Laura Dern in a press photo
The actress that always chooses the right roles, whether indies or box office blockbusters, and never plays the same character twice — has won an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy, and five Golden Globes.
Laura Dern at 13 years old
Born a thespian in Los Angeles to professional actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern, she once had a play-date almost cancelled because her dad was “that son of a ….. that killed John Wayne.” As an extra at 6 years old in a film with her mom, she ate the 19 ice cream cones, required by the 19 takes. Director Martin Scorsese told Mom, “If she doesn't throw up… this girl is ready to be an actress.”
Laura achieved much of her 5’10” height pre-teen. She was a skinny, awkward kid. Where her friends hung posters of heartthrob teenage boys, she put her idols, Kathryn Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, and Lucille Ball.
Dern rose to prominence playing a blind girl in Mask (1985) and a teen experiencing a sexual awakening in Smooth Talk (1985) before meeting director and Bob’s Big Boy Burbank Hall-of-Famer David Lynch. She recounted their meeting in an interview with W Magazine. "I got a call that he wanted to meet me at Bob's Big Boy to see if Kyle MacLachlan and I could get along or something. It was like a chemistry lunch. And so the three of us had lunch at Bob's Big Boy, and the rest is history. We ordered malts and French fries and David was doodling on napkins while Kyle was doodling with a knife into his ketchup.”
Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan
Lynch gave her the part of “Sandy” in his film Blue Velvet (1986) with Kyle MacLachlan playing her budding romantic interest, “Jeffrey.” The film is regarded as one of the best films of the 1980’s, and internationally, as one of the greatest American films of all-time.
Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage
Lynch had been looking for his “Sandy” for sometime. In Laura Dern, he found not only his “Sandy,” but a lifetime collaborator and muse. Their next film would be the violent, sexually-charged Wild at Heart (1990). Dern plays “Lula” who is in love with “Sailor” played by Nicolas Cage. Their characters contain many allusions to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. The film won the Palm d’Or (Best Picture) at Cannes and Best Supporting Actress nominations, both the Oscar and Golden Globe, for her mom Diane Ladd.
Real-life mother and daughter would play mother and daughter on screen again in Rambling Rose (1991) with Robert Duval. They became the first mother and daughter both nominated for Oscars in the same film.
Laura Dern sees dinosaurs
Laura Dern beat out both Helen Hunt and Gwyneth Paltrow to achieve international recognition as “Ellie” in Jurassic Park (1993). The film, directed by Steven Spielberg, is a landmark development in CGI, a box office smash, and even well regarded by film critics. In 2018, the Library of Congress added it to the U.S. Film Registry.
Laura Dern is excellent as a paint huffing wanderer in Citizen Ruth (1996). In his first feature, director Alexander Payne, satirizes both sides of the abortion debate with “Ruth” caught in the middle.
Ellen and Laura Dern
After playing “Susan” in the “Puppy Episode” on the sitcom Ellen (1997) about the titular character telling her “I’m gay,” accidentally over an airport loudspeaker, Laura Dern was no longer able to choose her roles carefully because there were no offers for about a year and a half. Dern says she has zero regrets about it; and remarks upon the experience as being “extraordinary.”
Later, she appears in prominent roles for smaller highly-regarded human dramas, including October Sky (1999), I am Sam (2001), and We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004).
She reunites with director David Lynch for Inland Empire (2006). Dern plays four characters. In a show of appreciation, David by himself, parades a live cow on Hollywood and La Brea as a “For Your Consideration” for her as Best Actress.
The versatile and multifaceted actress brings the same magic to Little Fockers (2010) as she does Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (2012).
A resurgence of significant television roles like Enlightened (2011-13), Twin Peaks (2017), and Big Little Lies (2017-19) got the Twitterverse abuzz with the hashtag #Dernaissance. Laura is active on Twitter and Instagram, but refuses to use Instagram filters.
Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Her kids even finally thought she was "cool" for appearing in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo.
Laura Dern won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Marriage Story (2019). She gave an emotional acceptance speech which brought her mother to tears, "Some say: ‘You never meet your heroes.’ But I say, if you're really blessed, you get them as your parents."
On the same day in 2010, Father, Mother and Daughter all received their stars. Laura Dern’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6200 Hollywood Blvd.
Diane Ladd, Bruce Dern, and Laura Dern