The "ET" star said on "The Early Show" she went through "extraordinary" things with her own mother, and wanted to channel those feelings in this film with an honest, emotional telling.
"Whip It" stars Ellen Page as Bliss Cavendar, whose sudden encounter with roller derby gives way to a rough-hewn, bruise-filled dream that will collide with her mother's (Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden) honest hopes for a more gilded future. Barrymore co-stars as Smashley Simpson, a member of a roller derby team.
This is the first film Barrymore has directed for her production company Flower Films she started 15 years ago. Flower Films has produced several movies since its founding, such as "He's Just Not That Into You," "Donnie Darko," and "Never Been Kissed."
As a director, Barrymore said, she's learning to juggle emotional and rational hats.
"You have to problem solve, and figure things out on the fly and do damage control, but then you have to go and be an actor and be emotional and have all that available to you, too," she said. "And you have sensitive to actors, and bring the best out in them while making sure everything on the ship is running smoothly."
Barrymore said she wanted to make a film that shows a real family struggle.
She explained, "(Children) have an agenda of who I want to be as an adult, and the parent may have an agenda, and they may differ. So how do you gain acceptance and honesty and respect for the journey that you're on together?
Barrymore said, now that she's in her mid-30s, she can understand both the child and mother roles now.
"You want the best for (your children) and you want them to be safe," she said. "I'm able to see both sides of it now."
Her roller derby film and the sport of derby, Barrymore said, are about women taking on great athletic capabilities while having great camaraderie with each other. She said the movie should be fun for audiences watching women "kick butt" together, but added the story highlights a deeper relationship issue of friends versus family.
Barrymore said, "Just because you found a new family doesn't mean you throw away the old, or you can make a new family out there and you can make friend, but don't leave the ones behind that got you to where you are."
The star also responded to the news of an alleged extortion attempt on late show host David Letterman by a CBS producer.
She said, referring to her 1995 appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman," "I hope I didn't start anything by jumping on his desk."
She added, referring to Letterman's show, "I've always had fun there. I feel, you know, it's an unfortunate situation. I'm not one to comment on it, and I wish them the best because that's an unfortunate situation."
Barrymore appeared on "The Early Show" to promote her film, "Whip It," which opens Friday in theatres nationwide.