Remember When a Young Drew Barrymore Gave Princess Diana an E.T. Doll?

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial opened in the U.S. 42 years ago today, but it wasn’t until months later that Drew Barrymore had a royal encounter that she has called “the most exciting moment” of her young life.

The actress and talk show host was just 7 years old when she starred in director Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic about a lovable alien and the family that adopts him. Following the film’s June 1982 premiere in the States, Spielberg and his young cast traveled to London for E.T.’s U.K. opening in December. Prince Charles and Princess Diana, nearly a year and a half into their (famously troubled) marriage at the time, were both on hand for the premiere at the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Square, where they greeted Spielberg, Barrymore and co-stars Henry Thomas and Robert MacNaughton.

Adorably, Barrymore took the opportunity to present Diana with a plush version of the film’s titular extra-terrestrial.

Princess Diana in 1982.

Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty


“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Barrymore told Jimmy Kimmel on a 2018 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live. “It was the most exciting moment for me to meet a real-life princess — the real-life princess, the people’s princess.”

“Diana was and is and will always be the epitome of a woman that all little girls look up to,” she continued.

Kimmel showed a photo of the young Barrymore handing the stuffed toy to Diana, and asked if she thought the Princess may have tossed the plush toy in that garbage later.

“No!” she replied. “Look at the way she’s looking at it! She was so kind and so nice. … I have to say, growing up with her as a princess was just such a good example.”

She also noted Spielberg’s watchful gaze in the photo. “You can see Steven’s really looking, like, wanting to make sure I don’t mess this up,” she joked. “He was very paternal to me. He was like, ‘Well, your mom took you to Studio 54 last night, so…I want to make sure you don’t screw up this very royal, regal moment.’ ”

Barrymore has previously shared fond memories of making E.T., her second feature film after 1980s Altered States. In 2022, she marked the film’s 40th anniversary by reuniting with co-stars Thomas and MacNaughton, who played her older brothers, and Dee Wallace who starred as the trio’s mom, on her eponymous talk show.

“I believed E.T. was real,” she told them. “I really loved him in such a profound way… I would go and take lunch to him.”

Thomas recalled a 7-year-old Barrymore asking someone on the film’s wardrobe team for a scarf to keep the puppet’s neck warm. Wallace, meanwhile, said the cast and crew would find the young actress chatting away to E.T. between takes. “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.”

Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas in ‘E.T.’.

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty


Earlier this year, Barrymore told PEOPLE that she did in fact understand that E.T. wasn’t real as a child.

“I think E.T. was definitely, sort of, my first imaginary friend that I also knew wasn’t real,” she explained. “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.”

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