While Laura Dern is a formidable actress, potential vying for her third Oscar nomination and first win for Marriage Story, there was a time when she was still carving out her place in Hollywood. During an interview with Greta Gerwig on Inside the Actors Studio, airing on Sunday, Nov. 17, Dern explains how filmmaker David Lynch helped her on her path.
“At the time I had done Mask, I had done Blue Velvet,” Dern says. “And despite other films, those were more known and those were more perceived as the girl next door. And, so, suddenly I started seeing my first opportunity at being typecast. You know, here are more girls that felt like this and that was sort of the thing I did, perhaps.”
“It was an amazing gift that a filmmaker who knows you would say,” she adds, before continuing in the voice of Lynch. “‘Now I want you to play the complete opposite of what you did last time.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, really David. Do you think it will work?’”
According to Dern, he responded with, “You’ll have them bolting for the fire exits!”
Following Blue Velvet, Dern went on to work with Lynch on two films, Wild at Heart and Industrial Symphony No. 1, before she earned her first Oscar nomination for Martha Coolidge’s Rambling Rose in 1991.
In the years that followed, the actress starred in seemingly everything from Jurassic Park to Dr. T & the Women, and made an unforgettable appearance on Ellen, when Ellen DeGeneres came out on TV. While that role left her blacklisted for a time, Dern has since experienced a career renaissance, thanks to reuniting with Lynch for the Twin Peaks revival, her Emmy-winning performance on Big Little Lies, and appearing in films like Downsizing and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Meanwhile, Dern’s praise for Lynch didn’t stop with Inside the Actors Studio. The actress recently paid tribute to the filmmaker by presenting him with an honorary Oscar at the 2019 Governors Awards in October.
“My first meeting with David, he cast me at age 17 in Blue Velvet,” she recalled before her former co-star Kyle MacLachlan echoed her earlier sentiment. Lynch gave them “bold and boundaryless opportunities as actors to enter his world, but he’s asked many of us to create radically new characters never concerned that we would be identified with previous work we’ve done with him,” he said.