In 1997 it seemed like actress Laura Dern was at the height of her career, then she made a decision that saw her effectively blacklisted for a year.
It’s a story that can be traced back to her appearance in the landmark episode of the sitcom Ellen where Ellen DeGeneres famously came out as gay, in which Laura agreed to guest-star in as lesbian character Susan.
But after the now-famous episode of television aired, and backlash around Ellen herself swelled, no one would give Laura a job for more than a year.
Up until this moment, the newly minted Academy Award 2020 winner for Best Supporting Actress’ road to success had featured a series of carefully plotted career moves and a little help from her famous bloodline.
Laura Elizabeth Dern was born into a Hollywood family, as the daughter of celebrated actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern on February 10, 1967, in Los Angeles.
During her acceptance speech at the 92nd Academy Awards, where she was honoured for her work in the Netflix film Marriage Story, the 53-year-old actress referred to her parents as her ‘heroes’.
Over the years, Laura has accompanied both of her famous parents to their own moments of awards show glory, but many years ago her birth came at a time of tragedy for her Oscar-nominated parents.
Listen: Laura Dern’s rocky road to success and all the biggest moments from the Oscars on Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast The Spill.
Before Laura’s birth, Dern and Ladd had welcomed another daughter called Diane Elizabeth Dern who drowned when she was just 18 months old. Doctors then told Ladd she probably wouldn’t be able to have another baby.
“We suffered the tragedy of our daughter’s death together and thought another child would help us, but we were so bruised,” she told Parade Magazine in 1992. “I was terrified, being on my own with Laura. I had to force myself not to be overly protective because I had lost one child.”
The couple, still broken from Diane’s tragic death, then went on to divorce when Laura was just two-years-old.
Moving between the lives of her actor parents, Laura Dern effectively grew up on film sets, a childhood that cemented her desire to become an actress in her own right.
Laura was just six years old when she appeared in her first movie, playing the daughter of her mother’s character in the 1973 film White Lightning, opposite Hollywood icon Burt Reynolds. The following year she played a small role in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which also starred her mother Diane.
However, as her film industry star began to rise, with meatier movie roles pouring in and Laura being anointed Miss Golden Globe at the age of 14, a role only bestowed upon the most promising of Hollywood offspring, Laura’s parents attempted to put a stop to their young daughter’s career aspirations.
Diane Ladd, who had seen the worst sides of the industry during her own career in front of the camera, attempted to protect her daughter from travelling to endless far-flung movie sets for work by refusing to give parental consent.