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Bruce Dern - Biography

The American actor was born in Chicago in 1936 and is best known for starring in Coming Home, Nebraska, The Hateful Eight, and more


Actor Bruce Dern attends the The New York Premiere Of "The Hateful Eight" on December 14, 2015 in New York City
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
Updated: 13 July 2023
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Bruce Dern's Early Life

Bruce Dern was born on June 4, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Kenilworth, Illinois. His paternal grandfather, George Dern, was a Utah governor and Secretary of War, his maternal granduncle was poet Archibald MacLeish, and his godfather was governor and two-time presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson II.

He was a track star as a student in school and university, and studied at the Actors Studio through the 1950s, starting his career with bit parts on stage and Broadway.

Bruce Dern's Career

Dern made his film debut in 1960 with the film Wild River, and after a slew of supporting roles, he first gained recognition for his performance in 1969's They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. Further notable turns included The Cowboys (1972), The Great Gatsby (1974), and The Driver (1978), before his turn in 1978's Coming Home opposite Jane Fonda, which got him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Further acclaim followed for 1981's That Championship Season, 2003's Monster, 2015's The Hateful Eight, and 2019's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, plus a five-season turn on HBO's Big Love. He earned the best reviews of his career in 2013 with Nebraska, playing a man who, believing he'd won the lottery, takes a roadtrip from Montana to Nebraska to claim his winnings. He won the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Bruce Dern's Personal Life

Dern maintains a relatively private lifestyle, but has gained significant attention for his relationships. From 1957-1959, he was married to Marie Dawn Pierce after a year of dating. In 1960, he and fellow Oscar nominee Diane Ladd tied the knot, welcoming two children: Diane Elizabeth Dern, who tragically died at eighteen months after a drowning accident, and Laura Dern, who has followed in her parents' footsteps and is an Oscar-winning actress herself.

In 1969, Dern and Ladd divorced, and he soon married Andrea Beckett, and they've been married since. Dern, Ladd, and Laura have maintained a healthy relationship in recent years, with all three receiving adjoining stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010.

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