Laura Dern has been nominated for an Academy Award twice, she’s won four Golden Globes and an Emmy, and she’s the latest performer to be discussed here on “As Seen on Twin Peaks.”
This series takes a look at the acting careers of the cast of Twin Peaks – one performer at a time. But, instead of looking A-Z through their entire filmography, I’ll be picking out one film to represent each actor, which will be followed by a 10 Questions-style discussion between myself and one of my fellow 25YL staffers about the film and various other credits. Now, the films I’ve picked to be discussed are not necessarily each actor’s most famous role, or most critically acclaimed performance, or biggest box office success. Instead, I’ll be focussing on those hidden gems, overlooked treasures and underrated masterpieces. And, to make things more interesting, each article will feature a range of different perspectives between myself and my guest. Some films will be familiar to the two of us, others might be first-time watches, and some movies will be a completely new experience for us both.
So, join J.C. Hotchkiss and I as we discuss Laura Dern, her career, Twin Peaks, Wild and more!
1) Jon Sheasby: In a first for this series, and despite us both loving Laura Dern’s work, Wild was a first-time watch for the two of us. So, what are your thoughts on the film in general?
J.C. Hotchkiss: The film was incredible. Every woman (or man for that matter) should watch this film. Reese Witherspoon captures a woman who gets lost on her journey so well. It really has an incredible message among gorgeous views of the Pacific Crest Trail. The film is so relatable to anyone that has gone through profound loss and has lost their way. I thought all the cast complemented each other and seeing how the decisions of one person could affect so many in all ways (Bobbi’s death, Cheryl’s drug use/promiscuity) was interesting. Quite like a trickledown effect.
2) JS: I loved the film, and thought it was great to see the beginning of the on-screen chemistry between Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon, who would later reteam for the phenomenal Big Little Lies. It’s clear they love working together, so in your opinion, what is it about those two that just clicks on-screen?
JH: A mutual respect for each other. An admiration of how they hone their craft of acting, and their endeavours outside of acting. I follow both on Instagram and Twitter. They are true friends in real life, so I’m sure that makes their chemistry on-screen that much stronger.
3) JS: I think the most interesting thing about Laura Dern in Wild is that she doesn’t have a big or flashy role, but she is the glue that keeps the movie together. Her character, Bobbi Grey, is everything to the film and Dern nails her Academy Award-nominated role as expected. What is it that you love about watching an actress like Laura Dern work?
JH: What isn’t there to love about watching an actress like Laura Dern work? She has been a working actress since she was a child, no doubt inspired by her parents (the lovely Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern). She constantly chooses roles that challenge her. Roles that other actresses may turn down. She’s not afraid to be seen as vulnerable or downright ugly. Have you seen Citizen Ruth? Right there shows the lengths of not playing to type for Laura.
4) JS: Agreed. And, as you mentioned, it’d be impossible to talk about Laura Dern and not mention her parents – the iconic Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd. Now, for better or worse, nepotism in Hollywood has been around since the very beginning, seeing everything from Carl Laemmle Jr. being gifted the keys to Universal Pictures as his 21st birthday present, to Jennifer Lynch getting to write The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Sometimes nepotism can work out e.g. Rashida Jones is one of my favourite actresses working today. Other times it’s a big mistake e.g. the infamous casting of Sofia Coppola in The Godfather: Part III. Laura Dern’s career, however, is still going from strength to strength. Why do you think she has had so much success in Hollywood, while the on-screen careers of so many other celebrity sons and daughters have ended in failure?
JH: She’s willing to do the work. She took her time. She picked roles and took jobs that would have an impact, even if they weren’t starring vehicles. If you’re willing to work and take a chance at parts that may not showcase you as a lead, you can make the part yours. She was also smart to couple up with David Lynch. He is famous for letting you lead in your parts. Being able to make things inherently yours.
5) JS: 2017 was a game-changing year for women in the film/TV industry, as Hollywood finally woke up to the troubles behind the camera and the representation of women on-screen. The monumental big screen success of Wonder Woman and the award-winning small screen adaptations of Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale have hopefully gone a long way in proving a woman’s worth to the industry. So, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, how important do you feel these productions will become in teaching future generations about respect and the representation of women on-screen?
JH: I think they will teach future women to understand the strength within themselves and if they want to accomplish and flourish anything they want in this life they need not fear. Understand they have value and push for it. There were women who paved the way for these women to have these careers, and in turn, this group of women will pave the way for the younger generation. Laura’s speech at the Golden Globes stands out in my mind, “May we teach our children that speaking out without the fear of retribution is our culture’s new North Star.”
6) JS: This one is simple. David Lynch and Laura Dern. Why are they so brilliant together?
JH: That’s a simple question? Lol! David creates very strong female characters (this is my opinion, I know some people may not agree with this). Laura exudes a type of strength in all her characters. I think when he cast her as Sandy in Blue Velvet, he needed someone innocent and naive, but who also had a strength and confidence about them. I think once Lynch saw that in her, and once Laura trusted who Lynch was as a person and a director, that he would never lead her down a path she wasn’t ready to go down first herself, and it created this brilliant partnership.
7) JS: Now, when the cast list for The Return was posted online, I think the vast majority of us believed that Laura Dern was the only choice for Diane, given her relationship with Lynch. I happen to love Dern’s portrayal of Ms. Evans, but I know there are a few of our co-staffers on the site who were less than enamoured with the character. Where do you stand on Diane in The Return, and do you have any theories about who or what she really is?
JH: It’s funny you should ask this question because Lindsay and I were just talking about this with a piece she was working on. I knew that Laura would be Diane. There was no doubt in my mind from that first scene where Albert goes to find her at the bar. Even before she turned around I knew it was her. I loved the character, and I loved Laura’s portrayal. Now that being said – with my thoughts being all over the place when it comes to The Return – I’m not so sure we saw the real Diane at all. I think there is the possibility that the real Diane was not a real person. That Diane is a figment of Dale Cooper’s mind and that she may just be the idea of someone. The dictation tapes are white, red and black. Diane’s hair colours are white and red. And her fingernails were always a combo with white, red and black. I’m not saying I’m correct in the slightest, but it’s interesting to think about. It also makes some performance choices Laura made to play her interesting, too. Dale used to say, “damn fine” and now Diane says, “F**k you!” Polar opposites.
8) JS: Wild at Heart will always be my favourite Dern/Lynch collaboration, but if you could choose only one, which is yours?
JH: That’s a tough one. I haven’t seen Inland Empire, so it would have to be between Wild at Heart and Blue Velvet. I have a soft spot for Blue Velvet, so it just barely itches past Wild at Heart. I love her monologue to Kyle MacLachlan’s Jeffery about her dream. It’s a very nuanced moment that Lynch captures perfectly. So yeah, I’d choose Blue Velvet.
9) JS: A favourite Laura Dern performance of mine from the past few years is her lead voice role as Sue Murphy in the hilarious Netflix animated sitcom, F is for Family. Outside of her work with Lynch, what are some of your favourite Laura Dern performances?
JH: I loved her in Enlightened. It was an 18-episode series on HBO. She was also a co-creator. It was incredible and really started the whole narrative of being a woman getting your life back on your terms. It’s the battle cry of “I’m done” and doing your own thing. If you haven’t seen it, find it. It’s absolutely brilliant, as is Laura in it.
10) JS: And finally, J.C., if you could recast any role from the history of film and TV with Laura Dern in their place, which character would you choose and why?
JH: Wow! What a great question! Do I have to just pick one? Let me think about this. Well, my first thought goes to Miranda from Sex and the City. I think Laura would’ve fit into the group perfectly and had that lawyer with a heart of gold mentality down. My second part would probably be another Lynch film. I would’ve liked to have seen how Laura would’ve played Diane/Betty in Mulholland Drive. I think Naomi knocked it out of the park, but I think Laura would’ve given it another layer of depth. We would’ve seen two very different people between Diane and Betty. Yeah, I would’ve liked to have seen what she would’ve done with that part.
I want to thank J.C. for taking the time to join me for this latest edition of “As Seen on Twin Peaks.” So, you’ve read ours, but what are your thoughts on Laura Dern? Favourite roles, performances, works? Please leave a comment and let us know by following the information about our social media accounts, which can be found below. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter (@JonSheasby), and we’ll continue the conversation over there.