Backstage at the Oscars on the eve of her 53rd birthday, actress Laura Dern — after collecting a supporting-actress prize for “Marriage Story” — talked about the influence in her life of strong women, most notably her mother, actress Diane Ladd.
“They literally got me here and artistically got me here as well, so it means the world,” Dern said of her parents and her first career Oscar win.
Dern’s father is actor Bruce Dern.
With her Oscar win, Dern continued a streak of wins that includes Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild honors for her performance as a ruthlessly successful divorce lawyer.
Ladd and godmother Shelley Winters were “massive influences” in her life, Dern told reporters backstage at the Dolby Theatre.
Asked what advice she’d give to younger actresses, she offered, “Use your voice in this life,” but then she passed along what she called a great life lesson from her fourth-grade teacher: “Keep your eyes on your own paper … stay true to your own inner voice.”
Dern, who also portrayed the CEO of a major tech company in the HBO miniseries “Big Little Lies,” said reporters often note that she is playing powerful women.
The reason, she said, is that “there are women in positions of power to play now … there are many more exciting roles to play.”
Asked about female directors she admires, Dern said, “If I could give this Oscar to Greta Gerwig, I would do it right now.”
Gerwig’s “Little Women” was nominated for best picture, but she was snubbed in the directing category.
Dern said opportunity is more important than accolades when it comes to women in directing, and also noted “the lack of second chances given to female voices.”
Keeping those voices front and center is everyone’s job, she said.
“When we say use our voice, we’re talking about us, each other, whatever industry we’re in,” Dern said.
She said what has changed in the last few years is that “when we don’t see our culture reflected around us, we get to say something.”
“Make sure that your crew and the storytelling reflects our global community,” whether you’re a producer, director of photography, a filmmaker or an actor, she said. “That matters.”
Dern had been twice nominated for Oscars before — for her supporting role in “Wild” and a supporting role in “Rambling Rose.”