'Being on the set of Star Wars is very like being on a set with David Lynch'

Laura Dern on Twin Peaks, The Last Jedi and pay equality

by Richard Mowe

Laura Dern en famille in Deauville for the American Film Festival with her children Ellery and Jaya: 'My mother always told me that an actress only begins to attract really great roles after the age of 40. And I have no intention of stopping any time soon'
Laura Dern en famille in Deauville for the American Film Festival with her children Ellery and Jaya: 'My mother always told me that an actress only begins to attract really great roles after the age of 40. And I have no intention of stopping any time soon' Photo: Richard Mowe

Two-time Oscar nominee and Twin Peaks star Laura Dern who with Diane Ladd as her mother and Bruce Dern, her father, can lay claim to being Hollywood Royalty, joined the great debate about equal pay in the film industry saying that it was ridiculous an actress of the stature of Meryl Streep would be paid one-fifth of the salary of Johnny Depp.

Laura Dern in Deauville: 'I have been watching Star Wars since I was eight so I am savouring my good fortune to be appearing one'
Laura Dern in Deauville: 'I have been watching Star Wars since I was eight so I am savouring my good fortune to be appearing one' Photo: Richard Mowe
“I was raised by an actress so it is a topic I have heard much about,” she said today at the Deauville Festival of American Cinema where she received a career tribute last night.

She added: “The gender pay gap is something we hear a lot about in all types of work so it is nothing special to an actor. Now there is more emphasis than ever in our country about how women should be respected. So we are hearing about it more and more. May be the more challenged women feel then the louder they become about equality and respect and this always to the good.

“I am very privileged to do what I love and having been raised by fierce women who also did what they loved. My grandmother did not get to do what she loved because she was a woman but I do. There is clearly much work to be done. Again I appreciate what I do but I am a momma first and as a momma money helps things. I hope for equal pay for all women so they can do things more easily with those they love the most.”

Dern - who will also appear in the next Star Wars film - added a touch of stellar elegance to the red carpet throng and greeted the crowds with a regal aplomb, signing autographs with alacrity.

Dern, 50, is relishing getting older. She was accompanied by her two children (son Ellery 15 and daughter Jaya, 12) whom she confessed always managed to put her in her place.

She said: “My mother always told me that an actress only begins to attract really great roles after the age of 40. And I have no intention of stopping any time soon. Look at my father who still manages to create an impression at the age of 80.”

She defined her goal as an actress was to find master filmmakers to work with. “Obviously there is David Lynch, my hero and friend, but there are many others.”

She described the late Gregory Peck and his wife as her “guardian angels” who had often talked to her about the Deauville Film Festival and urged her to attend. “At long last I am here,” she added.

Currently to be seen as as Diane in Lynch's cult hit Twin Peaks, which has picked up where it left off 26 years ago, Dern said: “When David made Twin Peaks 20 plus years ago there was a generation of people watching television who had not watched his movies and they said this is the most crazy and radical thing we have seen on television.

“Now this many years later, he is doing the reboot of Twin Peaks and my son who is 16 is seeing David Lynch for the first time and saying this is the craziest thing he has seen. It makes me excited that David Lynch is still for two more generations making the most radical film-making that most people have ever seen.”

Dern has also been working on the keenly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi, due for December release. She said: “How do you say, 'No' to something like Star Wars? When I was seven I was in my room with a light sabre and then somebody calls me and asks me to do it for real and not just in my room which was amazing.

"Being on the set of Star Wars is very like being on a set with David Lynch. You look around and you cannot believe what is happening because it is so incredible. And I love the director Rian Johnson because it always starts with the film’s director. I saw his Looper and thought that he is a radical film-making genius. The Star Wars family and producer Kathy Kennedy are fierce about their female characters and this is good especially for the children watching these films and that was exciting too.”

Laura Dern received an award in Deauville
Laura Dern received an award in Deauville Photo: Richard Mowe
It’s not just her acting career spanning more than 60 films that has attracted the Deauville honour but her activities as a producer on productions including HBO's Tiny Beautiful Things, an adaptation of a best-selling book by author Cheryl Strayed. She developed it with Reese Witherspoon with whom she starred in Wild based on the same writer’s memoirs and for which she earned her second Oscar nomination playing a working class mum. She admits she likes to play “people who are deeply flawed”. Witherspoon played her daughter.

She added: “We had the best time ever because you never expect that back to back you have to portray so much love and then so much resentment. So the preparation was just the joy of being able to play in both emotions. Reese has become like family. It is so rare to work together with someone like that. Our children are close and our mothers are close so to have an intimate in the creative space is a luxury because something different happens.”

She’s having a remarkable run of recent roles with another HBO series this year Big Little Lies in which she played a high-powered working mother, and she was Woody Harrelson’s ex-wife in Wilson. She will be gone by the time Harrelson puts in his Deauville appearance, also for a tribute next weekend as well as a screening of The Glass Castle.

With a roll call of great directors behind her from Steven Spielberg to Clint Eastwood Dern says she can still have “a lot to learn” from their ilk.

The Deauville Festival of American Cinema continues until September 10.

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