The mysteries of the universe got a bit more expansive this week, thanks to a bizarre and possibly fake interview with Drew Barrymore that appeared in EgyptAir’s in-flight magazine.
Is the viral interview real, fake or — perhaps — some mixture of both? We’re here to help you explore this confounding pop culture moment. Get comfortable. There are layers to this.
How did the controversy start?
On Monday, a Twitter user shared photos of a “surreal” interview with Barrymore in the magazine Horus.
“Despite being unstable in her relationships most of her life,” the article began, “despite the several unsuccessful marriages and despite the busy life of stardom that dominated her life for several years; the beautiful American Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore has recently decided to temporary take an unlimited vacation to lay her most crucial role as a mother.”
The article, which is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, went on to explain that Barrymore had become a stay-at-home mother to her two daughters, Olive and Frankie, and dropped this whopper: “It is known that Barrymore has had almost 17 relationships, engagements and marriages; psychologists believe that her behavior is only natural since she lacked the male role model in her life after her parents’ divorce when she was only 9 years old.”
It gets weirder from there, but let’s just unpack that intro. To start, it’s a little odd that a celebrity profile would begin by calling its subject “unstable in her relationships.” Aside from that, many people zeroed in on the article’s claim that Barrymore had decided to become a stay-at-home mom.
Why did people take issue with that claim?
Barrymore has talked a great deal about being a working mom. In an Instagram post earlier this year, she shared the special calendar system she started so that Olive would know the exact days her mom would be traveling for work and when she would return home.
“I always explain to her that I love my Job,” Barrymore wrote. “I don’t say ‘I have to go work’ with a grimace on my face, because I fear it will make her feel negative about something a lot of moms must do to provide.”
What else was weird about the article?
Once the Horus article gets to the interview section, the weirdness continues. One question mentions Barrymore’s return to her “previous graceful body,” and the actress is quoted as saying she feels “overwhelmed when someone tells me that I have regained my image and managed to lose that extra weight, especially that I felt depressed due to the significant increase in my weight after delivering Frankie.”
In response to a question about “the status of women today,” Barrymore reportedly said: “I cannot deny that women made a great achievement over a past century; there is significant progress recorded by people who study women status throughout history.”
But wait, did the interview even happen?
Chris Miller, president of Barrymore Brands and the actress’s production company, Flower Films, told BuzzFeed News he didn’t “have any record of this interview happening” but that he would look into it.
A spokesperson for Barrymore later told HuffPost that the actress “did not participate” in the interview and that her team was “working with the airline PR team.” That would imply that the interview was fake, right?
Not so fast.
EgyptAir contends that the interview is real, telling curious Twitter users that the article is “a professional magazine interview conducted by" a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization behind the Golden Globe Awards.
But even EgyptAir’s response, delivered via the airline’s verified Twitter account, raised eyebrows. The tweet misspelled the name of the article’s author, Aida Takla, who was indeed formerly president of the HFPA, though she is referred to as Aida Takla-O’Reilly on the association’s website. Takla’s name was also misspelled in the Horus article byline, which reads “Aida Tekla.”
An unverified Twitter account, purportedly belonging to Takla, also weighed in, noting that the writer has been a longtime correspondent for Horus and NisfElDunia, a magazine published by the Egyptian news organization Al-Ahram. The tweet also said that Horus is “authorized to edit the final version of the interviews” but that “this doesn’t negate the fact that the interview … is genuine &far from fake.”
That tweet appears to be somewhat consistent with what Miller told BuzzFeed News in a follow-up email: The intro of the article was written by someone at Horus, but Takla wrote the Q&A portion of the interview. But Miller told the site the Q&A answers were based on comments Barrymore made at an HFPA news conference. (We’ve reached out to both Miller and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for clarification.)
@Aidatakla1’s tweet, which was shared by EgyptAir, also raised red flags because it misspelled Barrymore’s name. When a Twitter user asked about the egregious typo, @Aidatakla1 replied: “Sorry I dictated it.”
Which brings us to another theory about the article.
Perhaps, as many people have posited, the article is the result of a botched translation job. That could explain the many grammatical and spelling issues.
BuzzFeed News reports that a Barrymore interview — one that seems similar to the Horus one and is by the same author — recently appeared in NisfElDunia, which is published in Arabic. And People magazine quotes “a source close to the actress” as saying the article “truly is an innocent translation job that somehow made it through the channels.”