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Laura Elizabeth Dern (born February 10, 1967) is an American actress, film director and producer. Dern has acted in such films as Smooth Talk (1985), Blue Velvet (1986), Fat Man and Little Boy (1988), Wild at Heart (1990), Jurassic Park (1993 plus sequels) and October Sky (1999). She received critical acclaim for her performance in the 1991 film Rambling Rose, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her portrayal of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris in the film Recount (2008).

Early life and career

Dern was born in Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker, the daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd and the great-granddaughter of former Utahmarker governor George Dern. Her great uncle was the Scottish-American poet, writer and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish. Laura Dern's film debut was a cameo in her mother's film White Lightning. She also made a brief appearance in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, one of Ladd's signature roles. Her mother objected to the 13-year-old's presence on the set of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, but a defiant Dern sued for emancipation.

In the mid-1980s she gained critical acclaim for roles in films by Peter Bogdanovich (Mask) and David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart). Dern's starring role in Blue Velvet appeared to be a breakthrough but her next notable film took almost four years to be released, Wild at Heart, also directed by Lynch. Dern's affiliation with Lynch has continued with her recent role in Inland Empire.

In 1992, Dern and her mother became the first mother and daughter to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting in the same film in Rambling Rose. They, however, did not play mother and daughter in the film.

Dern starred as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. That same year, Clint Eastwood enlisted the actress for his film A Perfect World.

She also starred as Ruth in the 1996 satire Citizen Ruth, the directorial debut of Alexander Payne. In a reversal of roles, Dern's mother makes a cameo appearance, with Dern's character screaming a torrent of abuse at her.

In 1997, Dern was featured in Widespread Panic's music video for their song, "Aunt Avis", which was directed by Dern's then boyfriend and future fiancé, Billy Bob Thornton. In 1998, Dern and Stockard Channing co-starred in the Showtime film The Baby Dance. The film, produced by Jodie Foster, followed two couples from different backgrounds through a difficult adoption.

While dating Thornton in 1999, she was cast as his love interest in his film Daddy and Them. The film is about a dysfunctional Arkansasmarker family which includes (again) Diane Ladd, Andy Griffith and Jim Varney in his final film performance. Dern also appeared in Joe Johnston's film October Sky opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Cooper. Robert Altman called upon Dern's talents to play a Champagne-loving Aunt in his Texas-based comedy Dr. T & the Women in 2000. The film also starred Richard Gere, Helen Hunt and Kate Hudson.

Then came 2001, a busy year for Dern as she took on five films. The first was a TV movie with Ellen Burstyn called Within These Walls. Based on a true story, Dern played a nun who taught female inmates to train dogs for people with special needs. She co-starred with William H. Macy in Focus based on Arthur Miller's novel. Next she co-starred with Steve Martin and Helena Bonham Carter in the dark comedy Novocaine. She also had a minor role in Jurassic Park III. The film I Am Sam with Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer featured Dern in a supporting role.

The 2002 Showtime film Damaged Care starred Dern in the true story of Linda Peeno, who became famous for testifying before the United States Congress against health maintenance organizations after working for them in the 1980s. The real Linda Peeno made an appearance in Michael Moore's documentary Sicko. The 2004 film We Don't Live Here Anymore then gave Dern some of the best reviews of her career, as she portrayed a woman in a troubled marriage opposite Mark Ruffalo.

Dern was part of the ensemble dramedy Happy Endings in 2005. Directed by Don Roos, it follows a loosely connected group of Los Angelesmarker residents through their life trials. The film featured Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Steve Coogan. Dern appeared in the film The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio with Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson. When David Lynch and Dern reunited in 2006 for Inland Empire the critical praise for Dern's lead role was overwhelming. There was speculation among some critics that she would be nominated for an Oscar for that film. Also in 2006, Dern had a supporting role in Lonely Hearts. The story of the famed Lonely Hearts Killers, it starred Salma Hayek, John Travolta and Jared Leto.

Mike White, known for writing School of Rock and The Good Girl, hired Dern for his directorial debut. Released in 2007, the film is a comedy titled Year of the Dog starring Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly and Peter Sarsgaard. Dern will soon be seen opposite Russell Crowe in the independent drama Tenderness.

In an interview, Dern stated that she would reprise her role as Ellie Sattler for Jurassic Park IV.

Dern has done much work on television, most notably Afterburn, for which she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie. She guest-starred on The West Wing, as a voice on King of the Hill and as a lesbian who coaxes Ellen DeGeneres out of the closet in the famous "The Puppy Episode" of the television series Ellen. On the April 24, 2007 airing of DeGeneres' talk show, Dern revealed she did not work for more than a year following her appearance in that episode because of resulting backlash, but nevertheless called it an "extraordinary experience and opportunity."

In May 2008, Dern portrayed controversial Floridamarker politician Katherine Harris in the HBO movie Recount about the 2000 United States Presidential Election and received many positive reviews on her performance including a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

Next up for Dern is the suspense/thriller Tenderness(working title), with Russell Crowe, slated for release in September 2009.

Politics and personal life

Dern is known as an outspoken activist and supporter of many charitable causes, such as Healthy Child Healthy World, which aims to raise awareness about toxic substances that can affect a child's health. She has been acknowledged with several awards from the independent film industry including the Sundance Institute and was the subject of an aggressive media campaign by David Lynch to win her an Academy Award nomination for her work in Inland Empire.

During the 66th Golden Globe Awards, on January 11, 2009, Dern expressed support for the incoming administration of Barack Obama during her acceptance speech for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her work on the film Recount. She is quoted as saying, "I will cherish this as a reminder of the extraordinary, incredible outpouring of people who demanded their voice be heard in this last election so we can look forward to amazing change in this country. Thank you so much!"

Dern had high-profile romances with Kyle MacLachlan, Nicolas Cage, Renny Harlin, Jeff Goldblum, and Billy Bob Thornton (who ended their relationship abruptly by marrying Angelina Jolie). She married musician Ben Harper on December 23, 2005, after dating him for five years. They have two children together, son Ellery Walker (b. 21 August 2001) and daughter Jaya (b. 28 November 2004).





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