Award-winning actress Laura Dern on growing up in Hollywood, falling in love with acting and becoming an investor

Over a 40-year career, Laura Dern has made her mark in Hollywood.

November 05, 2019, 4:11 AM

Laura Dern is ubiquitous in Hollywood. Her list of projects and upcoming roles has her on-screen across genres playing a vast range of characters. From Renata Klein in HBO's “Big Little Lies” to Amilyn Holdo in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to Laura Albert in "JT LeRoy," to countless other roles, her ability to transform as a character has made her one of the most dynamic actresses in the industry.

Dern’s love of acting started at a young age. She remembers being seven years old and spending the summer on movie sets watching her actor parents, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, work with legendary filmmakers Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese, respectively.

“I fell so in love not just with acting as a craft or a job, but the specific dynamic and collaboration between a filmmaker, an author, and an actor.” Dern tells ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis on an episode of the “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.

PHOTO: Award-winning actress, producer, and investor Laura Dern joins ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis on the "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis" podcast
Award-winning actress, producer, and investor Laura Dern joins ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis on the "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis" podcast
Taylor Dunn/ABC News

She says listening to the conversations between these filmmakers and their actors has had a lasting impact on her career and how she approaches her roles.

“How to create empathy around revealing the brokenness in people, that was the conversation these filmmakers were having, and the movies that my parents and their friends were making in the late 70s really showed me what it could be like to be part of storytelling as a job. And that's what I fell in love with.”

That summer, Dern was an extra in Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” She eats ice cream cones in the background, while her mother played the character Florence Jean Castleberry, which earned Ladd an Oscar nomination for best-supporting actress.

“After these many takes and having to eat that many ice cream cones and not getting sick, he [Scorsese] told my mom in front of me that I was going to be an actress and I used that to my benefit for quite a number of years.”

Dern acted consistently throughout her teenage years while remaining engaged in high school, where she served as student body president, ran track and swam. She graduated a year early, and by the time she was 24 years old had earned her first Academy Award nomination for her role in “Rambling Rose” alongside her mother. That year Dern and her mother made history as the first mother-daughter duo to both be nominated for an Academy Award for the same film.

Since then, her accolades include an additional Oscar nomination, four Golden Globe Awards with seven nominations as well as a Primetime Emmy Award, also with seven nominations. And today she’s busier than ever.

She’ll be starring as Marmee in Greta Gerwig’s remake of “Little Women,” out this Christmas and in Netflix’s “Marriage Story” directed by Noah Baumbach out this December. Off-screen she’s become a producer, creating the production, Jaywalker Pictures in 2017, and recently an investor in the nontoxic skincare and hair company True Botanicals, a company she says she “fell in love” with as a consumer while working on “Big Little Lies.”

“I started to learn more about the company, learned that it's a female-run and led company, learned about the consideration and the consciousness behind the company... that in fact, they've done their due diligence to research and to really be chemical-free.”

Dern says she wrote a “love letter” to founder and CEO Hillary Peterson thanking her “as an environmentalist for making a difference,” and her relationship with the company grew from there. On whether she would consider investing in other environmentally conscious companies, Dern says she would be interested.

“I can't think of a more beautiful way to spend my time than wanting to grow companies that are female-run, that really consider the planet and the next generation.”

Hear more from Laura Dern on episode #136 of the “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.

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