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