Drew Barrymore Remembers E.T. As Her 'First Imaginary Friend' 40 Years After Iconic Film (Exclusive)

The actress fostered quite the bond with her alien costar back in the day

<p>Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images</p> Drew Barrymore in 1982

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Drew Barrymore in 1982's 'E.T'

While E.T. might have premiered more than 40 years ago, for Drew Barrymore it feels like no time has passed.

“I remember E.T. like it was yesterday, funny enough,” Barrymore, who was just 7 when she appeared in the beloved Steven Spielberg film, tells PEOPLE.

Barrymore, now 49, sat down with PEOPLE recently following a taping of her eponymous talk show with John Krasinksi and Cailey Fleming, who were promoting their upcoming movie IF. The film follows a young girl, played by Fleming, who has superpowers that give her the ability to “see everyone’s imaginary friends,” according to a synopsis.

Following the chat with the film’s stars, Barrymore got to thinking about her own “first imaginary friend.”

<p>Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images; Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images</p> Drew Barrymore in 1982's 'E.T.' and in 2024

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images; Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images

Drew Barrymore in 1982's 'E.T.' and in 2024

“I think E.T. was definitely, sort of, my first imaginary friend that I also knew wasn't real,” Barrymore says. “I fully understood, but I think we need to project a matter of a belief system in things. Whether it's imaginary or very real and tangible, it's part of a survival mechanism, as well as just an absolute pleasure to identify things that make us feel good, that we feel like believe in us, like we believe in them.”

Barrymore, who recently partnered with Ring for the company's Ring Pet Portraits campaign, previously opened up about her experience on the set of E.T. when she welcomed some of her costars onto her show for a sweet reunion. 

Related: Drew Barrymore Reflects on Growing Up in the Spotlight Since 11 Months Old: 'You Never Figure It All Out'

While in conversation with costars Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton and Dee Wallace, Barrymore admitted that she truly cared for the creature on set.

"I really loved him in such a profound way. Is it like true that … what would happen?" she asked the group, recalling, "Because I would go and take lunch to him."

Thomas, who played Barrymore's older brother Elliott in the movie, said that the first thing he remembered from filming was Barrymore asking "the wardrobe lady" if she could have a scarf for E.T.'s neck "because he was gonna get cold."

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Drew Barrymore in 1982's 'E.T.'
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Drew Barrymore in 1982's 'E.T.'

Wallace, who portrayed the duo’s onscreen mom, remembered the lengths the crew would go to keep the dream alive for young Barrymore.

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"We found you over there just talking away to E.T. and so we let director Steven [Spielberg] know," she remembered. "And so Steven, from that time on, appointed two guys to keep E.T. 'alive' so whenever you came over to talk to him, he could react to you."

Related: Drew Barrymore to Celebrate 40th Anniversary of 'E.T.' with Steven Spielberg and Her Daughters

Barrymore recently reminisced about the iconic film in an Instagram post, sharing a clip of an interview she did around the time the movie came out in 1982. In the adorable video, the interviewer asks Barrymore if it was hard for her to learn her lines for the movie, to which she shook her head and replied "No."

"Sometimes, when I'm doing the shot, I get nervous, but I always say to myself, 'Everybody makes mistakes,' " she added. In the caption, the star wrote, "I will be forever grateful for E.T."

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