Drew Barrymore can't seem to catch a break when it comes to promoting her latest film, the Penny Marshall-directed dramedy Riding in Cars with Boys (opening tomorrow). First, she had to face the media at the film's Oct. 7 press junket mere minutes after news broke that American-led military action had commenced in Afghanistan. And days later, in the midst of rehearsals for Saturday Night Live at NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters, the actress learned that anthrax had been detected in the building. (The assistant to the network's top newsman, Tom Brokaw, tested positive for the skin form of the disease.)

The 26-year-old Charlie's Angels star joked about her run of bad luck during her opening monologue on last weekend's SNL. "I was so afraid to fly [to New York], so I canceled my trip," she confessed. "But then I saw [Mayor] Giuliani on television saying to be brave, so the next day I got on an airplane. And then we started rehearsing and I got calm, I got really excited. And then yesterday, they discovered anthrax in the building, so I immediately left [and] went back to the hotel. [Then] I thought about being brave, so I came back."

Things were equally as touch-and-go at the junket earlier this month, with Barrymore herself admitting that it took a great deal of strength — and a friendly pep talk — for her to proceed with the interviews in light of what was happening in Afghanistan. "Someone said to me, 'This is going to be an ongoing thing, and we're going to have to figure out how to live in that," she explained. "And when you don't know how to do your job, then you must re-learn how to do your job.

"It's very unsafe when you don't know how to function, and I look to all the people who inspire me [for help]," she continued. "I'm going to have to trust myself on certain things, which is very scary, because you don't know if you'll do the right thing."

For Barrymore, "the right thing" includes getting the word out about Cars — a true coming-of-age tale that, she concedes, couldn't be hitting theaters at a better time. "This film is about needing to hear and say, 'I love you,'" she offers. "And if there's one thing that we've come to learn through [recent] events, it's that 'I love you' are the three most profound words that we have."