Laura Dern is one of the most decorated actresses in the industry, with an Emmy, a BAFTA, and five Golden Globe Awards, as well as three Oscar Nominations.
The actress was born into the industry but has established herself as a highly sought-out performer in her own right. What do we know about Dern’s family and children? What about her parents and great-grandparents?
1. Her Great-Grandfather Was Former Utah Governor George Dern
Dern was born in Los Angeles, California. Her great-grandfather was the former Utah governor and Secretary of War, George Dern. He was the first non-Mormon governor of Utah, and was the secretary of war under FDR.
Discussing George Dern with The Guardian, Laura states, “He was an incredible man. There were incredible writers on both sides of my family. My dad’s great-uncle, Archibald MacLeish, was the poet laureate of the US. I’m very blessed to have a lot of interesting people in my family, such as the playwright Tennessee Williams [her mother’s cousin].”
Dern’s grandmother, Mary Ladner, helped raise her. Dern states that she was a very “spiritual” woman, and her priorities were church and ritual and family. She tells The Guardian, “When my parents left to go do a movie, I was with my grandma, so the household felt the same. It’s similar to what happens with my children. The parents come and go because of their art, but the home life stays the same. That’s the blessing of a delicious nanny and great grandparents.”
2. Her Son Is a Model
Ellery, the 18-year-old son of Laura Dern and Ben Harper, is a successful model these days.
In a September 2019 interview with W Magazine, Ellery shared of designer Raf Simons, “[Raf] originally asked me to walk [the runway]. But my dad had different opinions… He wanted him to wait a little bit more.”
His patience eventjually paid off, when Ellery finally made his Fashion Week debut in September 2018. Not long after he made his runway debut, IMG Models took to Instagram to share that they would be representing Ellery.
Unlike her brother, Jaya has remained largely out of the spotlight.
In December, Jaya and her mother were seen doing some holiday shopping in Brentwood, Los Angeles.
Talking about her kids with The Guardian, Dern states, “It’s great getting to know their DNA, and all the options that are afforded to them because of their DNA, through my family and their dad [the musician Ben Harper] and his family… I am so moved by family.
3. She Was Married to Musician Ben Harper for 8 Years
Dern met Ben Harper at one of his concerts in 2000. They married five years later.
The artist released his first album in 1994. His first LP, “Pleasure and Pain”, secured him a deal with Virgin Records in 1992.
To date, Harper was won three Grammy Awards. The musician has married three times and has five children. Currently, Harper is married to Jaclyn Matfus.
What happened to the former couple’s marriage? According to Country Living, Harper filed for divorce from Dern in 2010, and it was finalized in 20213. They cited irreconcilable differences in their divorce. They currently share custody of their two children.
4. Her Father Is an Accomplished Actor
Bruce Dern is an accomplished actor, and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Coming Home in 1978. He was also nominated for the Oscar for Nebraska in 2013. His other notable films include Monster, The Hateful Eight, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Family Plot, and Black Sunday.
Interestingly enough, Dern’s parents didn’t encourage her to act. She tells The Guardian, “… they were totally discouraging about me acting as a child. My mum made me study acting for two years, and I had to give up everything else to do it, so I didn’t ride horses, I didn’t go to summer camp, I didn’t do other things. Her thought was that if I was choosing to do just acting then I must really love it. And I did. If acting is what my kids love, I’ll be thrilled for them, but I would encourage them to go to college first.”
Dern states that it’s her dream to one day work with her father. “He and I are working hard to come up with something to do together right now. My mum and I have had several opportunities to work together but my dad and I haven’t.”
5. Her Mother Is Actress Diane Ladd
Dern’s mother is famed actress, director, producer, and author Diane Ladd, who has an endlessly long resume. She received an Oscar nomination and the BAFTA Award for her role in the 1974 film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Her other notable credits include Alice, Wild at Heart, and Chinatown along with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Laura tells The Guardian of her mother, “My mum is a total Auntie Mame. And an incredible multi-tasker. When she’s 95, she will be like: “I’m on my way to the Thailand film festival.” She loves life, she loves food, she loves movies, she loves friends. She’s a real nurturer and thinks everyone is a genius in their own way. She takes people in and celebrates them, so she was a great mother figure to be raised by.”