Laura Dern was born on February 10, 1967 into a moviemaking family - her father is Bruce Dern and her mother is Diane Ladd. Dern was exposed to movie sets and the movie industry from infancy, and obtained several bit parts as a child. Her parents divorced when Dern was two and Dern lost contact with her father for several years as a result.
Her parents' background and her own early taste of the moviemaking world soon convinced the young Dern to pursue acting herself. Like so many young actors, her decision may have been influenced by social awkwardness -- the child of 60s counterculture parents, she was steeped in Eastern mysticism and political radicalism, and was seen as an oddball by her more conservative classmates. Her gawky physical appearance didn't help - even before her teens, she had achieved most of her impressive 5' 10" height, was rail-skinny (other than precociously wide hips), had huge feet and a slouching posture, and for all this was often teased by classmates. Perhaps the nine-year-old Dern found refuge by studying acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute.
The first success for the young Dern came in 1980, with a role in Adrian Lyne's Foxes (1980), a teen movie starring Jodie Foster. She followed this with several small parts, or parts in small movies, such as Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982) and Teachers (1984), as a student who has an affair with a teacher. (Her mother objected to her active presence on movie sets at age thirteen, which required Dern to sue for emancipation so she could play her role in "The Fabulous Stains"). Her next roles, as the blind girl who befriends the deformed boy in Mask (1985), and as a teenaged girl whose sexual awakening collides with a mysterious older man in Smooth Talk (1985), gave her career an important boost. Dern appeared to have made it with a leading role in David Lynch's acclaimed Blue Velvet (1986), but it was four years before her next notable film, and this was the bizarre Wild at Heart (1990), also directed by Lynch.
The following year, Dern starred in Rambling Rose (1991), which would become her signature performance, as a sexually-precocious, free-spirited young housemaid in the South in the 1930s. Dern earned an Oscar nomination for her performance, and so did her mother and co-star, Diane Ladd. Dern continues to win prominent roles on the big screen, often in smaller, highly-regarded human dramas such as October Sky (1999), I Am Sam (2001) and We Don't Live Here Anymore (2004), although she is perhaps most widely known for her repeat role as Ellie Sattler in the summer adventure movies Jurassic Park (1993) and Jurassic Park III (2001), or for her guest performance on "Ellen" (1994), as the woman to whom Ellen finally comes out as a lesbian.
Dern's pre-teen gawkiness matured into lithe beauty, but this doesn't prevent Dern from fearlessly throwing herself into a wide variety of roles which are sometimes unflattering, an excellent example being her unflinchingly comic portrayal of an intensely annoying loser whose pregnancy becomes a social and political football in Citizen Ruth (1996). This results in Dern being one of the most interesting actors working in Hollywood today.
Having previously dated such Hollywood talent as Treat Williams, Renny Harlin, Kyle MacLachlan, Jeff Goldblum and Billy Bob Thornton, Dern eventually married musician Ben Harper in 2005. Early in her career, Dern was roommate to Marianne Williamson, the spirituality guru. Dern attended two days of college at UCLA and one semester at USC.
|Ben Harper||(23 December 2005 - 8 October 2010) (filed for divorce) 2 children|
Born at 7:48am-PST
Once engaged to Billy Bob Thornton.
Once engaged to Jeff Goldblum for two years (1995-1997).
Her great-grandfather was governor of Utah.
Welcomed first child, son Ellery Walker, with boyfriend Ben Harper in Los Angeles. [21 August 2001]
Had an elder sister, born in 1961, who drowned at the age of 18 months, years before Laura was born.
Granddaughter of Mary Lanier
When she was cast in Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982) at age 13, her mother Diane Ladd refused to let her go, feeling she was too young to leave home for a movie shoot. Laura sued for emancipation and won, but the movie was not a hit.
Announced engagment to Ben Harper in August 2004.
Second child, Jaya, a daughter, with boyfriend Ben Harper, born in Los Angeles on 28 November 2004.
Both she and her mother, Diane Ladd, starred in two dinosaur-themed movies in 1993. Dern starred as Ellie Sattler in the box office smash Jurassic Park (1993), while Ladd starred in the failed indie film Carnosaur (1993).
Godmother is Shelley Winters.
Friend of Molly Ringwald.
Received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6270 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on November 1, 2010.
It's really fun to act like a bimbo. But it's fun to act like a bimbo only when people know that you really aren't one.
I get so protective of David [Lynch], like an older sister or something, which is so absurd. He's not waiting for us to get the movie because he doesn't think the cinema is about 'getting it'. I think he believes - which I've found very rare in filmmakers - in the intelligence of the audience, that they're intelligent enough to discover the film and what it means within themselves.
(2011, on Enlightened) I worked with HBO on Recount, and we had a wonderful experience together. I'm such a fan of HBO and how much flexibility they give in character as well as schedule. Mike [White] and I had done his first directorial feature together, which was Year of the Dog, and really wanted to do more together. HBO had asked me if there were characters or things I really wanted to do, and I talked along the lines of things that inspired me. I talked about how aware all of us had become of our cultural apathy in this country, and I thought it would be really interesting to play a character who was a rager that somehow turned that into becoming a whistleblower, with Network-my favorite film-being an influence on that. People may think he's crazy, but he's the one person opening windows and saying, "I can't take it anymore!" From that place, with HBO's support and hope, and them wanting Mike to do something as well, they threw us in the ring together to see if he could create a vision around that idea. And from that came this story. It was a really cool, wonderful collaboration. Not only did Mike write the show, but he was able to go away as a screenwriter first to really write all the episodes. That's unheard of in television. We had the episodes first, and then we filmed them as a block, as we would a feature. That was an amazing way to do it, the way you'd pray you could do it, and it was great for us because we were working on films as well. Doing this, by the way, was like doing one movie for four months.
(2011) Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore was watching Martin Scorsese work. And that was a big influence on me, and that was the summer I really became in love with the idea of acting. He asked me to be in this scene where I ate an ice cream cone, they asked what flavor I liked, I said, "Banana, one scoop on a cone." And the scene is very long, because it's this climactic scene between Kris Kristofferson and Ellen Burstyn, and I'm sitting right behind them, which means even in their close-ups I had to be in the shot, which means 19 fully eaten ice cream cones. So the story that is told, and that Marty and I have talked about since, is that he said, "If you can eat 19 ice cream cones and not throw up, you should be an actress." And so years later when my mother was, like, "Don't be an actress," I was, like, "Martin Scorsese told me I should be an actress." She was, like, "Because you didn't throw up. Sort it out." But that was a very memorable moment.
(2011, on Mask) Talk about feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. Every 15- and 16-year-old actress should be blessed enough to have Peter Bogdanovich there to guide them toward subtlety and kindness and... I mean, I use the word "compassion," but he really taught me a lot about expressing and connecting to compassion through a character and to a film. He loved Rocky, the character that Eric Stoltz played, so deeply. And Rusty [Dennis], his real mom, who Cher played, was on the set with us. To be able to play a character who gave him love and saw his beauty was just incredible. He's one of our great directors. Truly. I'm very lucky to have made a movie with him.
(2011, on The West Wing) Aaron Sorkin is a genius, with this crazy brilliant brain that works a million miles a minute. And I had never worked around someone who, as you're filming, can give you three more pages. 'Cause I'd never really worked in television, and it moves so quickly. It was just an amazing experience to watch someone continue to stop at nothing to come up more or new or different, and keep trying and working and creating as you're shooting. So all I can say is just that Aaron Sorkin is brilliant, and it's wonderful to be around his brilliant brain.
(2011, on Blue Velvet) First time working with David Lynch, 17 years old. I think I met him at 16, starred in the movie at 17. I went into meet him for an audition. I think he had either seen a film, or heard of a film called Smooth Talk, which had come out shortly before that. It was family instantly. I don't know how-I don't think he'd ever seen me act, I didn't audition for him-but he knew I was Sandy and cast me. It was the miracle for my career, really. He invited me to Bob's Big Boy for fries and ketchup with Kyle MacLachlan to talk about the movie and meditation, and it was off to the races...If you took the girl from Mask and put her in the worst violent crime you could think of. I was, like, "How did I get here?" And I kind of was Sandy in a lot of ways. I think the greatest memory I have of the movie, other than that it was the best time ever... I saw David yesterday, actually, and we were remembering how we did night shoots, and on weekends we would try to stay on schedule, so we would stay up late. I told him The Elephant Man was my favorite movie at the time, and asked if he would he watch it with me. And I was reminiscing about sitting with him, watching Elephant Man together, which he hadn't seen since he made it. And so many sweet memories of Isabella Rossellini, who's become one of my best friends since then. She's such a great person. I feel very lucky to have found family on that movie. That's one huge memory. The other memory would be that, having been raised by actors in the '70s on films where characters were complicated and stories were not only elusive but themes were ambiguous, that to me was filmmaking. And when David Lynch luckily found me, I was right where I belonged.
(2011) Wild at Heart was... I feel like it was my college years. I didn't do four years of university, I just went to the School of David Lynch. Lula was my y'know, my coming of age. But I loved it. I loved Sailor and Lula. I loved that movie. It's troubling and brave and super-funny and really weird and dreamy as anything you'd ever want from David Lynch's brain. I mean, let's be clear: Glinda the Good Witch shows up. And my mother rides a broom.
(2011, on Rambling Rose) Bliss. But sad somehow. I found her sad and misunderstood, so in a way, it was a hard movie to work on. But it was really beautiful working with my mom, working with [Robert] Duvall, and with Lukas Haas, who's remained a friend since then. I remember being at his 14th birthday party. And it gave me a real connection to my grandma, who's from Alabama. So I'm really proud to be a part of that movie.
(2011, on Recount) It taught me a lot about having to dig deep to understand someone in order to play them. I felt very lucky being part of the project but went in with a lot of strong opinions. When you're playing someone who has a strong ego about themselves, you can't play them when you have the opposite opinion of the one they have of themselves. So I had to dig deep to learn everything I could about her to try to understand her.
(2011, on making Grizzly II: The Predator) I've never seen it, I can tell you that. The last I heard from George Clooney, who is also one of the cast members in the film, is that the whole movie is all of 40 minutes long, and no one's ever actually seen it. It's not even really long enough to call it a movie. The only thing I can say about it... I mean, I'm 16 years old, it's six weeks in Budapest, Hungary, at the exact second Communism is ending, and it's me, George Clooney, and Charlie Sheen. That's all I'm gonna say. I'm not gonna say another damned thing. Except that it was the craziest time. And the paprika chicken was outstanding.
(2011, on A Perfect World) I love Clint Eastwood, and I wish to work with him again. He's completely irreverent about everything, including his own beautiful work. It was a tribe of boys-crew and cast-and I remember us being in an Airstream in August in Texas on black asphalt, shooting long days of extreme heat that led to some very hilarious humor that I think I would never be allowed into if I hadn't been stuck in the Airstream with the boys. So for those weeks, I felt like I was my dad working on a Western with Clint. He was just such a beautiful director. And I was directing my first short film and needed a couple of extra days, and he said, "You should do it here, it's beautiful. Here's the crew. What equipment do you need?" So generous and supportive of other people's creative interests. I'll never forget that.
(2011, on October Sky) I love that movie! I'm happy that, other than Jurassic Park, there's a movie that I can actually show my son. And that he'll connect to. My character goes through a very sad tale, so I can't show it to my kids too young. But I have teenage boys coming up to me all the time saying how much they love that movie, so I'm very happy to have been part of it. I love Joe Johnston, who also directed Jurassic Park III. Such a sweet man. And Jake [Gyllenhaal], I knew a little bit as a kid, and that was his first big film, so it was really fun to be with him on that.
(2011, on Little Fockers) Ben Stiller, who I love and who is a friend and is such an incredible actor-he's hilarious, obviously, but I thought his performance in Greenberg was extraordinary. So I really love him. He's just the most malleable artist. I've never had so much fun. Unfortunately, I was making comedies in my 20s, but other people didn't realize they were comedies. But I think I'm a comedy actor, so when people are like, "Oh, your characters are so heavy," I'm like, "What are you talking about? Citizen Ruth is hilarious! Rambling Rose is hilarious! Wild At Heart and Blue Velvet are hilarious." Okay, so it's a certain kind of hilarity, I guess. Not everybody connects to it that way. But I love finding the humor in things. To get to work with Ben and Owen [Wilson], who is just hysterical, and to get to work with a personal hero, Mr. [Robert] De Niro, was just amazing. I would've been there for three lines. I was just so happy to party with them.
(2011, on Fallen Angels) Alfonso Cuarón, I love him more than I can describe. Chivo [Emmanuel Lubezki], our cinematographer, who is one of my favorite cinematographers of all time in film. Rodrigo Garcia, an extraordinary filmmaker now in his own right, was also on the film crew. It was just an amazing group of people, including the ever-brilliant Alan Rickman. So I just had a blast. We worked in this beautiful Lloyd Wright house, and I have great memories about it. And Diane Lane was in it, who I saw briefly, because we didn't really work extensively together, but Diane has been my true friend since age 12. Anybody you make a movie with when you're 12 and they're 14, you're going to know them your whole life.
[2001, on how studying with Sandra Seacat has transformed her career and life] Through studying and through being raised on movie sets, I was surrounded by a lot of people who believed that the more tortured the person, the greater the artist. I always had a hard time understanding that, but thought, I guess that's the way it is. I thought that the more pain you experience, the better you'll become. Luckily through life and the gift of the acting teacher who's changed my life in so many ways since 1984 -- her name is Sandra Seacat -- I learned there's another opinion, which is: the better the person, the better the artist. The more true you are to who you are and the more honest you are as an individual, the more honest you can be as an actor, and I'm really liking that... I still study with Sandra and I love studying.
[2004, on studying with Sandra Seacat, elaborating upon her 2001 comments] I remember a very specific time I was on a movie and I was 17. I had always studied, and continue to, various forms of Method acting, which involved things like emotional memory and using your life experience, and it was a very emotional part, as I seem to consistently do. And I wasn't enjoying myself. I was depressed, the character was depressed, and I didn't understand yet how to deal with it. I was a girl just trying to have a good time, and all I knew was, 14 hours a day I was crying. I didn't understand how this could be fun. Within a year, I met the teacher I've worked with for a long time, Sandra Seacat, and she has quite an amazing connection to the concept of healing through any creative process, that knowing oneself is sort of its own art. All of sudden this new idea that the parts I play help me discover myself and I could maybe be kinder to the ambiguous places and the flaws--I was so lifted by that. Since then, I feel like it's an extraordinary experience of therapy and learning about being in the moment and honoring that. All of a sudden, acting wasn't this torment where you're supposed to be a screwed-up artist, but it's an opportunity for self-growth. And I think I've had fun ever since.
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