Laura Dern’s turn as a steely divorce attorney in “Marriage Story” made the case with Oscar jurors, who completed her awards season sweep by awarding her the best supporting actress trophy.
Dern’s win Sunday came nearly three decades after her first Academy Award nomination, a lead actress bid in 1992 for “Rambling Rose.” She received a supporting actress nod in 2015 for “Wild,” and has earned Emmys and a wealth of critics’ honors over the years.
“Some say, never meet your heroes. I say if you’re really blessed, you get them as your parents,” an emotional Dern said in accepting the trophy. “I share this with my acting legends, my heroes, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. You’ve got game. I love you.”
Dern also paid tribute to “Marriage Story” filmmaker Noah Baumbach. His film detailing a marriage’s end is about love and healing divisions in the home and family, she said, “and hopefully for all us, in the name of our planet.”
The actress, who turns 53 on Monday, called the Oscar the “best birthday present ever.”
In a reflection of Dern’s across-the-board respect, her awards for “Marriage Story” ranged from the mainstream Oscars and British Academy awards to critics’ laurels, and prompted an Independent Spirit awards musical tribute Saturday. The versatile actress also was on screen last year in “Little Women,” anchoring family life as Marmee for the film that garnered six Oscar bids, and has proved her commercial chops with the “Jurassic” franchise.
Dern comes from a pedigreed Hollywood family: father Bruce is a two-time Oscar nominee (“Coming Home,” “Nebraska”), and Ladd played her mom in “Rambling Rose” and earned her own Oscar nomination, for supporting actress. Laura Dern began acting as a child, moving from small roles to substantive, attention-getting work in the mid-1980s with “Mask,” “Smooth Talk” and “Blue Velvet.”
Backstage, Dern was asked who inspired her take on the strong characters she played in “Marriage Story” and in TV’s “Big Little Lies.”
“I start with my mother. She and my godmother, Shelley Winters, were massive influences on my life as an actor and activist,” she replied. As for the advice she would give women aspiring to work in Hollywood, Dern said: “Be loud, be proud, stand by incredible sisters.”
Winters, who died in 2006 at age 85, was a two-time Oscar winner “A Patch of Blue” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
In an Associated Press interview a week before the Oscars, Dern said her roots helped her to cope with the awards whirlwind.
“I am really lucky at moments like this to have been raised by actors and to have been acting since I was 11,” and to know how uncertain the industry can be, she said. “You stay detached, and you enjoy the gift of working with people you love and … remembering what it’s really about.”
But there’s something to be said for the “other fun stuff that’s dreamy and lovely,” she added.
The other contenders in the category were Kathy Bates for “Richard Jewell”; Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”; Florence Pugh, “Little Women” and Margot Robbie, “Bombshell.” In a year notably scant in nominees of color, critics saw opportunities missed in the category with the omission of Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers” and Zhao Shuzhen for “The Farewell.”