Laura Dern


Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - /q&a - In­ter­view by JAMES MOTTRAM

You’re the daugh­ter of ac­tors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd and were raised when “celebrity” wasn’t such a thing. You’re now 52 – is it a dif­fer­ent world to­day? It is, and one I didn’t have to grow up with, so I was lucky. But like any­body, we all have to strug­gle with our egos and in­se­cu­ri­ties. I think that be­ing raised by them and see­ing the long jour­ney of a ca­reer of any kind of artist, cer­tainly in their cases, kept me grounded, grate­ful and re­mem­ber­ing good for­tune and pa­tience.

You and your mother have worked to­gether sev­eral times. Is that a ca­reer high­light? It is. It’s one thing to love your mother’s work and ad­mire her be­cause she’s your mother, and be­cause you’re an ac­tor and you watch her. But to work with Reese Wither­spoon for the first time on [2014 film] Wild, and one of the first things she said to me was, “Oh my god, I’m so ex­cited to meet you. Your mother is my favourite ac­tress of all time!” And to be re­minded, I don’t just feel the way I feel be­cause I’m the daugh­ter.

You also starred with Wither­spoon on Big Lit­tle Lies. How was that?

My ex­pe­ri­ence was gor­geous be­cause I love that char­ac­ter [Re­nata Klein] so much. But a high­light of all time was get­ting to work with Meryl Streep. You dream of work­ing with Meryl as though you’re go­ing to treat her with the level of re­spect you hold in your heart, and then you get to play Re­nata [on top of that]!

In an up­com­ing ver­sion of Lit­tle Women, you’ve worked with Streep and an­other all-star cast again. Did you en­joy that? It was amaz­ing for all of us to spend a year to­gether, be­cause it is like that. Mov­ing to dif­fer­ent cities, hav­ing all your din­ners to­gether, shar­ing your life, your sto­ries, your chil­dren… it re­ally does be­come a fam­ily. That part of it alone was pretty amaz­ing. They’re all in­cred­i­ble – free and wild and ready to try any­thing, and deeply dis­ci­plined.

Your next movie is Mar­riage Story,

a painful di­vorce drama. Was it tough to make? Oh, one mil­lion per cent. Par­tic­u­larly [for co-stars] Adam [Driver] and Scar­lett [Jo­hans­son]… they cracked their hearts open ev­ery sec­ond. I know it was ex­cru­ci­at­ing at times, as any­thing you open your heart to is, if you want it to be pure and true.

Was your char­ac­ter, di­vorce lawyer Nora Fan­shaw, based on your own ex­pe­ri­ences? She is a com­bi­na­tion of peo­ple who taught me a lot about the busi­ness of di­vorce. There are peo­ple who in­spired the role, both from my own ex­pe­ri­ence and the di­rec­tor Noah Baum­bach, who re­searched it – be­tween di­vorce lawyers, judges, me­di­a­tors.

Now that your son Ellery, 18, and daugh­ter Jaya, 14, are teens, do you like show­ing them your pre­vi­ous work?

There’s a lot they haven’t seen. My son is be­com­ing more in­ter­ested in study­ing film, so he’s im­mers­ing him­self in David Lynch’s work and other film­mak­ers that I’ve worked with. It’s fun that they’re of the age to start to dis­cover, so I’m do­ing a lit­tle of that with them. But cer­tainly they had a lot of fun with Star Wars

[Dern played Vice Ad­mi­ral Holdo in 2017’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi] and liked that I was heroic, given that I stir up trou­ble in other movies.

Mar­riage Story is in se­lected cine­mas from Novem­ber 14 and avail­able on Net­flix from De­cem­ber 6.

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