Bruce Dern
Birth Date:
June 4, 1936
Birth Place:
Chicago, Illinois, USA
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Coming Home


Gaining national acknowledgement through his scene stealing performance as Freeman Lowell in “Silent Running” (1972), prolific actor Bruce Dern, who frequently playing unstable and villainous characters, scored a first critical recognition for playing Tom Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” (1974), where he also earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, and enjoyed further recognition with his Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Vietnam veteran Bob Hyde in the drama “Coming Home” (1978). The Chicago, Illinois native performer picked up Berlin International Film Festival’s Silver Bear for Best Actor for his bravura acting in “That Championship Season” (1982, as George Sitkowski) and became a two-time Genie nominee thanks to his work in “Middle Age Crazy” (1980) and “Harry Tracy, Desperado” (1982). In more recent time, Dern was handed the Philadelphia Film Festival Jury Award for his role as Howard Blaime in the film “Swamp Devil” (2008) and was nominated for a Method Fest Award for his suppoerting role in the comedy “The Lightkeepers” (2009). On the small screen Dern, who has appeared as a guest star in a number of television shows, was given an Emmy nomination for his recurring role as Bill's insulting and bossy dad in HBO's “Big Love” (2006-2011).

Dern has been married three times. He was once married to Marie Dean and Diane Ladd (1960-1969) before settling down with Andrea Beckett (1969-now). He is also the father of actress Laura Dern and the grandfather of Ellery Walker Harper and Jaya Harper, from his daughter’s marriage with musician Ben Harper.

Patrician Descent

Childhood and Family:

On June 4, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois, Bruce MacLeish Dern was born to Jean and John Dern, a son of former governor of Utah and Secretary of War George Dern. His god father was politician Adlai Stevenson and his god mother was Eleanor Roosevelt. He attended the Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, and continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He trained at New York's Actors Studio.

Bruce, who once was married to Marie Dean, tied the knot with actress Diane Ladd in 1960. On November 27 the same year, Diane gave birth to Diane E Dern, who was then drowned in a pool when she was just 18 months old. Bruce’s second daughter, future actress Laura Dern, was born on February 10, 1967. His second marriage ended in 1969, and in the same year, on October 20, he married Andrea Beckett.

Big Love


Making his first stage appearance in Broadway production of “The Shadow of a Gunman” (1959), Bruce Dern attracted director Elia Kazan, who asked him to join the audition for the Actors Studio. Dern soon went to the screen and had his acting debut in Kazan’s “Wild River” (1960), taking an unaccredited part as Jack Roper, which was followed with the supporting turn of Joe Krajac in Boris Sagal’s crime /drama “The Crimebusters” (1961) and some guest performances in TV series.

Moving further, Dern acquired a regular role in the western TV series “Stoney Burke” (1962-1963), where he costarred as E.J. Stocker, opposite Jack Lord, Robert Dowdell and Warren Oates. Dern, who appeared in an episode of “Kraft Suspense Theatre” (1963), played John Mayhew, a murdered lover of the main character, in “Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte” (1964). He also played different guest roles in four installments of the war drama series “Twelve O’Clock High” (1964, 1965).

In 1966, Dern began working in American International Pictures productions, in its action drama “The Wild Angels” (co-starring as gang member ‘Loser,’ alongside Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra). He first worked with actor Jack Nicholson in the mob drama “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” (1967), both of which played the member of Al Capone’s gangster. Dern-Nicholson continued their collaboration in the Flower Power-era film “Psych-Out” (1968), with Dern taking the supporting part of Steve Davis. Following Sydney Pollack’s “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (1969) and the Roger Corman-helmed crime/drama “Bloody Mama” (1970), the actor went to his first TV film by having the turn of Deputy Doyle Pickett in the western “Sam Hill: Who Killed Mr. Foster?” (1971).  
In 1972, Dern won a National Society of Film Critics Award for his scene stealing role of a great basketball coach in the polarizing Jack Nicholson directed drama “Drive, He Said” (1971), which was a film adaptation of the 1964 novel of the same title by Jeremy Larner. He went on to give fine performances as a disaffected botanist in the science fiction movie “Silent Running” (1972), directed by Douglas Trumbull, and as “Long Hair” Asa Watts  in the Western motion picture “The Cowboys” (1972), from which he jointly nabbed a Bronze Wrangler for Theatrical Motion Picture at the 1972 Western Heritage Awards.

Even better, after acting opposite Walter Matthau in “The Laughing Policeman” (1973), the actor was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Supporting Actor for his bravura portrayal of Tom Buchanan in the film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby” (1974), which was scripted by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Jack Clayton. He also amazed the moviegoers as the villain Jack Strawhorn in Kirk Douglas’ western movie, “Posse” (1975). Showing his versatility, Dern starred as Grayson Potchuck in the comedy “Won Ton Ton, the Dog who Saved Hollywood” (1976) and took on the part of Captain Michael J. Lander in the John Frankenheimer helmed terrorism-themed thriller “Black Sunday” (1977), adapted from the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris.

Dern’s feature film breakthrough arrived in 1978 when he convincingly delivered the supporting role of Vietnam War soldier Capt. Bob Hyde in the drama “Coming Home,” directed by Hal Ashby,  and was handed an Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his efforts. A year later, he resurfaced on the Broadway stage as Sinclair Lewis in the play “Strangers” (1979).

Early 80s was really the witness of Dern’s glory, seeing that he finely carried out the starring turn as Bobby Lee, who was facing a mid-life crisis, in the comedy/drama “Middle Age Crazy” (1980) and was nominated for a Genie’s Best Foreign Actor. After the drama/ thriller “Tattoo” (1981), he superbly played George Sitkowski in the dark comedy about friendship, “That Championship Season” (1982), for which he picked up a Silver Berlin Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin International Film Festival.  Still in 1982, his lovely title role in a western drama called “Harry Tracy, Desperado” brought him a second Genie nomination. The same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for his starring role as Karl Kinsky in the drama/thriller “Tattoo” (1981).   

Next  up for Dern, he co-starred as Stanley Mott in the CBS miniseries “Space” (1985) and shared the screen with Tommy Lee Jones, Matt Dillon and Diane Lane in “The Big Town” (1987), a drama film about a young man who comes to a big city to work as a professional gambler. His part as paramilitaric Mark Rumsfield, alongside Tom Hanks, in the Joe Dante directed comedy “The ‘Burbs” (1989) led him to several TV movies, including the biopic “The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson” (1990) and the western horror “Into the Badlands” (1991). In “Diggstown” (1992), the actor had the turn of John Gillon, a businessman who owned most of a boxing town. Working on the small screen, Dern appeared in “It’s Nothing Personal” (1993) and “Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight” (1994, as George Putnam). It was ensued by his turn as wheelchair-bound Patrick Leary in the comedy/drama film “Mrs. Munck” (1995), which was directed, written and starred by wife Diane Ladd.

Now preferring the comedy genre, Dern had roles in “Down Periscope” (1996) and “Comfort, Texas” (1997, TV). He also opened out to younger audience by voicing a toy named Link Static in the science fiction “Small Soldiers” (1998). He had a supporting role in “The Haunting” (1999, played Mr. Dudley), co-starred with Burt Reynolds and Charles Durning in the made for television movie “Hard Time: The Premonition” and was cast in the crime/drama “If... Dog... Rabbit” (1999), which was directed and written by and starring Matthew Modine.

Entering the new millennium, Dern went to supporting turns in such movies as  “All the Pretty Horses” (2000), Leelee Sobieski-starring “The Glass House” (2001), the biopic “Monster” (2003), “Down in the Valley” (2005, with Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood and David Morse), “Believe in Me” (2006, as Ellis Brawley), “Walker Payne” (2006, starred Jason Patric), “The Astronaut Farmer” (2006, as Hal), “The Hard Easy” (2006, with Henry Thomas, David Boreanaz and Vera Farmiga), and “The Cake Eaters” (2007), an independent drama directed by Mary Stuart Masterson and starring Kristen Stewart as a young girl with a rare disease,  Friedreich's Ataxia, which there is currently no cure.

In 2006, Dern joined the cast of the HBO drama series “Big Love” in the recurring role of Frank Harlow, Bill's abusive and domineering father. The role brought him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2011. He also made a guest appearance in “CSI: NY” (2007).   

Dern picked up the Philadelphia Film Festival Jury Award for playing Howard Blaime in the Canadian horror film “Swamp Devil” (2008), directed by David Winning. He co-starred with David Carradine and Rip Torn in the romance/comedy “The Golden Boys” (2008), appeared with Peter Falk in his final feature, “American Cowslip” (2009), rejoined director Joe Dante for the adventure film “The Hole” (2009), which won the 3-D Award at the Venice Film festival, and worked with Richard Dreyfuss, Blythe Danner and Mamie Gummer in Daniel Adams' comedy, “The Lightkeepers” (2009), where he received a Method Fest nomination for his supporting turn as Bennie. Additionally, he appeared in films “Train” (2010), “Choose” (2011), “Inside Out” (2010) and “Twixt” (2011).

Recently playing James in “Hitting the Cycle” (2012), a drama film starring J. Richey Nash, Courtney Henggeler and Travis Schuldt, Dern is set to play roles in several upcoming movies, including “Love Orchard” (2012, helmed by Farhad Mann), “Django Unchained” (2012, directed and written by Quentin Tarantino and stars Jamie Foxx, Don Johnson and Leonardo DiCaprio), “Nebraska” (2012, helmed by Alexander Payne), “Standby” (2012, written and directed by Mark Fauser) and “TBK: The Toolbox Murders 2” (2012, directed and penned by Dean Jones).         


Philadelphia Film Festival: Jury Award, “Swamp Devil,” 2008
Golden Boot : 2002
Berlin International Film Festival: Silver Berlin Bear, Best Actor, “That Championship Season,” 1983
National Society of Film Critics (NSFC): Best Supporting Actor, “Drive, He Said,” 1972
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Theatrical Motion Picture, “The Cowboys,” 1972 Show Less
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