Laura Dern

Laura Dern Biography

Director, Television Producer (1967–)
Actor, director and writer Laura Dern, daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, has played everything from willowy ingénues to drug-addicted washouts. She's known for starring in 'Jurassic Park,' and for co-producing and starring on the series 'Enlightened.'

Who Is Laura Dern?

Born on February 10, 1967, in Los Angeles, California, actress Laura Dern's first major role was in the 1980 film Foxes. Subsequent roles include Teachers (1984), Mask (1985), Smooth Talk (1986), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990) and Rambling Rose (1991), for which she received an Oscar nod. In 1993, Dern won over mainstream audiences in the blockbuster Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg. She has also received acclaim for her TV projects, including a Golden Globe for her starring role on HBO's Enlightened, which aired from 2011 to 2013. Dern later received her second Academy Award nomination for playing a devoted mom in 2014's Wild, and Emmy and Golden Globe wins for her contributions to the 2017 HBO series Big Little Lies.

Early Life

Laura Elizabeth Dern was born on February 10, 1967, in Los Angeles, California. The granddaughter of politician George Dern and daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, Laura Dern has played everything from willowy ingénues to drug-addicted washouts. After attending the University of Southern California for one semester and the University of California, Los Angeles, for just two days, Dern enrolled at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute to study method acting.

Film Career

After a few bit parts during childhood, Dern received her first major role in 1980, in the Adrian Lyne film Foxes. Her subsequent roles include Teachers (1984) and Mask (1985), after which she surprised audiences with the role of a rebellious teen anxious to experience a sexual awakening in Smooth Talk in 1986. The daring role earned Dern a New Generation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics. That same year, she stepped even further toward the fringe with David Lynch's disturbing 1986 film, Blue Velvet. She reteamed with Lynch in 1990 for the groundbreaking Wild at Heart, in which she plays an oversexed 20-year-old on the run and stars opposite Nicolas Cage.

The following year, Dern appeared with her mother, actress Diane Ladd, in the critically acclaimed Rambling Rose (1991). Her nuanced performance as a troubled teenager earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress. Ladd was also nominated for an Oscar, marking the first time a mother-daughter team received dual nominations in the same year.

In 1993, Dern won the attention of mainstream audiences as a courageous scientist in Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Jurassic Park, based on the popular book of the same name by Michael Crichton. She followed with a variety of roles, playing a resentful pregnant girl in the 1996 film Citizen Ruth, a supportive high school teacher in 1999's October Sky, and a member of an unconventional Alabama family in Billy Bob Thornton's Daddy and Them (2001).

Television Roles

In addition to film, Dern has received wide acclaim for her television performances. In 1993, she won a Golden Globe Award (best performance by an actress in a TV mini-series or motion picture) for her performance on HBO's Afterburn. In 1997, she was nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of a lesbian in a landmark episode of the sitcom Ellen. In 2009, Dern won another Golden Globe (best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a TV series, mini-series or motion picture) for her role in the TV movie Recount (2008), in which she appears alongside Kevin Spacey and Denis Leary, among other prominent actors.

More recently, in 2011, Dern earned a Golden Globe (best actress in a TV series, musical or comedy) for her role on HBO's Enlightened. In addition to starring as the show's protagonist, Amy Jellicoe, Dern co-created and co-executive produced the series (with Mike White). Debuting in October 2011, the series garnered critical acclaim but saw low ratings, and ended in 2013 after two seasons. 

Nonetheless, Dern continued with big-screen projects, co-starring in 2014 fare like The Fault in Our Stars and When the Game Stands Tall. That same year she also portrayed a devoted, loving mother in Wild, a film adaptation of the famed Cheryl Strayed memoir starring Reese Witherspoon. Dern received her second Oscar nomination for the role. 

In 2017, Dern reunited with Witherspoon on the HBO series Big Little Lies. Dern managed to stand out despite the presence of Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard and other powerhouse actors, earning both Emmy and Golden Globe wins for her portrayal of the strong-willed Renata Klein. That year, Dern also appeared on the big screen as an ally to the iconic Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Personal Life

Off-screen, Dern has had her share of celebrity liaisons with stars such as Kyle MacLachlan and Nicolas Cage, and broken engagements to actors Jeff Goldblum and Billy Bob Thornton.

Dern married musician Ben Harper on December 23, 2005. The couple had two children, son Ellery Walker and daugher Jaya, before divorcing in 2010.

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