Bruce MacLeish Dern is an American actor. Named Actor of Year, Pacific Archives, Berkeley, California 1972. Member Santa Monica Track Club.
Dern, Bruce MacLeish was born on June 4, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Son of John and Jean (MacLeish) Dern. It may grind the more on Dern that he is from the Illinois aristocracy. One grandfather was Roosevelt’s secretary of war, the other was chairman of a leading Chicago department store.
Bruce was educated at New Trier High School, but he dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania and joined the Actors’ Studio.
Elia Kazan gave Dern his movie debut, in Wild River (60), as one of the country hoodlums who beat up Montgomery Clift. He had his hands chopped off in Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte (64, Robert Aldrich); he was the sailor poker- pulped in Mamie (64, Alfred Hitchcock). Dern’s friendship with Jack Nicholson drew him into the Roger Corman circle and ensured him work for the next few years as a desperado or druggy: Loser in The Wild Angels (66, Corman); St. Valentine's Dav Massacre (66, Corman); The Trip (67, Corman); killed by John Wayne in The War Wagon (67, Burt Kennedy); Will Penny (67, Tom Cries); Waterhole 3 (67, William Graham); Psych-Out (68, Richard Rush); Castle Keep (68, Sydney Pollack); Hang 'Em High (68, Ted Post); Support Your Local Sheriff (69, Kennedy); stoned on exhaustion in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (69, Pollack); Bloody Mama (70, Corman); The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (70, Anthony M. Lanza); brilliant as the demented basketball coach in Drive. He Said (70, Jack Nicholson); and, notoriously, as the dirty, rotten longhair who kills John Wayne in The Cowboys (71, Mark Rvdell).
Dern felt trapped and depressed by parts in which he was a gross heavy who never lived to see The End or get a girl. As a result, he tried to find better or more respectable parts and is verv touching and forlorn as the lonely spaceman in Silent Running (71, Douglas Trumbull); his best performance yet as the brother high on dreams of Hawaii in The King of Marvin Gardens (72, Bob Rafelson); a nerw sidekick in The Laughing Policeman (73, Stuart Rosenberg); palpably dangerous as Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (74, Jack Clayton); funny in Smile (74. Michael Ritchie)—comedy could be his best vein; Posse (75, Kirk Douglas); Family Plot (75, Hitchcock); a dog’s best friend in Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (75, Michael Winner); The Twist (76, Claude Chabrol); the Vietnam veteran terrorist riding the blimp in Black Sunday (77, John Frankenheimer); and The Driver (78, Walter Hill).
But then the plot took hold—the plot that Dern’s eyes had always believed—the plot to shaft him. His career began to decline, and the line has not stopped: Middle Age Crazy (SO, John Trent); Tattoo (81, Bob Brooks)—which tries to make a sexual creature of Dern; Harry Tracy, Desperado (82, William A. Graham); Thai Championship Season (82, Jason Miller); running, running, running in On the Edge (85, Rob Nilsson); Toughlove (85, Glenn Jordan) for TV: Uncle Toni 's Cabin (87, Stan Latham) for TV; The Big Town (87, Ben Bolt); Roses Are for the Rich (87, Michael Miller); World Gone Wild (88, Lee H. Katzin); 196.9 (88, Ernest Thompson); The Inirbs (S9, Joe Dante); Trenchcoat in Paradise (89, Martha Coolidge) for TV; The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson (90. Larry Peerce); After Dark, My Sweet (90. James Foley); Diggstvun (93, Ritchie); on TV in It’s Nothing Personal (93, Bradford May).
By now, Dern has become an old-timer, a veteran and a sly know-all—and he’s just as watchable: Dead Man's Revenge (94, Alan J. Levi); as the husband in Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (94, Yves Simoneau); Mrs. Munck (95, Diane Ladd—the mother of Laura Dern); Wild Bill (95, Hill); A Mother's Prayer (95, Larry Elikann); Down Periscope (96, David S. Ward); very good as the chief in Mul holla nd Falls (96, Lee Tamahori); Last Man Standing (96, Hill); Comfort, Texas (97, Ritchie); Perfect Prey (98, Howard McCain); Hard Time: The Premonition (99, David S. Carr); The Haunting (99. Jan De Bout); If . Dog . . . Rabbit (99, Matthew Modine); All the Pretty Horses (00, Billy Bob Thornton); Madison (00, William Bindley); The Glass House (01. Daniel Sackheim).
Member Santa Monica Track Club.
In the American promotion of Coming Home (78, Hal Ashby), a rapturous embrace between Jane Fonda and Jon Voight was being watched by a wistful, suspicious Bruce Dern, his eyes lime pits of paranoia and resentment. Fonda and Voight were not only the upholders of enlightenment in that soft-centered liberal movie in Dem’s eyes, they were established stars. Fonda had one Oscar already, and Voight would win the best actor Oscar for Coming Home.
Dern was then one of the most striking actors on the screen, but a professional haunted by failures, and a man whose own unease flowed into his querulous screen persona. No one was as plausible and frightening as the slightly unbalanced man who believes he has been wronged.
He is not glamorous, or made for triumph. His voice has a high, midwestem twang, inclined to sneer or whine. His face is narrow, nearlv gaunt; his curly hair goes wild with his thoughts. And the looming eyes monopolize our feelings toward him. He can be fearsome, loathsome, or pitiful, but lie is neither calm nor commanding.
Married Diane Ladd, 1960 (divorced 1969). 2 children; Married Andrea Beckett, October 20, 1969. He is the father of Laura Dern (b. 1966).