Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Photo: David James (Disney)

Laura Dern seems like one of those people who’s almost fanatically delightful, in addition to her near-boundless depths of talent; born to Hollywood royalty, anointed in the indie scene by enigmatic genius David Lynch, and elevating herself to the heights of blockbuster superstardom (with a little help from Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park), Dern’s always seemed nearly machine-like-unrelenting in her pursuit of cheerful acting success. Not even her appearance in Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi—or the way that the internet’s shittiest Star Wars “fans” have latched onto her character, Amilyn Holdo, like a bunch of stunted little troll magnets—appears to have dimmed her ever-present smile.

Case in point: A recent career retrospective she did for Vanity Fair, which asked her to look back over her timeline, from early Burt Reynolds movies with her mom, Diane Ladd, to more recent stuff like Jedi and Big Little Lies. Dern, unsurprisingly, has kind things to say about pretty much all of it, from being hand-picked to help Ellen come out on Ellen, to the way Lynch had to personally mix her makeup colors for her turn on Twin Peaks, because (in her best impression of her old Blue Velvet friend), “That lipstick doesn’t exist!”


The most charming anecdote, though, comes from her first meeting with Rian Johnson for her role in The Last Jedi. Hilariously, Dern initially thought Johnson—at the time, merely the director of three well-regarded indie films—was being metaphorical when he started talking about the loneliness of commanding ships in space. “And I was like ‘My god, yes, that’s it. So where does it take place?’” Her response when he explained that he was actually talking about a non-allegorical War in the Stars was a little less reserved: “Are you fucking kidding me right now?”

Dern went on to confess that her endless fanning over the series actually ruined a few takes; apparently it’s kind of powerful to be talking to C-3P0 for the first time. All of that lines up with an anecdote Johnson told about Dern in May of 2018, noting that she was pretty much incapable of firing her character’s blaster pistol without making “Pew pew” noises with her mouth.

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