Age 81

Esquire (Singapore) - - Style -

The Leg­end

Take a young man from a rich, aris­to­cratic fam­ily and give him the nerve to be­come an ac­tor. Let that fam­ily dis­miss his am­bi­tions. Have him flee Illi­nois for New York and study with Lee Stras­berg at the Ac­tors Stu­dio (the same place that turned out Brando and New­man). Have him per­form on Broad­way un­der Elia Kazan. Cast him in a western, The Cow­boys, on the wan­ing side of the peak of the coun­ter­cul­ture. Style him in grubby cow­boy clothes and long hair and tell him to shoot dead the pris­tine John Wayne. Clothe him in suits from some up­start tie de­signer named Ralph Lau­ren for his part as Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. Dress him in Ma­rine dress blues, then have him strip them off and chuck them in the ocean in Com­ing Home. Give him an Os­car nod. Cast him in The ’Burbs.

Have his daugh­ter, Laura, also be­come an ac­claimed ac­tor. Have him run miles and miles and miles ev­ery day. Have him, at 76, take on a role in Alexan­der Payne’s Ne­braska that tele­graphs the re­gret and re­sent­ment, stub­born­ness and the am­bi­tion he felt within his own fam­ily. Give him an­other Os­car nom­i­na­tion. Have Bruce Dern live the life and the craft of an ac­tor. Let him tell you about the other di­rec­tors he’s worked with (Hitch­cock, Tarantino) and what makes them ge­niuses: “A rev­er­ence for what came be­fore them.” And how the clothes in those movies help com­mu­ni­cate char­ac­ter and make his job a lit­tle bit eas­ier. Let Bruce Dern tell you what a life ded­i­cated to telling sto­ries has been like.

Sweater by BOSS.

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