When Luke Wilson and Drew Barrymore
started to heat up their real-life romance while shooting the new film Home Fries in 1996, director Dean Parisot got worried—especially when the stars had a falling-out just as their characters were supposed to be falling in love. "I'm pretty sure I heard them having their first argument," says Parisot. "I was like, 'Oh, my God, they're breaking up right before this big love scene,' " which takes place in a Lamaze childbirth class. Parisot took a deep breath, yelled "Action!"—and hit pay dirt. "I swear to you, when he's looking in her eyes they're making up. And not only making up, they're actually falling deeper in love."
These days the fight is long-forgotten as Wilson, 27, and Barry-more, 23, shoot films nonstop—four for him so far this year, three for her. "She knows me really well, so that makes me happy and relaxed to be around her," says Wilson, who still lives with his brother, actor-writer Owen Wilson
(the blond cowboy in Armageddon), and director Wes Anderson in a dusty three-bedroom Gothic-style rented house in L.A. Barrymore, who lives 10 miles away in Beverly Hills, thinks the match was made in heaven; actually, it was made in Hollywood in 1996, when the two were signed to play lovers in both the action film Best Men (which is due out in March) and Home Fries, a quirky black comedy about a fast-food worker (Barrymore) who's in love with one guy (Wilson) but pregnant by another. Wilson says Barrymore was an hour late to their first meeting; she insists it was only 30 minutes—and "besides, he got to meet my dogs." But that spat, too, is ancient history. "If you believe in fate—and I do—it definitely played a part," says Barrymore. "From the moment I saw him, I realized he was the most incredible person I'd ever been so fortunate to meet."
Wilson, the youngest son of Robert, 57, an ad exec, and Laura, 59, a photographer, grew up in Dallas with his two older brothers Owen, 30, and Andrew, 34, a Dallas documentary-film producer. Luke, much like his character in the little-seen 1995 gem Bottle Rocket, got a road map to mischief from Owen, who cowrote and starred in that film and also cowrote the upcoming Rushmore. As kids, recalls Luke, "we were good until we started getting into firecrackers and girls." Owen used to decree that the entry fee for a swim in a nearby lake was a diving trick off a tree overlooking the water. "One time I remember thinking, 'I really want to hang out with the guys today—I'd better figure something out,' " Luke recalls. "And I just kept climbing to the upper reaches. Of course, then the branch I was on broke off, and I came crashing down through the tree. But in all fairness, the guys liked it enough to let me swim that day."
Much of that Tom Sawyer-like tomfoolery made it into Bottle Rocket, at first a 13-minute short that the brothers took to the Sundance Film Festival in 1993, with the aid of a screenwriter pal of their father's.
Shortly thereafter, the short was shown in L.A., where it captured the fancy of Oscar-winning director James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets), who helped them get it remade as a feature. Brooks couldn't be prouder of his protégés. "The great thing about those brothers is how much they care for each other," he says. "They came into it with a passion for all the right things."
As for that other passion, Barrymore and Wilson aren't engaged. But when the subject of hitching their stars together permanently comes up, Wilson says, "I'm more nervous about the kid part than I am about getting married. I think I've just got to be a lot more mature than I am now." For her part, Drew just goes gooey. "He's just so wonderful to be around," she says dreamily. "I should only be so privileged."
Julie Jordan in Los Angeles