Bruce Dern


Actor
Bruce Dern

About

Also Known As
Bruce Macleish Dern
Birth Place
Winnetka, Illinois, USA
Born
June 04, 1936

Biography

An intense character actor who was frequently typecast as a psycho or villain, Bruce Dern started on television with credits on multiple Westerns. He scored film success with roles in Hitchcock's "Marnie" (1964), Bette Davis' "Hush.Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1964), and a string of projects with Roger Corman, including "The Wild Angels" (1966). As a genre star, Dern was most recognizable for...

Photos & Videos

The Cowboys - Movie Posters
The Trip - Movie Poster
Psych-Out - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Diane Ladd
Wife
Actor. Married in 1960; divorced in 1967; met while appearing Off-Broadway in "Orpheus Descending" (1959).
Andrea Dern
Wife
Married on October 20, 1969.

Notes

Dern says he became an actor "to find out what makes people do what they do in times of stress." --From The Hollywood Reporter, March 15, 1991.

Biography

An intense character actor who was frequently typecast as a psycho or villain, Bruce Dern started on television with credits on multiple Westerns. He scored film success with roles in Hitchcock's "Marnie" (1964), Bette Davis' "Hush.Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1964), and a string of projects with Roger Corman, including "The Wild Angels" (1966). As a genre star, Dern was most recognizable for his committed turns in lower quality but vivid productions including the mad scientist film "The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant" (1971), the sci-fi proto-environmental picture "Silent Running" (1972), and the deranged mastermind behind a blimp bombing of the Super Bowl in "Black Sunday" (1977). Other notable film work included "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (1969), "Support Your Local Sheriff!" (1969), and his infamous turn as a cattle rustler who kills John Wayne in "The Cowboys" (1972). He garnered award recognition as the spoiled Tom Buchanan in "The Great Gatsby" (1974) and as a disillusioned Vietnam vet in "Coming Home" (1978). The ex-husband of fellow actor Diane Ladd and the father of actress Laura Dern, he continued to book roles into later age, including a chilling turn as the domineering father of polygamist Bill (Bill Paxton) on "Big Love" (HBO, 2006-2011) and a former Confederate general in Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" (2015). Although he never fully broke out of his typecasting as a genre heavy, Bruce Dern proved he possessed impressive enough acting chops to build a long-lasting career.

Born June 4, 1936 in Chicago, IL, Bruce MacLeish Dern came from a powerful patrician family. He received his start in the theater, where he caught the eye of director Elia Kazan in a 1959 production and was subsequently invited to train at the Actors Studio. After falling in love with Diane Ladd, one of his theatrical co-stars, the two married in 1960, with Ladd giving birth to a daughter, Laura Dern, in 1967. The couple divorced two years later. His first film appearance was an uncredited bit part in Kazan's "Wild River" (1960), and for the remainder of the decade, Dern moved easily between TV and features. He made guest appearances on "The Fugitive" (ABC, 1963-67) and many Westerns, including episodes of "Wagon Train" (NBC, 1957-1962; ABC, 1962-65), "The Virginian" (NBC, 1962-1971) and a regular role on "Stoney Burke" (ABC, 1962-63), but made his biggest impression as a psycho on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (CBS, 1955-1960, 1962-64; NBC, 1960-62, 1964-65), an image he would find difficult to shake professionally.

On the big screen, he played a sailor in Hitchcock's "Marnie" (1964) and the doomed, married lover of Bette Davis in the Southern gothic horror film "Hush.Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1964). His success in genre projects, especially his longtime association with B-movie king Roger Corman, ensured steady paychecks with roles in the biker drama "The Wild Angels" (1966), the gangster biopic "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (1967), and the LSD-fueled thriller "The Trip" (1967), but these parts damaged his reputation as a "serious" actor. On TV, he continued to play heavies, especially in law enforcement and Western roles, making multiple appearances on "The F.B.I." (ABC, 1965-1974), "The Big Valley" (ABC, 1965-69), "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975) and "Bonanza" (NBC, 1959-1973).

Dern revealed more versatility with a role as a desperate dance marathon contestant in the taut, Depression-set drama "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (1969) alongside Jane Fonda, as well as his hotheaded gunslinger in the Western spoof "Support Your Local Sheriff!" (1969). But genre work was never that far away, with roles in the Cline Eastwood Western "Hang 'Em High" (1968), the Ma Barker shoot-'em-up "Bloody Mama" (1970), and the mad scientist flick "The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant" (1971). He earned a National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor award for his role as a zealous basketball coach in the polarizing Jack Nicholson-helmed drama "Drive, He Said" (1971) and made an indelible mark for many fans as a rebellious botanist in the sci-fi "Silent Running" (1972). Oddly enough, he received real-life death threats for doing the unthinkable: killing John Wayne onscreen in "The Cowboys" (1972).

Achieving a hard-earned reputation as one of the era's most talented character actors among his peers if not always with critics, Dern reteamed with Jack Nicholson to play a con man in "The King of Marvin Gardens" (1972) and received a Golden Globe nomination as the spoiled Tom Buchanan in the high-profile flop "The Great Gatsby" (1974). The actor reteamed with Hitchcock for the director's final film, "Family Plot" (1976) and played a deranged blimp pilot intent on suicide bombing the Super Bowl in "Black Sunday" (1977). Critics and fans who thought they knew the extent of Dern's range, however, were bowled over by his wrenching turn as a disillusioned Marine struggling with PTSD and the unfaithfulness of his wife (Jane Fonda) with a paraplegic Vietnam vet-turned-antiwar protestor (Jon Voight) in the Oscar-winning drama "Coming Home" (1978). Dern earned nominations for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Golden Globe for his work. His subsequent bid for leading man stardom, "Middle Age Crazy" (1980), flopped, and he retreated to more familiar ground, playing a psycho. His turn as a crazed tattoo artist obsessed with a model (Maud Adams) in the sexually-charged disaster "Tattoo" (1981) was universally reviled, earning him a Razzie nomination, and he further damaged his reputation by claiming that he and Adams had actually had sex on camera during the film. Dern next played a mayor desperately trying to win re-election in "That Championship Season" (1982), but despite its impressive pedigree, the film had little impact. His career slowed as the 1980s wore on, although he appeared in a small role in the dark Tom Hanks comedy "The 'Burbs" (1989) and briefly sparked some Oscar buzz as a con man in the desert noir flick "After Dark, My Sweet" (1990).

Balancing out small roles in made-for-TV projects, Dern continued to book film work at a slower pace, appearing in the submarine comedy "Down Periscope" (1996), the Western "Last Man Standing" (1996), the supernatural horror film "The Haunting" (1999), the Cormac McCarthy adaptation "All the Pretty Horses" (2000) and the evil stepparents thriller "The Glass House" (2001). He played one of the only supportive male figures in the life of serial killer Aileen Wournos (Charlize Theron) in Patty Jenkins' Oscar-winning biopic "Monster" (2003) and essayed likable turns opposite Billy Bob Thornton in "The Astronaut Farmer" (2006) and Kristen Stewart in "The Cake Eaters" (2007). On television, he recurred as the domineering and abusive father of polygamist Bill (Bill Paxton) on "Big Love" (HBO, 2006-2011), and was honored in November 2010 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the same day that his daughter Laura Dern and ex-wife Diane Ladd received their stars. More significantly, Dern earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Frank Harlow on "Big Love." Back in features, Dern had roles in the little-seen horror thriller "Twixt" (2011), starring Val Kilmer, and the critically-savaged crime thriller "Inside Out" (2011), with pro wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque. From there, he had a supporting turn in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (2012), which starred Jamie Foxx as an escaped slave who hunts down two ruthless killers with a white bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). In 2013, Dern received rave reviews for his role as the surly Woody Grant in director Alexander Payne's thoughtful road drama, "Nebraska." Dern's performance in the film earned him the Best Actor Award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, thus making the 77-year-old actor an early favorite to receive an Academy Award nomination.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Mustang (2019)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Class Rank (2018)
Chappaquiddick (2018)
The Peanut Butter Falcon (2018)
White Boy Rick (2018)
Nation's Fire (2018)
Nostalgia (2018)
Warning Shot (2018)
American Violence (2017)
Our Souls at Night (2017)
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Cut Bank (2014)
Nebraska (2013)
Pete's Christmas (2013)
Django Unchained (2012)
Twixt (2012)
Inside Out (2011)
Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)
Himself
Choose (2011)
The Golden Boys (2009)
The Lightkeepers (2009)
American Cowslip (2009)
Swamp Devil (2008)
The Hard Easy (2007)
Cake Eaters (2007)
The Astronaut Farmer (2006)
Believe In Me (2006)
Walker Payne (2006)
Down in the Valley (2005)
Monster (2004)
Thomas [Tom]
Milwaukee, Minnesota (2003)
Masked & Anonymous (2003)
Madison (2001)
Harry Volpi
The Glass House (2001)
All the Pretty Horses (2000)
The Haunting (1999)
The Premonition (1999)
Small Soldiers (1998)
Voice
Perfect Prey (1998)
Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (1997)
Last Man Standing (1996)
Down Periscope (1996)
Mrs. Munck (1996)
Wild Bill (1995)
A Mother's Prayer (1995)
John Walker
Dead Man's Revenge (1994)
Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (1994)
It's Nothing Personal (1993)
Billy Archer
Diggstown (1992)
Into the Badlands (1991)
Carolina Skeletons (1991)
Junior Stoker
After Dark, My Sweet (1990)
Uncle Bud
The Court-martial Of Jackie Robinson (1990)
Trenchcoat in Paradise (1989)
John Hollander
The 'Burbs (1989)
1969 (1988)
World Gone Wild (1988)
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1987)
Augustine St Clair
The Big Town (1987)
On the Edge (1986)
Wes Holman
Toughlove (1985)
Rob Charters
That Championship Season (1982)
George Sitkowski
Harry Tracy (1982)
Harry Tracy
Tattoo (1981)
Middle Age Crazy (1980)
The Driver (1978)
Coming Home (1978)
Black Sunday (1977)
Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)
Folies bourgeoises (1976)
Family Plot (1976)
Lumley
Posse (1975)
Smile (1975)
The Great Gatsby (1974)
The Laughing Policeman (1973)
The Cowboys (1972)
Long Hair [Asa Watts]
Silent Running (1972)
Freeman Lowell
Thumb Tripping (1972)
Smitty
The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
Jason Staebler
Drive, He Said (1971)
Coach Bullion
The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971)
[Dr.] Roger [Gerard]
Sam Hill: Who Killed the Mysterious Mr. Foster? (1971)
Rebel Rousers (1970)
"J. J."
Bloody Mama (1970)
Kevin Dirkman
Castle Keep (1969)
Billy Bix
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
James
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)
Joe Danby
The Cycle Savages (1969)
Keeg
Number One (1969)
Richie Fowler
Hang 'Em High (1968)
Miller
Will Penny (1968)
Rafe Quint
Psych-Out (1968)
Steve Davis
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)
May
The War Wagon (1967)
Hammond
Waterhole #3 (1967)
Deputy
The Trip (1967)
John
The Wild Angels (1966)
Loser
Marnie (1964)
Sailor
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
John Mayhew
Wild River (1960)
Jack Roper

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)
Other

Cast (Special)

A Decade Under the Influence (2003)
Himself
It Conquered Hollywood: The Story of American International Pictures (2001)
Rona Barrett: The E! True Hollywood Story (2000)
Interviewee
Jane Fonda: The E! True Hollywood Story (2000)
Intimate Portrait: Laura Dern (1999)
Mia Farrow: The E! True Hollywood Story (1998)

Misc. Crew (Special)

A Decade Under the Influence (2003)
Other

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Hard Ground (2003)
Roses Are For the Rich (1987)
James A. Michener's "Space" (1985)

Life Events

1959

Made Broadway debut in "The Shadow of a Gunman"; led to audition for Actors Studio after Elia Kazan saw production

1960

Made screen-acting debut in Kazan's "Wild River"

1962

Made TV series debut as a regular playing E J Stocker on ABC's Western "Stoney Burke"

1966

Co-starred with Peter Fonda and then wife Diane Ladd in "The Wild Angels"

1967

First of several collaborations with Jack Nicholson, "The Trip" (written by Nicholson) and "St Valentine Day's Massacre"

1978

Won Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a Vietnam veteran in "Coming Home"

1979

Played Sinclair Lewis opposite Lois Nettleton in the Broadway production of "Strangers"

1985

Co-starred in the CBS miniseries, "Space"

1987

Appeared opposite Matt Dillon in "The Big Town"

1989

Featured in the Comedy "The Burbs" as the paramilitaric neighbor

1992

Played John Gillon, a business man who owns most of a boxing town, in "Diggstown"

1995

Starred with former wife Diane Ladd in "Mrs. Munck"; Ladd also wrote and directed the film

1996

Apeared in the comedy "Down Periscope"

1996

Played Sheriff Ed Galt in the drama "Last Man Standing" with Bruce Willis

1998

Voiced Link Static in the animated movie, "Small Soldiers"

1999

Cast as Mr. Dudley in the thriller "The Haunting"

2001

Appeared with Leelee Sobieski and Diane Lane in "The Glass House"

2003

Cast opposite Charlize Theron in "Monster," a film about a Florida woman who killed seven men and was executed by lethal injection in 2002

2005

Starred with Troy Garity and Randy Quaid in "Milwaukee, Minnesota"

2006

Cast as Bill Paxton's father in the HBO series "Big Love"

2007

Cast as Virginia Madsen's father in "The Astronaut Farmer"

2012

Appeared in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"

2013

Starred in Alexander Payne's "Nebraska"

2013

Won the Cannes Film Festival's Best Actor Award for his role in "Nebraska"

2015

Re-teamed with Tarantino for "The Hateful Eight"

2017

Starred as Davenport Lear in Shakespeare adaptation "The Lears"

2017

Co-starred with Luke Hemsworth and Kris Kristofferson in "Hickok"

Photo Collections

The Cowboys - Movie Posters
The Cowboys - Movie Posters
The Trip - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for the exploitation picture The Trip (1967). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Psych-Out - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for the exploitation picture Psych-Out (1968). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Trip - Pressbook
Here is the original campaign book (pressbook) for The Trip (1967). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.

Videos

Movie Clip

Family Plot (1976) - A Psychic As A Dry Salami After the opening in which Blanche (Barbara Harris) communed with a wealthy San Francisco widow, she toys with cabbie George (Bruce Dern), whom we learn is her boyfriend, lying to him in the process, early in director Alfred Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - Did You Find Walter? Phony psychic Blanche (Barbara Harris) is seeing a routine client (Louise Lorimer) when her cohort, cabbie George (Bruce Dern) appears with a lead on a separate case that could earn them $10,000, director Alfred Hitchcock having fun with it, in Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - Never Liked Them Multiple Funerals Bent San Francisco cabbie George (Bruce Dern), now posing as a lawyer investigating a case, comes to a cemetery, where he discovers the man he’s after appears to be dead, meeting the maybe-creepy caretaker (John Steadman), in Alfred Hitchcock’s last picture, Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - The Trader Veering away from his original story, possibly the most famous image from the picture, silent Karen Black in the shades and blonde wig executes the collection of ransom, details provided by cops, Alan Fudge the chopper pilot, early in Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, 1976.
Hang 'Em High - I'm An Ex-Lawman! From the long opening scene, Cooper (Clint Eastwood) is in-effect tried by Wilson (Ed Begley) and henchmen (Alan Hale Jr., Bruce Dern, et al) in his first Hollywood Western starring role, in Hang 'Em High, 1968.
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) - Old Arizona Trick First scene for McCullough (James Garner), who rides into the gold-rush town of Calendar and faces down bully Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) early in Support Your Local Sheriff!, 1969.
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) - We're On The Same Side Now... Still on his first day in the new job as sheriff, McCullough (James Garner) takes a warning from Jake (Jack Elam) in stride as he proceeds to arrest the troublesome Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) in Support Your Local Sheriff!, 1969.
Bloody Mama (1970) - Ozark Massage With more narration from Shelley Winters as title-character Kate “Ma” Barker, we join her jailed son Fred (Robert Walden) and kinky cellmate Dirkman (Bruce Dern), his character based on the actual Barker crony Alvin Karpis, in Bloody Mama, 1970, from Roger Corman and AIP.
Bloody Mama (1970) - Open, That's What You Call Family The young girl here is Lisa Jill, her comments perhaps voiced by Shelley Winters, who plays the character she’ll grow up to be, in what amounts to an origin myth for Kate “Ma” Barker, custom title song by Don Randi, Al Simms and Bob Silver, in Roger Corman’s outrageous Bloody Mama, 1970.
Driver, The (1978) - Two-Eleven In Progress We know Isabelle Adjani has just cashed out at a presumably illegal casino, which we learn is the place Ryan O’Neal has been approaching in his stolen sedan, then we meet two cops (Bruce Dern, Matt Clark), and director Walter Hill will never give any of them names, in The Driver, 1978.
Driver, The (1978) - I'm Very Good At What I Do The chief cop (Bruce Dern) has arranged an inverted line-up in what looks like a vacant barroom, asking witnesses including Isabelle Adjani to identify the getaway man Ryan O’Neal, but we don’t know how he was found or apprehended, though writer-director Walter Hill may, in The Driver, 1978.
Cowboys, The (1972) - You're A Hard Man Rancher Andersen (John Wayne) is busy training his schoolboy recruits for a cattle drive when they meet Watts (Bruce Dern, a.k.a. Long Hair) and pals (Dick Farnsworth, Wallace Brooks), whose friendly inquiry turns somewhat ugly, in director Mark Rydell’s The Cowboys, 1972.

Trailer

Coming Home (1978) -- (Original Trailer) With the Simon and Garfunkel recording of Paul Simon’s “Bookends,” the original trailer for director Hal Ashby’s Coming Home, 1978, which won Best Actor and Best Actress Academy Awards for Jon Voight and Jane Fonda, and for the original screenplay by Nancy Dowd, Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones.
Trip, The - (Original Trailer) A commercial director (Peter Fonda) tries to get over a painful divorce with a dose of L.S.D. in Roger Corman's The Trip (1967).
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte - (Academy Preview Trailer) Heads will roll as Bette Davis fights to keep her family's secrets in Robert Aldrich's Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).
Cowboys, The - (Original Trailer) When his crew quits, John Wayne has to train schoolboys for the big cattle drive in The Cowboys (1972).
War Wagon, The - (Original Trailer) John Wayne and Kirk Douglas plan to steal a half million in gold from a greedy mine owner. Trouble is, it's in The War Wagon (1967).
Family Plot - (Original Trailer) A phony psychic takes on a pair of kidnappers in Alfred Hitchcock's last movie Family Plot (1976).
Support Your Local Sheriff! - (Original Trailer) A mild-mannered cowboy (James Garner) drifts into a town so lawless they refuse to Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969).
Will Penny - (Original Trailer) Charlton Heston, an outlaw betrayed by his gang, takes refuge with a frontiers woman in Will Penny (1968).
Marnie - (Original Trailer) A rich man marries a compulsive thief and tries to unlock the secrets of her mind in Marnie (1964), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Family

George Dern
Grandfather
Politician. Former governor of Utah and served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Adlai Stevenson
Godfather
Politician. Democratic nominee for President (1952, 1956).
Archibald MacLeish
Uncle
Poet, playwright.
John Dern
Father
Jean Dern
Mother
Diane E Dern
Daughter
Born on November 27, 1960; 18-month old daughter drowned in a pool while in a teenage maid's care on May 18, 1962; mother, Diane Ladd.
Laura Dern
Daughter
Actor. Born in February 1967; mother, Diane Ladd.
Ellery Walker Harper
Grandson
Born on August 21, 2001; mother, Laura Dern; father, Ben Harper.

Companions

Diane Ladd
Wife
Actor. Married in 1960; divorced in 1967; met while appearing Off-Broadway in "Orpheus Descending" (1959).
Andrea Dern
Wife
Married on October 20, 1969.

Bibliography

Notes

Dern says he became an actor "to find out what makes people do what they do in times of stress." --From The Hollywood Reporter, March 15, 1991.