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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 01/27/2012

Drew Barrymore and proud Alaskans launch ‘Big Miracle’ in Washington

Drew Barrymore mingling at the “Big Miracle” afterparty at Sequoia . (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Once in a while, Hollywood gives Washington a big, juicy, star-studded movie premiere. Not because they think we’re fun, though. In D.C., it’s always got to be about politics.

Even for Drew Barrymore, the very fun star who seems like she's up for finding the fun in Washington (more on that later). The actress dropped in Wednesday to debut “Big Miracle” — her family-friendly flick about the 1988 effort to rescue gray whales trapped in Alaskan ice — and we wondered, why here?

“I much more gravitated to the political and environmental and news aspect of this movie,” she told us. (Though: “I love that it has whales.”)

Really, though, it was the Beltway’s Alaska Mafia that seemed to have lured this premiere to D.C. and left its mark all over the red carpet.

Ahmaogak Sweeney at the screening. (Susan Walsh/AP)
The kid star? Ahmaogak Sweeney, 12, son of a former staffer for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and alum of the Somerset Elementary kindergarten in Chevy Chase. Now living in Anchorage, he was plucked from obscurity via a statewide casting search to make his acting debut. “I got lucky,” he told us modestly. And yes, he’ll be going to L.A. soon to take meetings.

The inspiration? Bonnie Carroll, the former Reagan staffer who urged White House action on the whales — and whose meeting with her future husband, an Alaska-based Army pilot involved in the operation, is dramatized in the film. (His death in a plane crash a few years later prompted her to found TAPS, host of the evening’s premiere party, which assists survivors of military personnel.)

Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski (Susan Walsh/AP)
The cameo? Julie Hasquet, spokeswoman for Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who plays a reporter in the movie — and who covered the whale saga as a reporter back in the day.

Both Murkowski and Begich walked the red carpet, giddy about “Big Miracle’s” Alaska bona fides. Unlike most films set in the 49th state, it was actually shot there. “We love it because they’re spending money in the state,” said Begich, “and because they’re talking about the Arctic.”

Of course, everyone at the AMC Loews Georgetown was talking about Drew. Drew! Over here, Drew! One more photo, Drew? (Wait, is that her new fiancé? Or her publicist? Answer: The fiancé, Will Kopelman, was the one in the dark suit holding her hand; the publicist was the one in the light suit holding her coat.)

Bonnie Mersinger Carroll, right, with Vinessa Shaw, who portrays her in the movie. (Susan Walsh/AP)
She was as effervescently Drew Barrymore-ish as you’d hope, bolting from the red carpet to greet co-star Vinessa Shaw. Hugs, shrieks, more hugs.

“You look so pretty!”

“You look so beautiful!”

“I’m so happy for you!”

Barrymore and her beau made only a fleeting appearance at the crowded yet lavish afterparty at Sequoia underwritten by info-tech contrator Telos (searchlights, velvet ropes, glowing cocktails, smoked salmon). Barrymore earned our everlasting respect in 2007 when she spent an evening drinking at the Fox & Hounds, the only movie star (that we know of) ever spotted at the Dupont Circle dive. Headed back there?

“Unfortunately,” she told us Wednesday, “this trip is more mature.”

Update, 1/27: Drew Barrymore’s destination? Komi, then Shake Shack

Barrymore with her fiance, Will Kopelman, in Georgetown. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

By  |  12:00 AM ET, 01/27/2012

Categories:  Parties | Tags:  drew barrymore, big miracle, reliable source

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