Laura Dern

Laura Dern Biography

Television Producer, Director (1967–)
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Versatile American actress Laura Dern has starred in films like 'Jurassic Park' and earned acclaim for her work on the TV series 'Enlightened' and 'Big Little Lies.'

Who Is Laura Dern?

Born in 1967 in Los Angeles, California, Laura Dern followed parents Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd into the acting business. She appeared in films like Mask, Wild at Heart and Rambling Rose, for which she received an Oscar nod, before winning over mainstream audiences in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jurassic Park. Dern has also received acclaim for her TV projects, garnering awards for her roles on HBO's Enlightened and Big Little Lies.

Acting Background

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.

Films and TV Shows

'Foxes,' 'Mask,' 'Smooth Talk,' 'Blue Velvet'

After a few bit parts during childhood, Dern received her first major role in 1980, in the Adrian Lyne film Foxes. Subsequent roles included Teachers (1984) and Mask (1985), after which she surprised audiences as a rebellious teen anxious to experience a sexual awakening in Smooth Talk (1986). The daring role earned Dern a New Generation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics. That same year, she edged further toward the fringe in David Lynch's disturbing Blue Velvet.

'Wild at Heart,' 'Rambling Rose'

Dern reteamed with Lynch in 1990 for the groundbreaking Wild at Heart, playing an oversexed 20-year-old on the run opposite Nicolas Cage. The following year, Dern appeared with her mother in the critically acclaimed Rambling Rose (1991). Her nuanced performance as a troubled teenager led to 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.

'Jurassic Park,' 'Afterburn'

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. That same year, 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.

'Citizen Ruth,' 'October Sky,' 'Daddy and Them'

Dern followed with a variety of roles, playing a resentful pregnant woman 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). Meanwhile, she earned an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of a lesbian in a landmark episode of Ellen in 1997. 

'Inland Empire,' 'Recount'

Remaining a regular presence on both the big and small screens, Dern revisited the realm of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park III (2001) and rejoined Lynch for Inland Empire (2006). 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 appeared alongside Kevin Spacey and Denis Leary.

'Enlightened'

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. 

'Wild,' 'F is for Family'

Dern co-starred in 2014's The Fault in Our Stars and When the Game Stands Tall. She also portrayed a devoted, loving mother in Wild, a film adaptation of the famed Cheryl Strayed memoir starring Reese Witherspoon, for which she received her second Oscar nomination. Shifting gears, she took on a voiceover role for the animated series F is for Family the following year.

'Big Little Lies,' 'Twin Peaks,' 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

In 2017, Dern reunited with Witherspoon on the HBO series Big Little Lies. She managed to stand out despite the presence of Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and other powerhouse actors, earning Emmy and Golden Globe wins for her portrayal of the strong-willed Renata Klein. That same year, Dern joined the revival of the cult classic series Twin Peaks and appeared as an ally to the iconic Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The actress followed with roles in smaller, character-driven films like The Tale, Trial by Fire and JT LeRoy, which all premiered at 2018 festivals, before joining Liam Neeson for the vigilante dark comedy Cold Pursuit in 2019.

Personal Life

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

The actress was previously engaged to fellow thespians Thornton and Jeff Goldblum, and also enjoyed celebrity liaisons with stars such as Cage and Kyle MacLachlan.

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