American actress Laura Dern received international recognition as paleobotanist
Dr. Ellie Sattler in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi hit Jurassic Park (1993), a role
she later reprised for the third sequel Jurassic Park III (2001). A skilled
actress, Dern has also won a number of awards and received several nominations
for her work, including a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for her
magnificent performances in Smooth Talk (1985, as Connie) and Mask (1985, played
Diana Adams), a Montréal World Film Festival Award, as well as an Oscar and
Golden Globe nomination for her superb turn in Rambling Rose (1991, played the
alluring Rose), and another Montréal World Film Festival Award for her
outstanding job in Citizen Ruth (1996, as Ruth Stoops). On the small screen,
Dern took home a Golden Globe Award and earned an Emmy nomination after
portraying a widow named Janet Harduvel in the TV film Afterburn (1992). She
also gave notable performances in “Murder, Obliquely” (1993, an episode of the
series “Fallen Angels”), the series “Ellen” (1997) and the television movie The
Baby Dance (1998).
Outside the spotlight, in April 2006, alongside Amy Brenneman, Dern supported a
program of Children’s Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC) called the Blue
Butterfly Campaign, which promoted 5 Easy Steps to a Healthier Home for the sake
of children. As for her personal life, Dern had several romantic relationships
before settling down in marriage. After dating Hollywood celebrities Treat
Williams, Kyle MacLachlan, Renny Harlin and Jeff Goldblum (engaged in 1994,
separated in 1996), Dern announced her plans to marry actor Billy Bob Thornton
(1999). However, the couple never married. In 2005, Dern married musician Ben
Harper and gave birth to Ellery Walker in 2001 and Jaya in 2004.
Child of Actors
Childhood and Family:
In Los Angeles, California, Laura Elizabeth Dern was born on February 10, 1967,
to actor parents Bruce Dern (born on June 4, 1936) and Diane Ladd (born on
November 29, 1932). She is also the granddaughter of politician George Dern and
actress Mary Lanier.
Not long after her birth, Laura’s parents divorced, leaving her under the
guidance of her mother and grandmother. In 1969, her father married Andrea
Beckett, and her mother married Robert Hunter in 1999.
As a child of actors, Laura had been exposed to moviemaking at an early age and
therefore built a strong interest in acting. After attending the University of
Southern California for only one semester and transferring to UCLA for just two
days, she decided to study Method acting at the prestigious Lee Strasberg
Institute in Los Angeles.
Laura married musician Ben Harper on December 23, 2005. The happy couple has a
son named Ellery Walker (born on August 21, 2001) and a daughter named Jaya
(born on November 28, 2004).
Laura Dern began acting on her mother’s sets. She made a small screen debut with
an appearance in “The Secret Storm” (1972), in which her mother had a regular
role. Still with her mother, Dern had her wide screen debut with an unaccredited
part in White Lightning (1973) and followed it up with a cameo appearance in
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974). Without her mother, she landed a small
part as the annoying Debbie in Foxes (1980) and acquired a supporting role as
Jessica McNeil in Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1981). Two years
later, Dern debuted in TV film by taking the role of Audrey Constantine in Happy
Endings (1983). In 1984, she played Diane, a girl who had to have an abortion,
in the big screen movie Teachers.
Dern roused critics’ interest when she took parts in Peter Bogdanovich’s drama
Mask (1985) and Joyce Chopra’s romantic drama Smooth Talk (1985). For her
compelling acting as the blind Diana Adams in the former, also for her lovely
leading turn as 15 year old Connie in the second, Dern won a Los Angeles Film
Critics Association award. The victory was ensued by roles in Blue Velvet (1986)
and Fat Man and Little Boy (1989). The actress gained more popularity when she
showed her versatility with the starring turn as Lula, a chain-smoking
rebellious girl, in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990).
Dern’s breakthrough arrived when she took the leading role of Rose in Rambling
Rose (1991), where her performance netted a Montréal World Film Festival for
Best Actress and earned her an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for Best
Actress. Scoring another success, Dern won a Golden Globe for Best Actress and
earned an Emmy nomination for playing Janet Harduvel, a widow of a USAF officer,
in Robert Markowitz’ made-for-TV Afterburn (1992). Based on a true story, the
drama also featured Robert Loggia and Vincent Spano.
Dern entered the blockbuster realm in 1993 when renowned director Steven
Spielberg cast her in the starring role of Dr. Ellie Sattler in the sci-fi hit
Jurassic Park. In the high-profile movie, her turn as a paleobotanist earned
worldwide popularity. She also received positive reviews for her turn as Annie
in “Murder, Obliquely,” an episode of the Showtime series “Fallen Angels”
(1993). The next year, she tried her hand as a director by helming a TV film
titled “The Gift,” which featured her mother Diane Ladd and Isabella Rossellini.
In the short film, Dern also served as the storywriter. In 1995, she played
Helen McNulty in her executive-produced TV movie, Down Came a Blackbird.
The actress had her award-winning role of Ruth Stoops, a pregnant drug-user in
the middle of a pro-choice/pro-life war, in the drama comedy Citizen Ruth
(1996). Giving a remarkable portrayal, Dern won a second Montréal World Film
Festival for Best Actress. Her Emmy-nominated guest appearance in a 1997 episode
of the TV series “Ellen” led to her starring turn as Wanda LeFauve in Jane
Anderson’s made-for-TV The Baby Dance (1998), where she received a Golden Globe
nomination. The accomplished actress continued to offer good performances in
such movies as the human drama October Sky (1999), Dr T and the Women (2000),
Jurassic Park III (2001, reprised her role of Dr. Ellie Sattler), her
self-produced Damaged Care (2002, TV), the TV series “King of the Hill” (2002
and 2003, 2 episodes), We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004) and the drama comedy
Happy Endings (2005).
Recently, Dern appeared as Rene in the Todd Robinson-directed thriller Lonely
Hearts (2006). The movie, about the true story of a murderous couple, also
featured John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Salma Hayek and Jared Leto. Dern will
also play roles in David Lynch’s next project, Inland Empire (2006) and Mike
White’s drama Year of the Dog (2007).
Sundance Film Festival: Tribute to Independent Vision Award, 1999
Golden Globe: Best Actress in a Leading Role--Mini-Series or Television
Movie, Afterburn, 1992
Montréal World Film Festival: Best Actress, Citizen Ruth, 1996
Montréal World Film Festival: Best Actress, Rambling Rose, 1991
Los Angeles Film Critics Association: New Generation Award, Smooth Talk
and Mask, 1985
Golden Globe: Miss Golden Globe, 1982