Bruce MacLeish Dern (born June 4, 1936) is an American actor. He frequently takes roles as a supporting character actor, often playing villains of unstable nature. Dern has appeared in more than 80 feature films, and was nominated for an Oscar for his work in Coming Home. Dern is the father of actress Laura Dern (1967) by his ex-wife Diane Ladd; married 1960–1969. He married Andrea Beckett in 1969.
Dern was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Jean (née MacLeish) and John Dern, a utility chief and attorney. His paternal grandfather was George Henry Dern, a former Utah governor and Secretary of War, his maternal great-uncle was poet Archibald MacLeish, and his maternal great-grandfather was Scottish-born businessman Andrew MacLeish. His godfather was well-known politician Adlai Stevenson and his godmother was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Dern attended The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) and the University of Pennsylvania.
Early in his career he acted in the Philadelphia premier of Waiting for Godot opposite Lyle Kessler and first appeared on screen, for an uncredited role, in the 1960 film Wild River. He then appeared, as a guest star, in several popular 1960s television shows, including Route 66, Naked City, Sea Hunt, Surfside 6, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Outer Limits.
In the 1962-1963 season, Dern had the recurring role of E.J. Stocker in the ABC adventure/drama series about the rodeo circuit, Stoney Burke, starring Jack Lord in the title role and with Warren Oates.
In 1964, he appeared in a major Alfred Hitchcock film, the psychological thriller Marnie, in a short role as the sailor seen in flashbacks about Marnie's mother. Also in 1964, he had a small but crucial film role in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte as the lover of the young Charlotte (a role played by Bette Davis).
During the next five years, Dern continued appearing in several popular television series, with multiple appearances as different characters, including: Wagon Train (3), The Virginian (3), Rawhide (1), 12 O'Clock High (4), The Fugitive (5), The F.B.I. (2), The Big Valley (5), Gunsmoke (4) and Bonanza (2), among others. During that period, he also appeared in several films, including The Wild Angels (1966), The War Wagon, The Trip (1967), Psych-Out, Will Penny (1968), and the early Clint Eastwood film, Hang 'Em High (1968) as a rustler/murderer.
Among Dern's first 20 film roles was a part in the Sydney Pollack picture They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, in 1969. In 1969, he co-starred with James Garner and Walter Brennan in the classic film Support Your Local Sheriff! as gunfighter Joe Danby. In 1972, he played in four films: as the enemy and killer of John Wayne's character in The Cowboys notable for his character cold-bloodedly shooting Wayne in the back. Wayne warned Dern, "America will hate you for this." Dern wryly replied, "Yeah, but they'll love me in Berkeley." His best-known role may be that of Freeman Lowell, the caretaker of Earth's last forests in the dark sci-fi film Silent Running (1972). He then starred with Jack Nicholson in The King of Marvin Gardens; and also in Thumb Tripping, after having been seen in over 90 TV episodes or films. Other memorable roles include Tom Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; or a psychotic Goodyear Blimp pilot who launches a terrorist attack at the Super Bowl in 1977's Black Sunday, and as Captain Bob Hyde in 1978's Coming Home, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 1976, he appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's final film Family Plot, playing the boyfriend of a medium played by Barbara Harris; Dern told an interviewer that, due to Hitchcock's failing health, the director often asked his assistance during the production. During the 1980s and 1990s, Dern kept working but he was not able to hit the mark as he did before: after the films of the 70s, he got stuck with flops like Tattoo and All the Pretty Horses. Occasionally, he did land a few good films, including TV films.
In 1983, he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival for his role in That Championship Season.
His most recent efforts include the independent movies The Astronaut Farmer and Monster, a recurring role on the HBO series Big Love, and the monster movie Swamp Devil for RHI Films New York and the Sci Fi Channel.
On November 1, 2010, he was presented the 2,419th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His daughter Laura Dern and his ex-wife Diane Ladd received stars on the same date. He was honored with a Legend Award at the inaugural Gold Coast International Film Festival on June 1, 2011.
On 26 May 2013 he won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in Alexander Payne's Nebraska.
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