Dern on Heartbreak and Homelessness

Sure, Laura Dern's got a new movie to promote, Dr. T and the Women, in which she has a supporting part as a newly divorced, alcoholic Texas matron, but she and the public are somewhat more focused on a recent chapter in the willowy actress's personal life.

Having been unceremoniously dumped by longtime fiancé Billy Bob Thornton, Dern was understandably hurt both by his betrayal and by the subsequent media circus over Thornton's whirlwind marriage to Angelina Jolie.

In her 18 years in show business, Dern has always remained private about her life, but now she's reluctantly addressing the split, saying, "It's tough when you're silent and other people [namely those public-display-affection addicts Thornton and Jolie] aren't."

Dern compares Thornton's weaselly departure to the much more circumspect behavior of her past loves, like Jeff Goldblum and Renny Harlin. Pointedly referring to her other exes as having "integrity and self-respect," she notes, "Goldblum and myself, we held we'd be respectful and loving to each other in the media and there's no other way to do it.

"To utilize the media to be who you really are is such a great gift and people who use it to discard others, it's sad for them."

Dern still has one more reminder of her time with Billy Bob: their long-delayed black comedy Daddy and Them, which has been held up until next spring. Dern explains that Daddy contractually had to follow the Thornton-directed All the Pretty Horses into theaters. When Horses was postponed a year, so was Daddy.

As to the rumor that since he's already cut Dern out his life, Thornton's gone back to the editing room to also cut Laura out of Daddy and Them, Dern just laughs. "If he did, he's a brilliant editor! I'm in every scene because the movie is about [both of us] — and it would be highly self-indulgent for him to be in a relationship with himself. I heard he went back in the editing room but I think it was to tighten up the movie."

As for the recent tumult in her own life, Dern, at 33, says she's not giving up on love or hope or any of the rest of the good stuff.

"It's weird that when given challenges in our life the response is so often to be a cynic: 'We'll show them! They hurt us and now we're going to respond by being miserable and in pain.' There's another alternative, which is to expand your heart that much more. People get their heart broken but it's your heart breaking open.

"Your faith is diminished or dramatically restored when you go through a challenge. I realize God totally intervened in my life," adds the actress, who last semester took college courses in the world's religions, "and I realize now I'm the luckiest girl alive. How can I not have faith by the experiences I have? People have opened their homes to me and I'm living with a girlfriend."

Does she mean she's homeless?!

"'Without residence,'" she smiles, "I believe is the term."