At 56 years old, Laura Dern has this physical status:
Dern got her first credited role, Debbie, appearing alongside Jodie Foster in the 1980 coming-of-age film Foxes. At the age of 11, she had originally auditioned for a different role after telling casting directors that she was 14. In 1985, she was cast two weeks before production began as the protagonist, a carefree 15-year-old girl, Connie Wyatt, who grabs the attention of a predatory stranger, in the film Smooth Talk. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in the Dramatic category in 1986 and received largely favorable reviews. It is seen as the film that launched Dern's career.
Between 1985 and 1990, Dern gained critical acclaim for her performances in Mask, Blue Velvet, and Wild at Heart–the latter two of which were directed by David Lynch–which began a longstanding collaboration between Dern and Lynch. In the biographical drama film, Mask, she played the role of Diana Adams, a blind girl who becomes Rocky Dennis' love interest, starring alongside Eric Stoltz and Cher. At the age of 16, Dern was cast as Sandy Williams, one of the starring roles alongside Kyle MacLachlan and Isabella Rossellini in the critically successful mystery thriller film Blue Velvet. It was widely regarded as Dern's breakthrough performance.
In 1990, Dern once again collaborated with Lynch, starring as Lula Fortune alongside Nicolas Cage in the black comedy crime film Wild At Heart, where she portrays a vastly different character from her previous role in Blue Velvet. Dern called the role an opportunity 'to play not only a very sexual person, but also someone who was, in her own way, incredibly comfortable with herself'. The film which had won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, was met with generally positive reviews from critics but polarized some audiences at the time. Lynch also cast Dern's mother, Diane Ladd to play Lula's overbearing mother in the film.
Dern also auditioned for the iconic role of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), but lost the role due to studio's skepticism about her level of fame at the time. In 1992, Dern and her mother, Diane Ladd, became the first mother and daughter to be nominated for Academy Awards for acting in the same film for their performances in Rambling Rose–Ladd received a Best Supporting Actress nomination, while Dern received one for Best Actress. The following year, she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film and received her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie for her performance in the 1992 television film Afterburn.
Dern starred as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Steven Spielberg's 1993 film Jurassic Park, achieving international recognition with the role. Dern, who had been more focused on independent films prior to the film, was Spielberg’s first choice for the role of Ellie Sattler after having been impressed with her work in Smooth Talk and Rambling Rose. She was also influenced by Wild At Heart costar Nicolas Cage to take the role and called the decision an "easy yes", recalling how Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy made sure the character was a "no-nonsense feminist who had her own independent spirit and was brilliant in her craft" and wasn't an "oversexualized action heroine" while describing filming to be similar to an independent film.
That same year, Clint Eastwood contacted the actress for his film A Perfect World. After the release of Jurassic Park, Dern was offered many roles in blockbuster films and ultimately chose to star in Alexander Payne's directorial debut black comedy film Citizen Ruth to avoid typecasting as the character Ruth Stoops, a pregnant drug addict who unexpectedly attracts national attention from those involved in the abortion debate. The film debuted at Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim for the film and for Dern's performance but only received a limited release from Miramax likely due to its controversial topic. Ladd made a cameo appearance, playing Dern's character's mother for the third time following Rambling Rose and Wild At Heart, with Dern's character screaming a torrent of abuse at her.
In 1997, Dern was asked by Ellen DeGeneres to guest star as Susan Richmond, a lesbian who helps Degeneres' character, Ellen Morgan, come out of the closet in "The Puppy Episode" of the sitcom Ellen, while DeGeneres herself came out at the same time offscreen. Despite protests from people around her, she shrugged off concerns and immediately accepted the role where she received her third Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series. The decision significantly impacted her career in the following years with Dern revealing in an April 2007 airing of DeGeneres's talk show that she did not work for more than a year and that she needed a "full security detail" following her appearance in the historic episode due to the resulting backlash at the time, but nevertheless called it an "extraordinary experience and opportunity" and "an incredible honor". The following year, Dern co-starred in the television film The Baby Dance, for which she received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film. While dating Billy Bob Thornton in 1999, she was cast as his love interest in his film Daddy and Them, which also includes Diane Ladd. Dern also appeared in Joe Johnston's biographical drama film October Sky alongside Jake Gyllenhaal portraying his character's teacher Miss Riley.
In 2000, Robert Altman called upon Dern's talents to play a champagne-loving aunt in his Texas-based comedy Dr. T & the Women. In 2001, Dern reprised her role as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park III, which was directed by Joe Johnston whom she had worked with in October Sky. Originally hesitant to return for a cameo, Dern was later convinced when it was suggested by executive producer Steven Spielberg to the writers, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor who had previously collaborated with Dern for Citizen Ruth, to have the character play an important role by saving the other characters. That same year, she co-starred in Within These Walls and Arthur Miller's Focus. She also starred in the film I Am Sam as Randy Carpenter, a woman running a foster home. In 2002, she starred in the film Damaged Care. In 2004, she starred in the film We Don't Live Here Anymore alongside Naomi Watts, Mark Ruffalo, and Peter Krause. Dern starred in the 2005 film Happy Endings, and in the same year, she appeared in the film The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.
In 2006, Dern reunited with director David Lynch for the third time after Blue Velvet and Wild At Heart in the experimental film Inland Empire which was largely shot on a hand-held Sony DSR-PD150 by Lynch himself and without a complete screenplay. Dern portrays an actress, Nikki Grace, who starts to take on the personality of the character she plays. The film debuted at the Venice Film Festival to polarizing reviews, majority being positive, where Dern admitted that she was not sure what the film was about, but has said she would sign up for any project with Lynch. In the same year, Dern portrayed a supporting role in Lonely Hearts. Mike White, known for writing School of Rock and The Good Girl, hired Dern for his directorial debut in 2007, the comedy titled Year of the Dog, and starring Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly and Peter Sarsgaard. In 2008, Dern starred as Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris in Recount, for which she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film. The following year, Dern was seen in the independent drama Tenderness, and in 2010, she appeared in Little Fockers, portraying Prudence, an elementary school principal.
In November 2010, Dern and her parents Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern were presented with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, becoming the first family to do so. In October 2011, she starred in a new HBO comedy-drama television series titled Enlightened in which she also served as co-creator and executive producer. Dern played Amy Jellicoe, a "health and beauty executive who returns from a post-meltdown retreat to pick up the pieces of her broken life." Dern brought screenwriter Mike White, whom she collaborated with on Year of the Dog, back into television work after he had suffered an on-the-job meltdown of his own. The series received critical acclaim and lasted two seasons. Dern's mother, Diane Ladd plays the major supporting role of Helen Jellicoe, Dern's character's mother in the series. Dern received her third Golden Globe Award and fifth nomination, her first in the Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy category for her performance. She was also nominated for her fifth Primetime Emmy Award, her first in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category.
In 2012, Dern starred in Paul Thomas Anderson's psychological drama film The Master, alongside Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. In 2014, she co-starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in Jean-Marc Vallée's biographical drama film Wild portraying the character of Bobbi, mother of Cheryl Strayed in flashback scenes, for which she received her second Academy Award nomination and her first in the Best Supporting Actress category. That same year, she portrayed Frannie Lancaster in the coming-of-age romance film The Fault In Our Stars alongside Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort and alongside Jim Caviezel, she portrays Bev Ladouceur in the sports drama film When The Game Stands Tall produced by Mandalay Pictures. She also portrayed Lynn Nash, a widowed mother and grandmother who gets evicted with her family, in 2014's 99 Homes alongside Andrew Garfield.
In 2017, Dern reteamed with both Witherspoon and Vallée from Wild and The Fault In Our Stars co-star Shailene Woodley for the 2017 HBO miniseries Big Little Lies, the latter who Dern had helped convince to join the cast. For her portrayal as Renata Klein in the series, Dern won her first Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie and her fourth Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television. That same year, she collaborated for the fourth time with David Lynch, appearing as Diane Evans in the third season of the mystery serial drama television series Twin Peaks and also joined the Star Wars franchise portraying Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo in Rian Johnson's space opera film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
In 2018, Dern starred as the real life professor and documentary filmmaker, Jennifer Fox, recalling her traumatic past in the autobiographical feature film The Tale, written and directed by Fox herself. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2018 to a standing ovation, and later on HBO on May 26, 2018. Dern received her seventh Primetime Emmy nomination for the role in the category Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie. That same year, she also starred in two biographical drama films, Trial By Fire alongside Jack O'Connell, and JT LeRoy as the author Laura Albert alongside Certain Women co-star Kristen Stewart.
In 2019, Dern reprised her role of Renata Klein in Big Little Lies after the series was renewed for a second season where she once again received critical acclaim and received her eighth Primetime Emmy Award nomination, her first in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category. In the same year, Dern starred in two films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The first is Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story alongside Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, portraying the character Nora Fanshaw, a divorce lawyer which was written by Baumbach with Dern in mind for the role. For her performance, Dern received major awards including earning her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress from three nominations, winning the first and only Oscar in an acting category for Netflix, and also received the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, the SAG Award for Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture. The second is Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Little Women, where she portrayed Marmee March. The film also stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep, the latter whom she had just collaborated with in Big Little Lies. In 2020, she served as an executive producer on the animated short film If Anything Happens I Love You which was released on Netflix and was a producer on the documentary film The Way I See It.
In 2022, Dern reprised her role as Dr. Ellie Sattler for the first time since 2001's Jurassic Park III alongside former co-stars Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic World Dominion. Due to the character's fan influence, Dern and director Colin Trevorrow felt protective of the character and her legacy, and were in agreement to have the character play a major role. With Neill and Goldblum having led in their own Jurassic Park sequel, Trevorrow wanted Dominion to be Dern’s film explaining, “It was important for the plot to be driven by Ellie. She’s the only one of those three characters that hasn’t had her own movie.” She is set to star alongside Hugh Jackman in Florian Zeller's adaptation of his stage play, The Son.
Dern will star and serve as executive producer with Benedict Cumberbatch for the science fiction drama film Morning directed by Justin Kurzel. She is also set to star in the Netflix film Lonely Planet with Liam Hemsworth. Dern will serve as executive producer and is expected to star in the upcoming AppleTV+ comedy series Mrs. American Pie. Dern is set to reunite with Wild author Cheryl Strayed and co-star Reese Witherspoon as executive producers for the upcoming Hulu television series Tiny Beautiful Things based on Strayed's book.