On a perfect L.A. afternoon the day before the Oscars, Drew Barrymore holds court in the penthouse suite of West Hollywood’s posh Sunset Tower Hotel. Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and even Bugsy Siegel once called the Art Deco landmark home; Raymond Chandler wrote about it in the pages of his pulp novels; Robert Altman and others put the iconic hotel in their films, sealing its place in Tinseltown lore.
It is at this historic locale that Hollywood’s finest have been gathering at swanky soirees ahead of Sunday’s Academy Awards, as they do each awards season. This afternoon, Barrymore sports crimson lips and a brown ruffled frock as she hosts her own intimate affair in a private suite overlooking the city, pausing occasionally to pose for photographs with a bright yellow people-sized Pikachu.
Barrymore is not here for your Oscars shenanigans.
Barrymore is here for the Pokémon.
More specifically, the Pokémon fashion. That’s right: Pokémon, the Japanese video game and trading card empire with its own anime about capturing adorable little creatures with colorful “Poke balls,” is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Today, in fact, is Pokémon Day.
But Pokémon, once the sole delight of young Japanese fans and Western otaku, is in expansion mode, targeting luxury brand shelves with crossover franchising in its sights. And onetime Hollywood wunderkind turned wild child turned film producer Barrymore, 41, is its new brand ambassador.
“I like the fact that I’ve been around forever and Pokémon has been around forever,” she laughed, explaining how such an inspired branding union came to be. “I think what they’re doing with fashion is very current with what Moschino and Opening Ceremony and Rodarte are doing. There’s a playfulness that we’re now allowed to have in fashion again, for the first time in years. It’s been very serious because it’s been very critical, and that bummed me out!”
“As someone who has played on the red carpet my whole life, and the runway and whatever it is—let’s get back to fun and expressiveness,” she added. “I think that bloggers and magazines have had a lot to do with that. But we’re just living in an era, or a moment, that’s a little bit more back to fun. So I like that Pokémon is like, ‘We’re going into fashion!’”
It’s not just the merging of cutesy and couture that appealed to Barrymore, she said. “I really want to figure out how to translate their outfits into the world. And I’m a mom so I want kind of iconic children-oriented things. But I just like happy things. And Pokémon is happy. It’s not associated with anything but joy, and I’m in the joy business. I don’t want things that are dark and angry. I like things that are colorful and happy.”
It might seem like a bizarre collaboration at first glance. Barrymore has been acting steadily since making her screen debut 36 years ago in Altered States, and made her directorial debut in 2009 with the roller derby pic Whip It. She leads her own production company, Flower Films, with partner Nancy Juvonen but has been focusing on expanding the company into lifestyle, beauty, eyewear, and beyond.
“Branding is all I think about right now,” said Barrymore. “I love producing, but that was my whole universe as a kid and a woman in my 20s. Now my whole world is about my children. So I don’t want to aggressively make films every five seconds. That’s just not where my heart is at.”
“I think there are new ways to make a living as an actress, artist, business person,” she said. “Entrepreneurship has never been more accessible, through the work you’ve done in the entertainment industry. Social media, branding, lifestyle—there are all these new venues to conquer.”
Barrymore weighed in on the gender inequality in Hollywood—and says she’s never felt victimized by sexism in the industry. “No! I’m the exact opposite. I think that’s why I’ve never been angry about anything,” she smiled. “At six years old I got to have a life that was unbelievable… and it was only mine to screw up, or make succeed,” she said. “In my 20s when I started Flower Films I got so many incredible opportunities. I think it’s a lot about work, a lot about earning it, but I’ve really been too lucky to be someone who’s not grateful.”
She praised actresses like Jennifer Lawrence for voicing their stories of gender discrimination. “This is an amazing day and age where women are speaking very vocally about equality and I can’t be happier to be on that bandwagon, either… It should be being discussed. It’s a new feminism. We have to keep having these discussions. But I ‘ve always been on the grateful, humble spectrum because I know I’ve had great opportunity. I’m not angry, I’m grateful.”
Barrymore also vividly remembers the time Beyoncé name-dropped her in a song. As if one could forget.
“I was in my trailer late—it was like midnight on a night shoot and we got the new sound cut mixed with video, and it all happened so fast and simultaneously, for “Independent Women,” she smiled. “‘Lucy Liu… with my girl Drew… Cameron D and Destiny’—I literally was in my trailer as a producer fighting for that movie with Nancy Juvonen and I was like, ‘HOLY… shit.’ This is a moment.”
“Let me put it this way,” she continued. “There is a historical fetish of three women. Destiny’s Child and Charlie’s Angels was a tripod meeting at an amazing time. Beyoncé was such a clear pioneer of musicality and lyrics, and she was very strong. But I was like, holy cow—you have three women meeting three women in pop culture and it couldn’t be more perfect.”
“The key factor in that is that is it happy women. They’re not competitive women, they’re not angry women, they’re women who believe they can succeed without taking other people down while celebrating other women’s successes. That’s the theme.”