• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

How the Dern Family Survived Career Setbacks, Embarrassing Set Moments

Page 1
Dern family

The Dern clan made history when Diane and Laura were nominated for Oscars in '91, and they're doing it again -- along with Bruce -- with a trio of stars on the Walk of Fame, Nov. 1.

It would be surprising if Laura Dern had not become an actress. At 7, she was already shuttling between her parents' movie sets -- which one summer in the mid-'70s meant exposure to dad Bruce Dern in Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot and mom Diane Ladd in Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

"I thought I was in heaven," she recalls.

Acting has been heaven for the Dern clan since the late 1950s, when Bruce and Diane were just getting started. The family made history when Diane and Laura were both Oscar nominated for 1991's Rambling Rose, and they're doing it again, receiving back-to-back stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Nov. 1.

"I was stunned that they'd take a family, three people at a time," Bruce says. "I thought you had to go to the moon to have a star on the boulevard."


"When we were filming 'Wild at Heart,' [Laura] said, 'Oh, mommy, thank you for the genes.' I said, 'Honey, your father and I made the car, but you're the driver.' " -- Diane Ladd

Bruce and Diane were married in 1960; he was a former athlete from outside Chicago, she an outspoken Mississippi belle, and they met during a New York production of Orpheus Descending. While they lost a first daughter in 1961, Laura arrived in 1967, two years before her parents' split. They remain friendly -- Bruce calls his ex-wife "a good dame."

Over the years, the trio independently have mapped out an unusual career spanning features and television -- everything from Diane's appearances on The Love Boat and Chinatown to Wild at Heart (along with Laura) to Laura's role in Blue Velvet and Bruce's in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte and Coming Home.

Fifty years after the parents began in the business, they're still going -- Laura and Diane in HBO's Enlightened, Bruce with several feature projects. While the star on the Walk of Fame is great, the parents remain most proud of their other star.

"When we were filming Wild at Heart, [Laura] said, 'Oh, mommy, thank you for the genes,' " Diane recalls. "I said, 'Honey, your father and I made the car, but you're the driver.' "