Laura Dern has just won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award on Sunday night at the 2020 Oscars for her acclaimed performance in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” This is Dern’s first Academy Award win after past nominations for Best Supporting Actress for “Wild” in 2015, and for Best Actress in 1992 for “Rambling Rose.” At tonight’s Oscars, Laura Dern emerged victorious over Kathy Bates in “Richard Jewell,” Scarlett Johansson (also nominated for Best Actress tonight for “Marriage Story”) in “Jojo Rabbit,” Margot Robbie in “Bombshell,” and her “Little Women” costar Florence Pugh.
For her wild turn as a high-profile divorce lawyer defending Johansson’s character against Adam Driver’s in “Marriage Story,” Laura Dern has been steadily picking up prizes all awards season. Her prior “Marriage Story” wins include the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, the EE BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role. All signs pointed to her victory this evening. Dern also serves as a Governor in the Actors Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which certainly doesn’t hurt in making her a favorite among many voters. Her win tonight is so far the only Oscar triumph for Netflix’s “Marriage Story,” which is also up for Best Picture, Best Actress (Johansson), Best Actor (Driver), Best Original Screenplay (Baumbach), and Best Original Score (Randy Newman).
To create the role of hotshot lawyer Nora Fanshaw, writer/director Baumbach turned toward his own experiences with divorce. “I talked to lawyers and mediators,” he told IndieWire last year. “It gave me an opportunity to ask them questions…Divorce is like death in a way. When it happens to you, people can speak about it, but no one really wants to speak about it who’s not in it…I just felt like there was a way to make a movie that was both very much about this subject,” he said, “and also totally transcend it.”
Since starring as Renata Klein in 2017 on HBO’s iconic drama series “Big Little Lies,” which also earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, Laura Dern has enjoyed something of a renaissance after decades of cult roles in the work of David Lynch (including unhinged turns in “Blue Velvet,” “Wild at Heart,” and “Inland Empire,” and his third season of the mystery series “Twin Peaks” as Diane), and beloved turns in films like “Jurassic Park,” “Citizen Ruth,” “The Tale,” and series such as HBO’s “Enlightened.” In 2019, Dern reprised her “Big Little Lies” role for the second season, directed by Andrea Arnold for HBO.
Dern got her start with an uncredited role in Martin Scorsese’s 1974 “Alice Does’t Live Here Anymore,” which also starred her mother, Diane Ladd. Throughout the awards season, Dern has thanked her mother Ladd and father, Bruce Dern, for inspiring her career. Outside of many indie favorites, Dern has also made forays into tentpole blockbusters, as she also appeared in 2017’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” making her debut in the hit science-fiction franchise, and will reprise her “Jurassic Park” role in the upcoming “Jurassic World 3,” hitting theaters in 2021. Dern also starred in this year’s Best Picture Academy Award nominee “Little Women,” which didn’t earn her a nomination.
Back in November 2019 at a Museum of Modern Art film benefit honoring the actress, Dern offered a powerful display of compassion for the many collaborators who have guided her storied career, from Lynch to Greta Gerwig and Robert Altman, as well as her parents. “To our, and I say our because I’m speaking for my fellow actors, our filmmakers, our maestros, our guides: I’ve always found it confusing whenever I’ve heard someone say — ‘you know, you’re considered his muse,’ because you’re our muse. You create the narrative, and we try to bring truth to the story you’ve envisioned,” she said. “And it is because of the filmmakers who’ve chosen me and call me collaborator, even though I feel like I’m along for the ride, that I strive in the way I do, that I am awe-inspired to join you tonight and consider myself a kid just learning, just beginning, just waking up in a fever pitch about acting and about film like I’ve never felt before.”
Follow all of IndieWire’s coverage of the 2020 Academy Award here, and view the complete list of winners out of the big night so far here.