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Maybe it was the similar Christian Louboutin pumps or the posh Century City office. But almost immediately after Marriage Story was released, celebrity divorce lawyer Laura Wasser of Wasser, Cooperman and Mandles was flooded with calls and emails from people who noticed likenesses to Laura Dern’s take-no-prisoners divorce lawyer character, which garnered her an Oscar nom. “People were asking, ‘Are you Laura Dern?’ ” recalls Wasser.
The similarities were not by chance. Wasser represented Marriage Story director Noah Baumbach in his 2010 divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, so he had seen the lawyer in action. And, a few years later, Wasser and Baumbach each had a son enrolled at the same Los Angeles private school. The director approached Wasser to see if his production designer could scout her Century City law offices, and he ended up shooting in the building as well.
Wasser also represented Dern in her 2013 divorce from Ben Harper. Before Marriage Story came out, the lawyer says the actress gave her a heads up about the resemblances, cautioning that she shouldn’t take the characterization personally as it was an amalgamation of a few family lawyers. “She’s disingenuous and she’s aggressive,” is how Wasser describes Dern in the film.
She notes that before the onscreen split of Nicole and Charlie Barber (Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver) got ugly, the pair hadn’t wanted to use lawyers — and that’s something Wasser encourages. “My entire career is based on problem solving, not crushing my opponent. One of the reasons I created an online dispute resolution tool, ‘It’s Over Easy,’ is to make it easier for people to be masters of their own destiny rather than bankrupting themselves at the hands of attorneys who make money from prolonged conflict.”
Behind the Desk
This story first appeared in the Feb. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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