Date of Birth: February 10, 1967
Laura Dern was bitten by the acting bug as a child, when she played bit parts in her
parents' (actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern) movies. Initially discouraged by them
from becoming involved in the profession, 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 good-hearted 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 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 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
off-beat 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 eccentricityand
shared the screen with her mother againas part of an unconventional Alabama family in Billy Bob Thornton's Daddy and Them (2000). Other film work includes appearing with Sean Penn in I Am Sam (2002) and in We Don't Live Here Anymore (2004) with Mark Ruffalo and Little Fockers (2010) with Ben Stiller.
After dating musician Ben Harper for five years, Dern married him in 2005. The pair had two children together, Ellery Walker and Jaya. On October 8, 2010, Harper filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences."