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In the Company of Laura Dern


Laura Dern readily admits, with a laugh, that she has “no idea how to balance it all.” The actress, single mother of two, and daughter of acclaimed actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern says, like most women, she struggles with the often competing demands of work, family, and life in general. “No matter where we are in life, or what our challenges are, or our financial status or our work situation, I think most women feel they are not matching up.”

Dern spoke recently about self-esteem and women’s empowerment at the YWCA’s 16th annual In the Company of Women, which drew hundreds of men and women alike to downtown’s Marrott Marquis & Marina. The event included the Tribute to Women & Industry (TWIN) Awards, recognizing outstanding professional women in San Diego, and raised funds for such programs as the YWCA’s Becky’s House, providing life-saving services for victims of domestic violence.

During an interview with Ranch & Coast, Dern says self-worth, so hard to sustain, can be especially challenging for women in Southern California, where a culture of youth and beauty “puts a lot of value on the physical.” She is, however, seeing a movement toward meatier roles for mature women in film and television, because women are developing, writing and producing their own material, and because “there are beautiful men” in Hollywood who want “complicated, honest, mature women” in their productions. “It’s supported by the fact that women’s movies are making money,” she says, “and because women go to the movies.”

Nevertheless, Dern notes there has been a “lack of growth” in the numbers and influence of female directors. “That’s still a big challenge,” she says. “We still have a long way to go in terms of who’s in charge.” In addition, at times, she finds that women who are in charge are trying so hard to prove it that they believe they “have to hide their female nature, their empathy.”

Dern, who has starred in such films as Rambling Rose, Jurassic Park, and Wild at Heart, as well as the HBO series Enlightened, appears this month in The Fault in Our Stars, based on the beloved best-selling novel by John Green. In the film, Dern plays the mother of a teenage girl who has terminal cancer. At its core, she says, the film is a story about finding first love. “The larger theme is about gratitude, and how to enjoy each moment when you know you only have only a certain number of them.”

Gratitude, says Dern, is what grounds her, gratitude for “the wonderful opportunities I’ve had in life,” for something as simple yet powerful as “a child’s smile.” She says all of us can experience “those life-saving moments” no matter where we are in our lives.

She shared such moments with her father recently at the Academy Awards when, at the age of 77, he was nominated for Best Actor in Nebraska. “That is such a cool story not only about longevity, but just staying with the dream,” she says. “I thought he was a great reminder to all of us to just keep dreaming, do what you love and be true to yourself.”    ANDREA NAVERSEN


Laura Dern • Photo by Bob Ross
Laura Dern • Photo by Bob Ross



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