US Magazine - February 1997
Laura Dern - Robert Abele, author
The leonine charms of Laura Dern - the flaxen hair, the fierce blue eyes, the Modigliani slope of her face - are the first things you notice about her, both on film and in person. They're also the first things you notice missing from her in the irreverent abortion satire Citizen Ruth. As Ruth Stoops, the pregnant, paint-sniffing, white-trash pawn in a fervid pro-choice vs. pro-life war, Dern makes gangly doltishness in the face of a hot-button issue both human and hilarious.
In the notoriously insecure and image-driven world of the movies, however, onscreen slumming can be quite a leap. So when Citizen Ruth director Alexander Payne first informed Dern how she had to look, the actress heard ego alarm bells go off. "He kept using the word ugly, and the glamour puss that I never thought I was, appeared," Dern says, her face re-creating the terror of a bruised starlet. But when exposed to herself in the dailies - gaunt, stringy haired and covered in rashes - she became a comrade in crudeness: "I kept wanting to go further."
Dern's famous parents - actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern - initially weren't enthusiastic about her pursuit of acting, fearing how she'd take rejection, but when she got cast in the 1980 teen opus Foxes, they surrendered to her brazen determination. The real coup for the then 11-year-old, though, was nabbing the role of a party crasher who was supposed to be in her late teens. Despite her obvious physical maturity and her linage, Dern wasn't another Hollywood wild child. When she had to shoot a scene in which her character talked birth control with another girl, she was asked to explain to a clueless co-star what a diaphragm was. "So I turned to her," recalls Dern, "and said (puts her hand on her stomach), 'You know, when you breathe?'"
With Citizen Ruth, Dern sends a clear signal that she continues to treasure offbeat projects. Jurassic Park may have proved to Hollywood she could be a team player, but it's the Ruths who show off her intuitive sense of character. "Laura's not a personality, she's a soul." says Ladd, who makes a power cameo appearance as Ruth's mother in the new film. "She's an actress. There's a difference."
Dern's impending 30th birthday finds her re-evaluating her personal life. Admitting that her three-year relationship with Jeff Goldblum is currently on a "thought-provoking hiatus," she adds, "I'm taking the time to figure out what I really want - in marriage and child rearing and all those things."
Still, Dern admits it would be difficult to find anything more fulfilling than her job. "There's no more fun thing in the world." she says dreamily. "Some people say, 'I love chocolate,' or 'I love sex,' but to me, acting is the most exciting, creative experience.