Bruce Dern

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Bruce Dern
Bruce Dern by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Born Bruce MacLeish Dern
(1936-06-04) June 4, 1936 (age 85)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Education The Choate School
University of Pennsylvania
Occupation Actor
Years active 1960–present
Spouse(s) Marie Dean (1957–1959; divorced)
Diane Ladd (1960–1969; divorced)
Andrea Beckett (1969–present)
Children Laura Dern
Diane Elizabeth Dern
Parent(s) Jean MacLeish
John Dern

Bruce MacLeish Dern (born June 4, 1936) is an American actor. He frequently takes roles as a supporting character actor, often playing villains of unstable nature. He has appeared in over eighty films, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Coming Home (1978) and the Academy Award for Best Actor for Nebraska (2013). He won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 1982 Berlin Film Festival for That Championship Season and Best Actor at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for Nebraska. His other film roles include They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), The Cowboys (1972), The Great Gatsby (1974), Family Plot (1975), Black Sunday (1977) and The Hateful Eight (2015).

Early life

Dern was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Jean (née MacLeish) and John Dern, a utility chief and attorney.[1][2] He grew up in Kenilworth, Illinois.[3] His paternal grandfather, George Henry Dern, was a former Utah governor and Secretary of War (he was serving in the latter position during the time of Bruce's birth). Dern's maternal grandfather was a chairman of the Carson, Pirie and Scott stores,[4][5] his maternal granduncle was poet Archibald MacLeish, and his maternal great-grandfather was Scottish-born businessman Andrew MacLeish. Dern's godfather was former Illinois governor and two-time presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.[6][7]

His ancestry includes Dutch, English, German, and Scottish. He attended The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) and the University of Pennsylvania.


Early in his career, Dern starred in the Philadelphia premiere of Waiting for Godot with Lyle Kessler. He appeared in several popular 1960s television shows, including Route 66, Naked City, Thriller, Sea Hunt, Surfside 6, 77 Sunset Strip, The Outer Limits and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Dern had an uncredited role in Elia Kazan's 1960 movie Wild River starring Lee Remick, Montgomery Clift and Jo Ann Fleet. He appeared in numerous scenes in the movie alongside villains of the film. In one scene, though, his character becomes so upset when a villain friend hit a woman, that he himself gets punched to the ground.

In the 1962–63 season Dern played E.J. Stocker in the ABC adventure/drama series, Stoney Burke, about the rodeo circuit, and stars Jack Lord in the title role and with Warren Oates.

In 1964, he appeared in a major Alfred Hitchcock film, the psychological thriller Marnie, in a short role as the sailor seen in flashbacks about Marnie's mother. Also in 1964 he had a small but crucial film role in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte as the lover of the young Charlotte (Bette Davis).

During the next five years, Dern continued appearing in several popular television series, with multiple appearances as different characters, including Wagon Train, The Virginian, Rawhide, 12 O'Clock High, The Fugitive, The F.B.I., The Big Valley, Gunsmoke and Bonanza, among others. During that period, he also appeared in several films, including The Wild Angels (1966), The War Wagon, The Trip (1967), Psych-Out, Will Penny (1968) and in the Clint Eastwood film, Hang 'Em High (1968) as a rustler/murderer.

Among Dern's first twenty film roles was a role in the Sydney Pollack picture They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, in 1969. That same year, he co-starred with James Garner and Walter Brennan in the classic film Support Your Local Sheriff! as gunfighter Joe Danby. In 1972, he appeared in four films: as the enemy and killer of John Wayne's character in The Cowboys notable for his character cold-bloodedly shooting Wayne in the back. Wayne warned Dern, "America will hate you for this." Dern wryly replied, "Yeah, but they'll love me in Berkeley." His best-known role is Freeman Lowell, the caretaker of Earth's last forests in the dark sci-fi film Silent Running (1972). He then starred with Jack Nicholson in The King of Marvin Gardens; and also in Thumb Tripping, after having been seen in over ninety TV episodes or films.

Other memorable roles include Tom Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, or a psychotic Goodyear Blimp pilot who launches a terrorist attack at the Super Bowl in 1977's Black Sunday, and as Captain Bob Hyde in 1978's Coming Home, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

In 1976, he appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's final film Family Plot, as the boyfriend of Blanche Tyler (Barbara Harris). Dern told an interviewer that, due to Hitchcock's failing health, the director often asked his assistance during the production. During the 1980s and 1990s, Dern kept working but was unable to hit the mark as he did before: after the films of the 1970s, he often played roles in Tattoo and All the Pretty Horses. Occasionally, he did land a few good films, including TV movies.

In 1983, he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival for his role in That Championship Season.[8]

His most recent efforts include the independent movies The Astronaut Farmer and Monster, a recurring role on the HBO series Big Love, and the monster movie Swamp Devil for RHI Films New York and the Sci Fi Channel.

On November 1, 2010, he was presented the 2,419th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His daughter Laura Dern and his ex-wife Diane Ladd received stars on the same date. He was honored with a Legend Award at the inaugural Gold Coast International Film Festival on June 1, 2011.

On May 26, 2013, he won the Best Actor award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for his role in Alexander Payne's Nebraska.[9][10] The role, which received significant critical acclaim, subsequently earned Dern Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, along with other accolades.

Personal life

Dern married Marie Dawn Pierce in 1957, but divorced less than two years later. In 1960, Dern married actress Diane Ladd, but later divorced in 1969. The marriage produced daughter Laura Dern (b. 1967) who later became an Academy Award nominated actress. Another daughter, Diane Elizabeth Dern was born November 29, 1960, but died at eighteen months, from head injuries caused by falling into a swimming pool, on May 18, 1962. Shortly after his divorce from Ladd in 1969, Dern married Andrea Beckett, and remained married.


Year Title Role Director Notes
1960 Wild River Jack Roper Elia Kazan Uncredited
1961 The Crimebusters Joe Krajac Boris Sagal
1964 Marnie Sailor Alfred Hitchcock
1964 Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte John Mayhew Robert Aldrich
1966 The Wild Angels Loser Roger Corman
1967 Waterhole #3 Deputy Sam Tippen William A. Graham
1967 The War Wagon Hammond Burt Kennedy
1967 The St. Valentine's Day Massacre John May Roger Corman
1967 The Trip John Roger Corman
1968 Will Penny Rafe Quint Tom Gries
1968 Psych-Out Steve Davis Richard Rush
1968 Hang 'Em High Miller, Cooper Hanging Party Ted Post
1969 Support Your Local Sheriff! Joe Danby Burt Kennedy
1969 Castle Keep Lt. Billy Byron Bix Sydney Pollack
1969 Number One Richie Fowler Tom Gries
1969 The Cycle Savages Keeg
1969 They Shoot Horses, Don't They? James Sydney Pollack
1970 Bloody Mama Dirkman Roger Corman
1970 The Rebel Rousers J.J. Weston Martin B. Cohen
1971 The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant Roger Anthony M. Lanza
1971 Drive, He Said Coach Bullion Jack Nicholson
1972 The Cowboys Asa Watts ("Long Hair") Mark Rydell
1972 Silent Running Freeman Lowell Douglas Trumbull
1972 The King of Marvin Gardens Jason Staebler Bob Rafelson
1972 Thumb Tripping Smitty Quentin Masters
1973 The Laughing Policeman Leo Larsen Stuart Rosenberg
1974 The Great Gatsby Tom Buchanan Jack Clayton
1975 Posse Jack Strawhorn Kirk Douglas
1975 Smile Big Bob Freelander Michael Ritchie
1976 Family Plot George Lumley Alfred Hitchcock
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood Grayson Potchuck Michael Winner
1976 Folies bourgeoises William Brandels Claude Chabrol
1977 Black Sunday Michael Lander John Frankenheimer
1978 Coming Home Captain Bob Hyde Hal Ashby
1978 The Driver The Detective Walter Hill
1980 Middle Age Crazy Bobby Lee John Trent
1981 Tattoo Johnny Bob Brooks
1982 That Championship Season George Sitkowski Jason Miller
1982 Harry Tracy, Desperado Harry Tracy William A. Graham
1986 On the Edge Wes Holman Rob Nilsson
1987 The Big Town Mr. Edwards Ben Bolt and Harold Becker
1988 World Gone Wild Ethan Lee H. Katzin
1988 1969 Cliff Ernest Thompson
1989 The 'Burbs Mark Rumsfield Joe Dante
1990 After Dark, My Sweet Uncle Bud James Foley
1992 Diggstown John Gillon Michael Ritchie
1995 Mrs. Munck Patrick Leary
1995 Wild Bill Will Plummer Walter Hill
1996 Mulholland Falls The Chief Lee Tamahori Uncredited
1996 Down Periscope Admiral Yancy Graham David S. Ward
1996 Last Man Standing Sheriff Ed Galt Walter Hill
1998 Small Soldiers Link Static (voice) Joe Dante
1998 Perfect Prey Capt. Swagge
1999 The Haunting Mr. Dudley Jan De Bont
1999 If... Dog... Rabbit McGurdy
2000 All the Pretty Horses The Judge Billy Bob Thornton
2001 The Glass House Begleiter Daniel Sackheim
2003 Masked and Anonymous The Editor Larry Charles
2003 Milwaukee, Minnesota Sean McNally
2003 Monster Thomas Patty Jenkins
2005 Madison Harry Volpi William Bindley
2005 Down in the Valley Charlie David Jacobson
2006 Believe in Me Ellis Brawley Robert Collector
2006 Walker Payne Chester Matt Williams
2006 The Astronaut Farmer Hal Michael Polish
2006 The Hard Easy Gene
2007 The Cake Eaters Easy Mary Stuart Masterson
2008 The Golden Boys Captain Perez Daniel Adams
2008 Swamp Devil Howard Blame David Winning
2009 American Cowslip Cliff Mark David
2009 Choose Dr. Ronald Pendleton Marcus Graves
2009 Trim Dale Banks
2009 The Lightkeepers Bennie Daniel Adams
2009 The Hole 3D Creepy Carl Joe Dante
2011 Twixt Bobby LaGrange Francis Ford Coppola
2011 Inside Out Vic Small Artie Mandelberg
2012 Hitting the Cycle James
2012 Django Unchained Curtis Carrucan Quentin Tarantino
2012 From Up on Poppy Hill Tokumaru (voice) Gorō Miyazaki English dub
2013 Coffin Baby Vance Henrickson
2013 Northern Borders Austin Kittredge Sr.
2013 Fighting for Freedom Christian Dobbe Farhad Mann
2013 Nebraska Woody Grant Alexander Payne
2014 Cut Bank Georgie Wits Matt Shakman
2015 The Hateful Eight Sanford Smithers Quentin Tarantino
2016 Class Rank Oswald Eric Stoltz Filming
Year Title Role Notes
1960 Route 66 Albert Episode: "The Man on the Monkey Board"
1961 Naked City Hollis / Nicky Uncredited
2 episodes
1961 Sea Hunt FBI Agent John Furillo Episode: "Crime at Sea"
1961 Surfside 6 Johnny Page Episode: "Daphne, Girl Detective"
1961 Thriller Johnny Norton Episode: "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk"
1961 Ben Casey Billy Harris Episode: "A Dark Night for Billy Harris"
1961 The Detectives Jud Treadwell Episode: "Act of God"
1961–62 Cain's Hundred Eddie Light / Joe Krajac 2 episodes
1962–63 Stoney Burke E.J. Stocker 17 episodes
1962–63 The Dick Powell Show Deering 2 episodes
1963 Kraft Suspense Theatre Maynard Episode: "The Hunt"
1963 The Outer Limits Ben Episode: "The Zanti Misfits"
1963–65 Wagon Train Wilkins / Jud Fisher / Seth Bancroft 3 episodes
1963–66 The Fugitive Deputy Martin / Charley / Hutch / Hank / Cody 5 episodes
1964–65 The Virginian Bert Kramer / Lee Darrow / Pell 3 episodes
1964 77 Sunset Strip Ralph Wheeler Episode: "Lovers' Lane"
1964 The Greatest Show on Earth Vernon Episode: "The Last of the Strongmen"
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Jesse / Roy Bullock 2 episodes
1964–65 Twelve O'Clock High TSgt. Frank Jones / Lieutenant Michaels / Lieutenant Danton 4 episodes
1965 Rawhide Ed Rankin Episode: "Walk into Terror"
1965 Laredo Joe Durkee Episode: "Rendezvous at Arillo"
1965 A Man Called Shenandoah Bobby Ballantine Episode: "The Verdict"
1965; 1968 The F.B.I. Virgil Roy Phipps / PFC Byron Landy 2 episodes
1965–66; 1969 Gunsmoke Guerin / Lou Stone / Judd Print / Doyle Phleger 4 episodes
1966 Branded Les Episode: "The Wolfers"
1966 The Loner Merrick Episode: "To Hang a Dead Man"
1966 Disneyland Turk Episode: "Gallegher Goes West: Crusading Reporter"
1966–67 Run for Your Life Alex Ryder 3 episodes
1966–68 The Big Valley John Weaver / Gabe Skeels / Clovis / Harry Dixon / Jack Follet 5 episodes
1968–69 Lancer Tom Nevill / Lucas Thatcher 2 epsiodes
1968; 1970 Bonanza Bayliss / Cully Maco 2 episodes
1969 Then Came Bronson Bucky O'Neill Episode: "Amid Splinters of the Thunderbolt"
1970 Land of the Giants Thorg Episode: "Wild Journey"
1970 The High Chaparral Wade Episode: "Only the Bad Come to Sonora"
1970 The Immortal Luther Seacombe Episode: "To the Gods Alone"
1985 Space Stanley Mott Miniseries
1986 Toughlove Rob Charters Television film
1987 Roses Are for the Rich Douglas Osborne Television film
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Augustine St. Claire Television film
1989 Trenchcoat in Paradise John Hollander Television film
1990 The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson Scout Ed Higgins Television film
1991 Into the Badlands T.L. Barston Television film
1991 Carolina Skeletons Junior Stoker Television film
1993 It's Nothing Personal Billy Archer Television film
1994 Dead Man's Revenge Payton McCay Television film
1994 Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight George Putnam Television film
1995 A Mother's Prayer Grandpa Television film
1999 Hard Time: The Premonition Winston Television film
2003 King of the Hill Randy Strickland (voice) Episode: "Boxing Luanne"
2003 Hard Ground Nate Hutchinson Television film
2006–07; 2009–11 Big Love Frank Harlow 29 episodes
2007 CSI: NY Vet Episode: "Boo"
2013 Pete's Christmas Grandpa Television film

Awards and nominations

Year Title Award
1971 Drive, He Said National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
1972 The Cowboys Bronze Wrangler for Best Theatrical Motion Picture
1974 The Great Gatsby Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1978 Coming Home Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1980 Middle Age Crazy Nominated – Genie Award for Best Performance by a Foreign Actor
1981 Tattoo Nominated – Razzie Award for Worst Actor
1982 Harry Tracy, Desperado Nominated – Genie Award for Best Performance by a Foreign Actor
That Championship Season Silver Bear for Best Actor
2006 Big Love Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2008 Swamp Devil Philadelphia Film Festival Jury Prize
2009 The Lightkeepers Nominated – Method Fest Award for Best Supporting Actor
2012 Django Unchained Nominated – San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Performance by an Ensemble
2013 Nebraska AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Award for Best Actor
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cast
Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award
Dublin Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Nominated – American Comedy Award for Comedy Actor - Film
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Nominated – Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Gold Derby Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated – Guardian Film Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Houston Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
Nominated – London Film Critics Circle Award for Actor of the Year
Nominated – San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated – St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture


  1. Bruce Dern Biography (1936-)
  2. John Dern, 54, Utility Chief, Attorney, Dies
  5. Borrelli, Christopher (November 11, 2013). "Bruce Dern's long run to 'Nebraska'". Chicago Tribune.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Bruce Dern shows a dangerous streak in 'Big Love'". Los Angeles Times. January 13, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Bruce Dern was on Tavis Smiley recently and told the story of how Eleanor Roosevelt was not his godmother but a family friend whom his family visited at Hyde Park. "One year they were visiting and little Brucie got to go with them, and I was riding a bicycle in the afternoon, and ran into a tree and hit my head and had a concussion. In those days when you had a concussion they laid you down with your head on a pillow and then strapped your head across the pillow so you couldn’t move it to the side or forward or anything. When I kind of came to, I guess it was late at night, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and as I rolled my head to the side, I saw this lady’s legs. They were kind of veiny, and had a nightgown down to about here with little kind of tacky slippers. (Laughter) I didn’t understand. As I slowly came up and started looking up to where the woman’s face was, she had a book in her lap, and she looked like this (makes face) and had that Roosevelt bite. I realized, my God, it’s the president’s wife. (Laughter) I had – it was just before he went to Yalta, so I would have been about eight, I guess. This was ’44; I think that’s when he went to Yalta. So that was in my house. Somebody took that and ran with it and assumed, well, who would babysit a guy like that unless it was his godmother?"
  8. "Berlinale: 1983 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-11-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Cannes Film Festival: Awards 2013". Cannes. 26 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Cannes: Lesbian Drama 'Blue Is the Warmest Color' Wins Palme d'Or". The Wrap. Retrieved 26 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links