1. She has never not been in the movies
Laura Dern would have been the size of a poppy seed on the set of 1966 exploitation flick The Wild Angels... As a week-old newborn she slept in the drawer of a motel room in the Mojave Desert while her dad, Bruce Dern, shot a Western with Charlton Heston. Aged five, she watched her father’s decapitated head bounce down a staircase in the camp Bette Davis psycho-thriller Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte – it was the first time she had seen him on-screen.
2. At seven, she ate 19 ice creams in one day for Martin Scorsese’s 1974 drama Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
In the 19 takes it took to nail the scene. And she did it with such stoic professionalism Scorsese told her mother, Diane Ladd, that she was destined to become an actress.
3. She comes from Hollywood royalty
Her parents – Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern – are both actors themselves; Ladd is in fact a cousin of the playwright of melancholy heroines and gin-cocktail lunches, Tennessee Williams.
4. She celebrated her 13th birthday on a cramped tour bus with two Sex Pistols, Paul Simonon of The Clash and Ray Winstone
Perhaps not the most savoury of company, these were her co-stars in Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains – the story of an all-girl punk band stewing in a bleak Pennsylvanian factory town who lunge at the chance to escape on a shoestring tour to California.
5. She meets David Lynch regularly for fried chicken at the Chateau Marmont
At 17, she found herself in Bob’s Big Boy diner having malts and french fries with David Lynch, landing a movie of severed ears and sadomasochism called Blue Velvet and, in the process, discovered the director who proved to be “the miracle” of her career. These days, she and Lynch meet regularly for fried chicken at the Chateau Marmont. His nickname for her is “Tidbit”.
6. Lynch didn’t audition her for Blue Velvet, or for any of his films
“I know he was looking for someone he believed was really pure,” Dern reveals. “Not in a physical way, like, ‘She looks like a girl next door,’ but pure of heart, maybe. Not jaded, not cynical. And that is the one thing I will say for myself. I’ve been very lucky in many ways, but I’ve been through my own version of a lot, my own heartbreaks, we all have, and I’ve not become bitter ever, over anything. It’s part of my constitution and I think David really likes that. I can be dramatic or emotional or scared, but he needed Sandy, at her root, to be such a believer, so hopeful, such an optimist, and that really is my nature. Because, yeah, he hadn’t auditioned me. He’s never auditioned me. Shit, if he does now, I may never work with him again. Luckily I just keep fooling him.”
7. She and her mother were both Oscar-nominated for Martha Coolidge’s Depression-era drama Rambling Rose
Marking a first in Hollywood history.
8. She has an amazing costume archive
Dern has kept the revealing fern-green dress she wears in Rambling Rose; Nicolas Cage’s infamous snakeskin jacket from Wild at Heart; the white suit she wore as the lesbian character Ellen DeGeneres comes out to in the watershed episode of the latter’s sitcom in 1997; and her ‘Wonder Girl’ T-shirt from the black comedy Citizen Ruth, Alexander Payne’s 1996 debut feature.
9. She’ll almost definitely be in more Greta Gerwig films
“[Gerwig and I] talk with our hands, we’re gawky in the same way, we have the same long features and arms and body,” says Dern of the Little Women director. “Then, when Greta was casting Lady Bird, she said, ‘I found our other sibling in this girl Saoirse Ronan’ – we’re all kind of similar featured. So we said, we’ve got to make movies together for ever.”
10. The cast of Little Women lived together during filming
And slowly melted into the amorphous family that Gerwig captured on celluloid, tumbling over each other and absolutely at ease. “We’d have dinners together, read excerpts of the book and the script, share stories and read poetry and talk in front of the fire,” says Dern. “Greta wanted it to feel messy and floppy and human and hippie. So my job was to make sure they had their hands on me all the time. My daughter is never not touching me. There’s no boundary with your children, and you never see that on-screen in the way we deserve to.”
11. Her front door is guarded by a miniature T-rex figurine
A gift from Steven Spielberg.
12. Her character in Marriage Story is different from anything she’s played before
“I think she’s the first character I’ve played who doesn’t come from deep insecurity,” says Dern. “She’s in it to win, no matter the cost. She’s absolutely in control and will never lose her cool. I mean, my God, what a boss... I’ve spent 20 years playing the broken, wounded girl who would never get a shot in the room. And it’s kind of amazing that tides are changing and there are enough characters to play this whole other world – of what it means to be a woman and enter this or that workplace, and how they’re treated. Really, we’re going to see storytelling as we’re living it, because we’re all just getting used to it.”
Head here to read the interview in full.
Hannah Lack’s interview with Laura Dern appears in AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2020, which is on sale internationally from February 13, 2020.
Hair: Esther Langham at Art and Commerce using Foil Frizz and Static Control Spray by R+Co. Make-Up: Francelle Daly at Art and Commerce using Lovecraft Beauty. Set Design: Piers Hanmer. Manicure: Megumi Yamamoto at Susan Price NYC. Digital Tech: Henri Coutant. Lighting: Romain Dubus. Photographic Assistants: Gaspar Dietrich and Stefano Ortega. Styling Assistants: Desirée ADédjé, Jasmine Morales and Helen Franco. Hair Assistant: Gabe Jenkins. Make-Up Assistant: Agus Arcidiacono. Production: One Thirtyeight Productions. Production Assistants: Jacob Gottlieb and Andrew Gowen. Post-Production: Stéphane Virlogeux.