City; in L.A. they live at her place. Barrymore, who constantly wears a gold pendant he gave her, says she believes he would be a good father. Still, she measures her words: "I certainly think that he's such an extraordinary person, and everything I know about him leads me to believe that I would be very lucky to be with him."

It was less than three years ago, after a devastating house fire and the demise of her second marriage (to comedian Tom Green), that Barrymore reached a turning point. "All of a sudden I was free to be exactly who I wanted to be rather than who I thought I had to be for anyone else or anything else." Learning to navigate life offscreen didn't come easy for Barrymore. The granddaughter of legendary actor John Barrymore, she made her screen debut at age 11 months in a Puppy Chow commercial. Her absentee father, actor John Jr., and her mother, Jaid, split before their daughter was born. Her E.T. fame attracted unwelcome attention at school, where boys called her "Fatso." ("A lot of kids feel ganged up on in school. I didn't know that then. I just felt like s---.") Feeling unwanted both at home and at school, she began drinking by the time she was 9. Marijuana and cocaine followed. By her mid-teens, she had been through rehab, penned a harrowing autobiography, Little Girl Lost (co-authored by PEOPLE Senior Editor Todd Gold), and was estranged from both parents. "Children crave direction," says her friend and business partner Nancy Juvonen. "Drew didn't have any."

"I had to figure everything out for myself," says Barrymore, who now speaks to her mother and father. Her first marriage, to restaurateur Jeremy Thomas at age 19, lasted a month. Her second marriage, in 2001, to Green, 32, appeared to be as much performance as romance. After meeting in 1999, she joined him, smiling, in such stunts as a fake wedding on Saturday Night Live. But in the early morning of Feb. 18, 2001, a fire spread through their L.A. home. They escaped with no injuries—and no belongings. "Not a pair of underwear, not a sock or anything," says Barrymore, who then embarked on an emotional joyride. She married Green the following July, but, says Juvonen, the fire "literally shook her foundation." Barrymore admits that suddenly "I had this weird moment. I was just, like, I want to try everything different. I want to figure it out." By December the marriage to Green was over. "I genuinely felt that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together," a still smarting Green told PEOPLE in '02. Says Barrymore: "Sometimes you make mistakes, and you have to just learn from them and move on."

The transformation has been true Drew—fast and headfirst—and it includes drinking again, though she insists that this time, she's doing it in moderation. In fact, she has struck a deal with herself: "Try it. You want too many things accomplished in your life that you should be smart enough to not let this rule your world. So if it starts ruling your world, stop. It didn't, luckily." In other news, the longtime vegetarian began eating meat—mostly fish—which she credits for her healthy new glow. "My body was craving [protein]," she says. And though she had possessed an animal-free wardrobe, she started buying leather shoes and belts. "I'd been suffocating myself with trying to be such a good person," she says, "that I realized I was making myself miserable." She has also embraced her inner movie star. "I started to realize there was a part of me that enjoyed fashion," she says. "I noticed that I was never in a best-dressed category, I'm never on the pages of look-what-everybody's-wearing-this-week." Still, Barrymore prefers her own jewelry to the Hollywood habit of borrowing baubles. "I would feel fraudulent," she says. "It's too rich for me. I like beads as much as diamonds." She still buys vintage T-shirts, scarves and coats, "but I like combining them. I don't want too much of anything."

That includes publicity, and she's careful not to put her relationship with Moretti in the spotlight. "We don't walk down the red carpet and we don't sell out our love," she says. "I think that takes a lot of pressure off us because we don't care what people think, and yet we don't pretend we're not in love. It's a nice balance." And the girl they called Fatso says she can now look at herself naked in the mirror—though apparently she'd still rather see Diaz staring back: "For the next lifetime, I've put in a bid for long thin arms, perfectly small, gorgeous boobs, tall thin legs...." She stops herself and laughs. "But every once in a while, if I'm lucky and good to myself, I can feel beautiful on the inside—and I can tell that shows on the outside. It's amazing to me."

David Keeps and Vicki Sheff-Cahan in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • Vicki Sheff-Cahan.