Laura Dern

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Laura Dern
Dern in 2009
Born Laura Elizabeth Dern
(1967-02-10) February 10, 1967 (age 48)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress, director, producer
Years active 1973–present
Spouse(s) Ben Harper (m. 2005–13)
Children 2
Parent(s) Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd

Laura Elizabeth Dern (born February 10, 1967) is an American actress, film director, and producer. Dern has acted in such films as Mask and Smooth Talk (1985), Blue Velvet (1986), Fat Man and Little Boy (1988), Wild at Heart (1990), Jurassic Park (1993), The Baby Dance (1998), October Sky (1999), and I Am Sam (2001). She has won awards for her performance in the 1991 film Rambling Rose, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her portrayal of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris in the film Recount (2008). From 2011 to 2013, Dern starred as Amy Jellicoe in HBO's Enlightened. For this role, she won the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy.

In 2014 Dern made a return to film work, appearing in The Fault in Our Stars, When the Game Stands Tall, 99 Homes, and Wild, the latter for which she received her second Academy Award nomination.

Early life[edit]

Dern was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, and great-granddaughter of former Utah governor and Secretary of War, George Dern. The poet, writer, and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish was her great-great-uncle. Laura Dern's film debut was a cameo in her mother's film White Lightning (1973). She also made a brief appearance in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), one of Ladd's signature roles. Her mother objected to her 13-year-old daughter's presence on the set of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, but Dern sued for and received emancipation. In 1982, she became the youngest-ever winner of Miss Golden Globe.


Dern began working with acting coach Sandra Seacat in 1984. Dern would later attribute Seacat with a dramatic transformation in her life and work.[1] Speaking with Back Stage West again in 2004, Dern would expand upon her earlier comments;[2] most recently, Dern thanked Seacat in her acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Television Series at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards in 2012.[3]

Between 1985 and 1990, Dern gained critical acclaim for roles in Mask, Blue Velvet, and Wild at Heart. Dern's starring role in Blue Velvet was a breakthrough though her next notable film, Wild at Heart, took almost four years to be released. Dern's affiliation with David Lynch has continued with her role in Inland Empire. In 1992, Dern and her mother became the first mother and daughter to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting in the same film in Rambling Rose although, unlike in Wild at Heart, they did not play mother and daughter in the film. Dern starred as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. That same year, Clint Eastwood enlisted the actress for his film A Perfect World. She also starred as Ruth in the 1996 satire Citizen Ruth, the directorial debut of Alexander Payne. Dern's mother makes a cameo appearance, playing Dern's character's mother, with Dern's character screaming a torrent of abuse at her. In 1997, Dern was featured in Widespread Panic's music video for their song, "Aunt Avis", which was directed by Dern's then boyfriend and future fiancé, Billy Bob Thornton. In 1998, Dern co-starred in Jodie Foster's film The Baby Dance. While dating Thornton in 1999, she was cast as his love interest in his film Daddy and Them, which also includes Diane Ladd. Dern also appeared in Joe Johnston's film October Sky.

Robert Altman called upon Dern's talents to play a Champagne-loving Aunt in his Texas-based comedy Dr. T & the Women in 2000. She co-starred in Within These Walls and Arthur Miller's Focus. She had a minor role in Jurassic Park III, and was a supporting actor in the film I Am Sam. She starred in the 2002 film Damaged Care and the 2004 film We Don't Live Here Anymore. Dern was part of the ensemble dramedy Happy Endings in 2005, and she appeared in the 2006 film The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. In 2006, David Lynch and Dern reunited for Inland Empire and, also in 2006, Dern had a supporting role in Lonely Hearts. Mike White, known for writing School of Rock and The Good Girl, hired Dern for his directorial debut in 2007, the comedy titled Year of the Dog and starring Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, and Peter Sarsgaard. In 2008 Dern starred in Recount for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries or Television Film. Since then, Dern was seen in the independent 2009 drama Tenderness[4] and, in 2010, she appeared in Little Fockers, playing an advanced school principal who dated Owen Wilson's character Kevin Rawley.

Dern has done much work on television, most notably Afterburn, for which she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie. She guest-starred on The West Wing, was a voice on King of the Hill, and was a lesbian who coaxes Ellen DeGeneres out of the closet in the famous 1997 "The Puppy Episode" of the television series Ellen. On the April 24, 2007 airing of DeGeneres's talk show, Dern revealed she did not work for more than a year following her appearance in that episode because of resulting backlash, but nevertheless called it an "extraordinary experience and opportunity."[5]

Dern has been acknowledged with several awards from the independent film industry including the Sundance Institute and was the subject of an aggressive media campaign by David Lynch to win her an Academy Award nomination for her work in Inland Empire. On November 1, 2010, she received the 2,420th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her parents, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern, were also presented with stars.

In October 2011, Dern starred in a new HBO television series called Enlightened.[6] Dern plays Amy Jellicoe, "a health and beauty executive who returns from a post-meltdown retreat to pick up the pieces of her broken life" with, among others, her mother, played by her real-life mother Ladd. Dern brought screenwriter Mike White back into television work after he had had an on-the-job meltdown of his own. Jellicoe's Hawaiian retreat included introduction to meditation and the character tries to continue the discipline as she resumes her working life.[7] Dern received her third Golden Globe for her role in the series.

Dern appeared in Paul Thomas Anderson's 2012 film The Master, along with Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Dern with then-husband Ben Harper in December 2009

Political views[edit]

Dern is known as an activist and supporter of many charities, such as Healthy Child Healthy World, which aims to raise awareness about toxic substances that can affect a child's health.

During the 66th Golden Globe Awards, on January 11, 2009, Dern expressed support for the incoming administration of Barack Obama during her acceptance speech for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her work on the film Recount. She is quoted as saying, "I will cherish this as a reminder of the extraordinary, incredible outpouring of people who demanded their voice be heard in this last election so we can look forward to amazing change in this country. Thank you so much!"[9]

Relationships and family[edit]

Dern has had high-profile romances with Kyle MacLachlan, Nicolas Cage, Renny Harlin, Jeff Goldblum, and Billy Bob Thornton [10]

Dern began dating musician Ben Harper after they met at one of his concerts in fall 2000.[10] Harper and Dern married on December 23, 2005 at their home in Los Angeles.[11] They have two children together, son Ellery Walker (born August 2001)[10] and daughter Jaya (born November 2004).[12] Through this marriage, Dern also became a stepmother to Harper's children from his first marriage, his son Charles and daughter Harris.[10] In October 2010, Harper filed for divorce from Dern, citing irreconcilable differences.[13] They briefly reconciled and attended the 2012 Golden Globe Awards together,[13] but Dern reactivated the divorce by filing a legal response in July 2012.[13] The divorce was finalized in September 2013.[14]



Year Title Role Notes
1973 White Lightning Sharon Anne
1974 Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore Girl Eating Ice Cream Cone
1980 Foxes Debbie
1982 Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains Jessica McNeil
1983 Happy Endings Audrey Constantine Television movie
1984 Three Wishes of Billy Grier, TheThe Three Wishes of Billy Grier Crissy Television movie
1984 Teachers Diane Warren
1985 Mask Diana Adams
1985 Smooth Talk Connie Wyatt
1986 Blue Velvet Sandy Williams
1987 Grizzly II: The Predator Tina Unreleased sequel to Grizzly
1988 Haunted Summer Claire Clairmont
1989 Fat Man and Little Boy Kathleen Robinson
1990 Wild at Heart Lula Fortune
1990 Industrial Symphony No. 1 Heartbroken Woman Television movie
1991 Rambling Rose Rose
1992 Afterburn Janet Harduvel Television movie
1993 Jurassic Park Dr. Ellie Sattler
1993 Perfect World, AA Perfect World Sally Gerber
1995 Down Came a Blackbird Helen McNulty Television movie
1996 Citizen Ruth Ruth Stoops
1996 Bastard Out of Carolina Narrator (voice)
1996 Siege at Ruby Ridge, TheThe Siege at Ruby Ridge Vicki Weaver Television movie
1998 Baby Dance, TheThe Baby Dance Wanda LeFauve Television movie
1999 October Sky Miss Riley
2000 Dr. T & the Women Peggy
2001 Daddy and Them Ruby Montgomery
2001 Within These Walls Sister Pauline Quinn Television movie
2001 Jurassic Park III Dr. Ellie Sattler
2001 Focus Gertrude 'Gert' Hart
2001 I Am Sam Randy Carpenter
2002 Goose Narrator (voice) Video short
2002 Damaged Care Linda Peeno Television movie
2004 We Don't Live Here Anymore Terry Linden
2005 Happy Endings Pam Ferris
2005 Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, TheThe Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio Dortha Schaefer
2006 Lonely Hearts Rene Fodie
2006 Inland Empire Nikki Grace / Susan Blue
2007 Year of the Dog Bret
2007 More Things That Happened Susan Blue Video
2008 Recount Katherine Harris Television movie
2008 Monday Before Thanksgiving, TheThe Monday Before Thanksgiving Theresa Short film
2009 Tenderness Aunt Teresa
2010 Everything Must Go Delilah
2010 Little Fockers Prudence
2011 Fight for Your Right Revisited Café Patron Short film
2012 Master, TheThe Master Helen Sullivan
2014 The Fault in Our Stars Frannie Lancaster
2014 When the Game Stands Tall Beverly Ladouceur
2014 Wild Bobbi Lambrecht
2014 99 Homes Lynn Nash Post-production
2014 Strings Filming
2014 Mothers Day Pre-production


Year Title Role Notes
1981 Shannon Episode: "Gotham Swansong"
1989 Nightmare Classics Rebecca Episode: "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
1993 Fallen Angels Annie Ainsley Episode: "Murder, Obliquely"
1995 Frasier June (voice) Episode: "Sleeping with the Enemy"
1997 Ellen Susan 2 episodes
2002 West Wing, TheThe West Wing US Poet Laureate Tabatha Fortis Episode: "The U.S. Poet Laureate"
2002 King of the Hill Serving Wench (voice) Episode: "Joust Like a Woman"
2003 King of the Hill Katherine (voice) Episode: "Patch Boomhauer"
2011–2013 Enlightened Amy Jellicoe 18 episodes
2013 Call Me Crazy: A Five Film Director
2014 Drunk History Nellie Blye
2015 F Is for Family Sue Murphy
2015 The Mindy Project Dr. Ludmilla Trapeznikov Episode: "Best Man"

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Jamie Painter Young: "Profile: Defining Moments," Back Stage West, November 22–28, 2001, pp. 6-7. "Dern: 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... 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. BSW: Do you still study acting? Dern: I still study with Sandra and I love studying."
  2. ^ Jenelle Riley: "Living Out Loud," Back Stage West, August 16, 2004 (scroll all the way down - Dern's next-to-last comment)
  3. ^ "Laura Dern's 2012 Golden Globes acceptance speech for Best Actress". 2012-01-16. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  4. ^ "Movie Reviews, Articles, Trailers, and more at Metacritic". Retrieved 2012-01-21. 
  5. ^ Associated Press (2007-04-23). "Ellen and Laura Dern reunite after kiss". Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  6. ^ "Enlightened: Homepage". HBO. Retrieved 2012-01-21. 
  7. ^ "HBO's 'Enlightened' Take On Modern Meditation", Fresh Air interview with Dern and White on NPR, October 10, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-10.
  8. ^ "Laura Dern, Amy Adams and Others Join P.T. Anderson's 'The Master'". 2011-06-01. Retrieved 2012-01-21. 
  9. ^ "Laura Dern Goes Political at the Golden Globes". YouTube. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  10. ^ a b c d Miller, Samantha (February 4, 2002). "Dern Happy". People. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Actress Laura Dern Marries Ben Harper". People. December 23, 2005. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Laura Dern gives birth to a daughter". Today. November 2004. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c Johnson, Zach (July 9, 2012). "Laura Dern Reactivates Dormant Divorce From Ben Harper". Us Weekly. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Laura Dern, Ben Harper Divorce Is Finalized". Huffington Post. September 11, 2013. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 

External links[edit]