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Interview with Brian Herzlinger: Drew's Pursuer Tells All

by Peter Sobczynski

Armed with only $1100 won on a game show, a video camera that needed to be returned to Circuit City in 30 days to take advantage of the money-back guarantee and plenty of moxie, aspiring filmmaker Brian Herzlinger decided to make a documentary with his friends in which he would attempt to achieve his life’s dream–a date with the girl he has had a crush on since they were both six years old. The one hitch–the girl in question is Drew Barrymore and the closest he has ever come to her was a chance meeting at the premiere of “Charlie’s Angels” where he proved too shy to even approach her.

Despite what you may be thinking, the resulting film, “My Date With Drew,” is neither an exercise in self-absorbed navel-gazing nor an endorsement of celebrity stalking. Instead, it is a charming and funny look at pursuing dreams that winds up being better than it might have been for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that Herzlinger comes off as so adorably goofy and good-hearted that you can’t help but root for him on his quest to make contact with Barrymore. The other is the happy result of having no direct way of contacting her–he is instead forced to undertake a six-degrees-of-separation approach that allows him to receive abuse from an ex-girlfriend, predictions from a psychic, blackhead treatment from a facialist and, most inexplicably, romantic advice from the likes of Eric Roberts and Corey Feldman.

First things first–let’s hear about your meeting in Taco Bell with Jennifer Love Hewitt.

It was a great day. I was at Taco Bell–I love Taco Bell–and I was in line and she came in behind me. I thought that I had to say something to Jennifer Love Hewitt because if I didn’t, my buddies were going to make fun of my for the rest of my life. I thought I had a great line so I turned around and I said “So, is that guy with the hook done chasing you yet?” She goes “I hope so. I hope he totally forgets what I did last summer.” There you have it. Apparently that spread like wildfire through New Jersey–my parents and my friends were all excited by it. To them, it was a big deal.

According to your film, you have been a fan of Drew Barrymore ever since you were a little kid–you even belonged to her fan club at one point. Why her? Was it because you thought she was cute or because she was in the movies or something else?

I was introduced to Drew like the rest of the world was and that was through “E.T.” when I was six. I just remember thinking that she was really pretty, but at the age of six, what does that mean? Like I said, I was six at the time so it was age-appropriate and not creepy. So I’m watching as I grow up in Jersey and she grows up in the public eye and we see her go through seven lifetimes by the time she is 10. She went through a lot of dark patches and came out with such flying colors and has such a positive outlook on life and she spreads that in her work and in the things that she says. Look at the quote that opens the movie, “If you don’t take risks, you’ll have a wasted soul” It is a rarity to have someone who is that positive and passionate about life and that is what I respect and admire most about her over the years–and she’s hot.

I can talk to anybody. I even met Spielberg in high school–that was an amazing moment for me–and I was able to talk to him. When I first moved to L.A., one of my buddies got me tickets to the premiere of the first “Charlie’s Angels” film. I was at the after-party and I was standing ten feet away from Drew. I just wanted to go up to her and say hello and introduce myself and I could not physically do it. I froze. When the premiere of “Full Throttle” was scheduled within our 30 days, we had no idea what was going to happen from day-to-day but we knew that would be an opportunity to see her in person and ask her out. It was the only thing that we knew for sure and the fact that I had screwed up at the first premiere turned it into a chance for me to redeem myself and overcome that fear–especially since this entire journey was riding on my being able to ask her out on a date.

There is an aura that the concept of celebrity puts on people like Drew Barrymore or Angelina Jolie or Gwyneth Paltrow. It is an unattainable world that they live in, especially if you are growing up in Jersey and you couldn’t be further away from Hollywood without a passport. It is a different world–they are made into stars by their celebritydom–and I just think that the idea that I was able to meet someone in that world, and it would be Drew Barrymore since she was the one I had the crush on, and if I could accomplish that, I could accomplish anything as long as I tried. Anything is attainable if you at least try and if not, you at least gave it your best shot and went for it.

One of the reason that the film works is that Drew Barrymore has the kind of free-spirited public persona that leads you to think that she might not just dismiss this idea entirely, as opposed to someone like Jennifer Love Hewitt who doesn’t really have the kind of image that would suggest that she would embrace this idea.

Here’s the thing. For me, getting that date with Drew was my whole world. For somebody else, it could be Jennifer Love Hewitt. That is why it was very important at the beginning to show other people’s opinions, like my mentor Bill D’Elia or my mom and dad, who are telling to look for a “real person” or a job. Bill was telling me that I was embarrassing myself. My quest was to meet Drew, it wasn’t Bill’s or my mom’s or dad’s quest because they have their own lifelong dreams. We wanted to show the audience that we were aware that this wasn’t the most integral story in the world. World peace is more important and we know that. For me, this was my world–to meet Drew Barrymore. I just happened to open it up through a video camera from Circuit City.

How did this develop from being just an idea that you had to actually documenting it and transforming that material into a film?

When I went on the game show and won $1,100 and the answer to the final question was “Drew Barrymore,” I thought that it was a sign that I had to get this date with her. A little while later, I was sitting with Brent and having dinner–I grew up with Brent and John and we went to film school together at Ithaca College and we were always videotaping things like re-enactments of “Die Hard” in the school gymnasium–and he had done that 30-day return policy with Circuit City before with big-screen TV’s. We were just talking about it and we decided that it couldn’t hurt to document it. The best-case scenario would be that I would get the date with Drew and my lifelong dream would come true. The worst-case scenario would be that it would wind up being a little video project that I made with my buddies that nobody else would see. We talked about it on Friday and we started on Monday. There was no prep–the only thing we knew for sure was that the Full Throttle premiere was happening and the only tool that we had access to was the six degrees of separation–none of us knew Drew but between all of us, we might know somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody else who knew Drew.

Towards the end, you hit upon the inspired idea of using a website to promote your cause and attract attention. Considering the response that we see it receive in the film, I have to ask why you didn’t put one up earlier in the life of the project?

Hindsight is 20/20. What happened was that we were traveling down all these different paths of six degrees of separation and while they all turned out to be dead ends, we didn’t know that at the time. The original reason to get the website up was to put up the trailer so that Drew had immediate access to it since she was traveling all over the world for “Full Throttle” promoting it. We had sent them our little preview and pitch and we were afraid that we weren’t going to be able to get it to her. We put the site up with the trailer and sent the address where she could find it and within two weeks of putting it up, we had over 150,000 hits on the site from people all over the world. People got it and related to it because it is a universal thing.

What were the biggest surprises that you encountered in your 30-day quest? One has to be getting into the “Full Throttle” after-party using hastily-forged passes.[/i

That was just a shocking thing. I was scared to death of doing that but everything was coming to a head and I knew that I had to try. I have very supportive friends and if it wasn’t for them, this journey could not have taken place because each one of us brought something integral to it. They gave me the pep talk of saying that I would get in and would be able to talk to her and everything would be fine. On the other hand, if it didn’t work, I’d go to jail but it would be good for the movie as well.

The biggest surprise for me has been the way that people have reacted to it. I knew this was important to me and it was special to me but I didn’t know that other people watching that weren’t me were going to connect with it and find it special to them. I’m the last person who wants to watch me for 90 minutes but these people reacted amazingly well to it. This was something that we never aspired to do as filmmakers–it is something that you hope to do as a person and as a filmmaker but if we had set out to make an inspirational movie, we would have failed completely.

Of course, the other big thing was meeting Corey Feldman.

One of the jokes about the film is that you do wind up meeting several famous people along the way of your journey–I have to admit that when I sat down to watch it, I was not expecting to see you receive romantic advice from none other than Eric Roberts.

What was great was that by using the six degrees of separation to get to them, they were willing to help out and talk to me about it because they got it and they understood the quest. They didn’t get anything in return–they were just willing to help out on this journey and that was one of the best things about it, that it brought out this quality in people that was pure. Everyone has that belief in dreams and they kind of tapped into what I was trying to do. Sitting across from Eric Roberts and Corey Feldman was not something I had expected would ever happen.

Was there ever a point during the filming where you or your colleagues worried that your quest might be slipping into the territory of stalking in any way?

That was my biggest concern in agreeing to do it because I did not want to come off as a stalker or as if I were advocating that in any way. We made a conscious effort from the beginning not to do anything bad like that. I knew what it was and so I was going to do it whether we were documenting it or not–if we had documented something that was potentially bad, we never would have done it or released it.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1568
originally posted: 08/05/05 00:14:00
last updated: 09/29/05 20:32:59
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