14″ x 14″ Signed Sept. 22, 1997 through the mail
Playing characters ranging from wide-eyed virgins to willful sirens to drug-addicted losers, Laura Dern is among the screen’s most interesting modern actresses. Tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and slender, Dern moves with a coltish combination of grace and gangliness that she uses to make herself alternately plain or beautiful, innocent or seductive, as her roles require. Her parents, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, are both successful actors but initially discouraged her from becoming involved in the profession. Still, acting was Dern’s childhood goal, and after her parents divorced, she made her film debut at the age of six in White Lightning (1973).
The following year, Dern played a bit part in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. She got her first major role in 1980, playing a teenager in Adrian Lyne’s Foxes. By 1983, she had appeared in more films, and in defiance of her parents’ wishes, decided to get some formal dramatic training at the Lee Strasberg Institute, where she studied Method acting. She went on to appear in films such as Teachers (1984) and Mask (1985) and gained a reputation for realistic portrayals of goodhearted innocents. Dern could have easily been typecast into such roles had Joyce Chopra not cast her as a rebellious teen anxious to experience a sexual awakening in Smooth Talk (1986). The young actress’ portrayal earned her a New Generation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics. That same year, Dern became an even more marketable actress when she played a fresh-faced young sleuth in David Lynch’s disturbing, groundbreaking Blue Velvet. She again worked with Lynch in the flamboyantly bizarre Wild at Heart (1990), in which she played an oversexed 20-year-old on the run with her lover (Nicholas Cage). The film proved to be a family affair, as Ladd played her villainous mother. The two appeared together again the following year in the beautifully wrought Rambling Rose. Dern’s naturalistic performance as a troubled 19-year-old who wants love, but has confused it with sex, won her considerable acclaim that culminated in an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Ladd was also nominated, making it the first time a mother-daughter team had been so honored in the same year.
In 1993, Dern became a bigger star portraying a courageous paleo-botanist in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Jurassic Park. Three years later, she played one of her most offbeat roles as a paint-huffing, spiteful, pregnant, and dumb as a box-of-doorknobs homeless girl who finds herself caught in the middle of a battle royale between pro- and anti-abortion groups in the black comedy Citizen Ruth. In 1999, she took on two very diverse roles, first playing a supportive high school teacher in October Sky and then returning to the realm of eccentricity — and to sharing the screen with her mother — as part of an unconventional Alabama family in Billy Bob Thornton’s Daddy and Them.
In addition to her film career, Dern has appeared on stage and television. In 1992, she won an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe award for performing in the HBO docudrama Afterburn. In 1997, she again proved her versatility by offering a convincing, Emmy-nominated portrayal of a lesbian who is comfortable with her sexuality in a landmark episode of the sitcom Ellen in which star Ellen DeGeneres “comes out of the closet.”