All About Laura Dern’s Famous Parents, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd

Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd were married from 1960 to 1969

<p>Barry King/FilmMagic</p> Diane Ladd, Laura Dern, and Bruce Dern arrive at the Los Angeles Premiere of

Barry King/FilmMagic

Diane Ladd, Laura Dern, and Bruce Dern arrive at the Los Angeles Premiere of 'Wild' on November 19, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.

Laura Dern descends directly from Hollywood legends — her parents Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd.

Bruce and Diane first met back in the 1960s when they were aspiring actors. The pair appeared in an Off-Broadway production of Orpheus Descending, and while it wasn’t love at first sight, it wasn’t long before their relationship turned romantic.

The couple tied the knot in 1960 and shortly after, they welcomed their first daughter, Diane Elizabeth. Unfortunately, the little girl’s life ended in tragedy when she died in a drowning accident at just 18 months old. The loss of their older daughter took a heavy toll on the couple, although they remained together and went on to welcome Laura in 1967.

By the time Laura was 2, Diane and Bruce decided to end their marriage. Meanwhile, both of their careers had taken off, and they were traveling the world filming big-budget productions. With Laura by their sides whenever possible, she developed her own love of acting.

Now with her own successful acting career, Laura says her parents have been her biggest supporters and greatest inspirations throughout her life.

“Of the many gifts of having Diane as my mom, watching her at every age in every experience never give up on a dream ... has been one of the great inspirations of my life. Always finding the glass half full, always building onto dreams and knowing that self-love is the ultimate goal and guiding me to remembering that in myself,” Laura shared on CBS Sunday Morning in May 2023.

Here’s everything to know about Laura Dern’s parents.

Bruce and Diane first met while starring in a play together

<p>Bettmann</p> Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern at the The Harwyn Club in New York in 1960.

Bettmann

Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern at the The Harwyn Club in New York in 1960.

Bruce and Diane first met early in their careers when they were both appearing in a production of Orpheus Descending in New York City. Bruce had been a late addition to the cast, taking over the lead role when the play moved to Off-Broadway. The couple met for the first time on stage — but Diane said it was “far from love at first sight.”

Reflecting on the moment in her and Laura's joint memoir, Honey, Baby, Mine, Diane said she was giving a monologue at the beginning of the play when Bruce entered the stage. Instead of silently listening to her words, Bruce interacted with props on stage, stealing the audience’s attention.

“After the curtain call, I cornered him backstage, and I said, ‘Boy, you better listen to me. When I’m on that stage doing my monologue, you do nothing.’ ... He said, ‘Oh, all right.’ I said, ‘I mean it. I’ll come after you right onstage if you do that again. Don’t you dare.’ That’s how we started,” Diane shared in Honey, Baby, Mine.

They got married in 1960

After meeting on stage, Bruce and Diane’s friendship progressed. Just as she was about to take time off to audition for another play, she recruited Bruce to help her research her character. The pair ended up at an all-night restaurant, and after the evening together, Bruce invited Diane to his home in New Jersey the following week. Bruce, who had previously been married to a woman named Marie, still lived in the “all-American suburban house” he had shared with his first wife.

“We had dinner, and we lay on the floor and listened to beautiful classical music. Lying there, I thought that your father was the loneliest man I had ever met. My heart just went out to him as a human being,” Diane told Laura in Honey, Baby, Mine, adding that the pair did “a little kissing on the floor” and ended up getting together that night.

She continued, “He came in [my room] and was so sweet, and he moved in on me with charm. That’s all it took! Honey, I was gone!”

By 1960, the pair had tied the knot.

Bruce and Diane lost a child before Laura was born

On the night that Bruce invited Diane to his New Jersey home, the couple conceived their first child. According to Diane, Bruce had been told that he was unable to have children so they were surprised to discover they were expecting.

“I slept with your daddy one time, Laura, and bam, I was pregnant!” Diane shared in Honey, Baby, Mine. “It wasn’t planned, but it was meant to be!”

The couple’s first daughter, Diane Elizabeth, was born in 1961. Just 18 months later, Diane Elizabeth died following a tragic accident in a pool while in the care of a nanny.

“She fell into the pool. She hit her head and knocked herself out. And it all happened instantly. And she died, and you will never get over that. I don't care what you say to yourself. I don’t care who says what. The child is not supposed to die before the parent,” Diane said during an appearance on CBS Sunday Morning.

While reflecting on the loss of her first daughter in Honey, Baby, Mine, Diane admitted that the pain was “indescribable” and “completely shattered” the couple. While friends tried to help, Diane said that her daughter's death was something from which she never truly recovered.

They welcomed Laura in 1967

<p>Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty</p> Diane Ladd, Laura Dern and actor Bruce Dern attending the Los Angeles premiere of "Citizen Ruth" on November 21, 1996.

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty

Diane Ladd, Laura Dern and actor Bruce Dern attending the Los Angeles premiere of "Citizen Ruth" on November 21, 1996.

In 1966, Diane became pregnant with Laura while filming The Wild Angels with Bruce. Laura was born on Feb. 10, 1967.

Bruce and Diane divorced in 1969

When Laura was 2 years old, her parents filed for divorce. Looking back, Diane said that the “real reason” for the split was the death of their first daughter.

“If you lose a child, it’s very hard to cope. We were struggling actors. We could hardly make it. We had to stay in the same house where she died because we couldn’t afford to leave. His family could have helped us, but they didn’t,” Diane shared in Honey, Baby, Mine, adding that the couple were “torn asunder.”

They divorced in 1969 and went on to wed other people, but they remained “dear friends” through the years. They still spend time together with Laura’s family.

“Now I get to see why they would have fallen in love and were a couple because they’re hysterical together. And they adore each other’s talent and they love talking about movies and they worked with the same tribe of people. So there’s a real common language that, you know, I’m sad they didn’t get to explore more,” Laura said on the WTF With Marc Maron podcast.

Laura was primarily raised by her mother

<p>Laura Dern Instagram</p> Laura Dern and her mother Diane Ladd.

Laura Dern Instagram

Laura Dern and her mother Diane Ladd.

Following her parent’s divorce, Laura was primarily raised by her mother, Diane, and her grandmother, Mary Bernadette Ladner. While her father lived nearby in Malibu, she spent the majority of her time at her mother’s home.

“I definitely was raised by my mom and my grandma but I spent a lot of time with [my dad] as I got older. I think he kind of, as you could imagine probably, didn't really know what to do with a small person,” Laura joked on the WTF With Marc Maron podcast.

She continued, “I think [my mom] realized that she might just be better off kind of trying to figure out how to do it with her mom and, you know, getting our own pad and letting him have his life as he needed it at the time."

Bruce and Diane are Oscar nominated actors

<p>Bei/Shutterstock</p> Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd at the premiere of The Last Boy Scout; on May 20, 1992.

Bei/Shutterstock

Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd at the premiere of The Last Boy Scout; on May 20, 1992.

As Laura was growing up, both Bruce and Diane’s acting careers began to take off. After first appearing in television episodes, the pair both went on to star in TV films and then major motion pictures. Bruce found a niche in Westerns and became infamous for his role in The Cowboys where his character killed John Wayne. He went on to appear in movies like Silent Running, The King of Marvin Gardens, Posse and Family Plot.

Meanwhile, Diane’s career was also met with success, appearing in films like Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Chinatown, Wild at Heart and Rambling Rose.

“The 70s, when I was a child, was their time of great success. But there were no cameras following you through the market or paparazzi at your school. In a way, there wasn’t a lot of focus on personal life or what your parents did. My parents were character actors. They wanted to play complicated people and they didn't care about anything else, like the glam stuff,” Laura told The Guardian in 2014.

Through the years, the pair have gone on to appear in hundreds of other movies and television series and have earned numerous nominations for their work. Diane has been nominated for three Academy Awards, several Primetime Emmys and four Golden Globes, taking one home for her role in the sitcom Alice. Bruce has also earned many nominations, including an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor in Coming Home and Best Actor in Nebraska.

Diane was unsure about allowing Laura to pursue acting

<p>Ralph Dominguez/MediaPunch/Getty</p> Diane Ladd and Laura Dern, circa 1980s.

Ralph Dominguez/MediaPunch/Getty

Diane Ladd and Laura Dern, circa 1980s.

As a child, Laura developed her love of acting while spending time on her parent’s movie sets. At 7, she was splitting her summer vacation between time on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot and Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

“I knew I wanted to become an actor when I was 7 years old. My dad was working with Alfred Hitchcock, my mom was working with Martin Scorsese — and it was the great summer of my childhood,” Laura told PEOPLE in 2015.

It was on the set of the Scorsese film that she had the opportunity to be an extra for the first time. Knowing that the little girl wanted to be an actress, the famed director decided to put her to the test. Playing an extra at a diner, Scorsese asked Laura to eat a banana ice cream cone in the scene — and then shot it 19 times.

“We had to shoot the scene 19 times, and Marty said to my mom, ‘If she can eat an ice cream cone 19 times, she’s got to be an actress.’ To this little 7-year-old, a buzz went off in the brain,” Laura shared with The New York Times in 1986.

Unfortunately, Laura’s parents weren’t quite on board with her prospective acting career. In fact, Diane actively discouraged Laura from pursuing the profession.

“I said no. I dissuaded her. I said, ‘No, honey, no, no, no.’ Look, be a lawyer, be a doctor. I said, ‘If you’re going to save somebody’s life as a doctor, nobody’s going to care if your chin points when you cry or your butt is too big,’ ” Diane said during a 2023 appearance on Live With Kelly & Mark.

Laura didn’t heed her mother’s advice and continued to pursue acting. She took classes at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute starting when she was just 9 years old, even though she had to bike there by herself. Then, when she was 11, she secretly met with an agent at her mother’s birthday party who ended up helping her land her first auditions.

Laura emancipated herself from her parents at age 16

<p>Neilson Barnard/Getty ; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic</p> Laura Dern and Diane Ladd attend ELLE's 24th Annual Women in Hollywood Celebration on October 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. ; Laura Dern and Bruce Dern arrive at the Los Angeles Premiere of 'The Hateful Eight' on December 7, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

Neilson Barnard/Getty ; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Laura Dern and Diane Ladd attend ELLE's 24th Annual Women in Hollywood Celebration on October 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. ; Laura Dern and Bruce Dern arrive at the Los Angeles Premiere of 'The Hateful Eight' on December 7, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

By the time Laura was a teenager, she had begun to land acting gigs in films and on TV shows. She continued her education, too, finishing her high school coursework a year early. With her mother’s support, she decided to legally emancipate herself from her parents at 16, which made it easier to work longer hours on set, per The New York Times.

The following year, Laura enrolled at UCLA and moved out of her mother’s home. She began sharing an apartment with their family friend and spiritual leader, Marianne Williamson.

While Laura had initially intended to go to college to study psychology and journalism, she was offered a role in Blue Velvet two days into her first semester. When she asked the university to take a gap year, they declined and she was forced to drop out.

The family has appeared in multiple projects together

<p>Joe Martinez/Plux/Shutterstock</p> Diane Ladd, Laura Dern, and Bruce Dern at Fox Searchlight's premiere of "Wild" on November 19, 2014.

Joe Martinez/Plux/Shutterstock

Diane Ladd, Laura Dern, and Bruce Dern at Fox Searchlight's premiere of "Wild" on November 19, 2014.

Early in their careers, Bruce and Diane appeared on screen together multiple times. Following their production of Orpheus Descending, they went on to appear in The Wild Angels and The Rebel Rousers and later Mrs. Munck and American Cowslip.

Diane and Laura have also worked together, beginning with Laura’s uncredited appearances in her mother’s films, White Lightning and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. They later co-starred in Rambling Rose, Citizen Ruth and Inland Empire and even played mother and daughter in Wild at Heart and the HBO series Enlightened.

Together, their roles in Rambling Rose earned them Oscar nominations and marked the first time in the award show’s history that a mother and daughter were nominated together.

Laura worked with Bruce for the first time on 2024's Palm Royale — an Apple TV+ series. The award-winning actress described playing father-daughter on the small screen as "one of the great experiences of our life."

They have adjoining stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

<p>FilmMagic/FilmMagic</p> Bruce Dern, Laura Dern and Diane Ladd honored with Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 1, 2010.

FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Bruce Dern, Laura Dern and Diane Ladd honored with Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 1, 2010.

In 2010, Bruce, Diane and Laura were presented with adjoining stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It marked the first time that family members were given the honor together.

“I ask the universe that these three stars right here — when I’m dead and gone or if I’m still alive — that whoever comes and looks at it or stands on it, may the energy of the three of our lives permeate into their foundation and help each and every one fulfill their destiny with joy and love, as I wish for you,” Diane said during her acceptance speech.

Laura and Diane deepened their connection following a health crisis

<p>Laura Dern Instagram</p> Laura Dern and her mother Diane Ladd.

Laura Dern Instagram

Laura Dern and her mother Diane Ladd.

In 2018, Diane experienced a health crisis and was told that she might only have six months to live. She had been diagnosed with a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which she believes was caused by toxic pesticides that had been sprayed in her neighborhood for years. She was left with severe lung damage and no treatment options. Doctors told her that her only hope of getting better would be by attempting to expand her lung capacity through exercise.

Laura made the decision to help rehabilitate her mother, and the duo began going on walks near the beach in Los Angeles. During these walks, which were at first extremely difficult for Diane, the pair began having deep conversations.

“I thought I was dying, so Laura and I just told each other everything. Just fixing ourselves and our relationship was a darn good beginning,” Diane told PEOPLE.

As their walks continued, Laura decided to record the conversations with her mother for herself and her children — but it later became the basis of their joint memoir, Honey, Baby, Mine. As for why they decided to make their private conversations public, Laura said she wanted to encourage others to get to know each other “better, more deeply and more authentically.”

Laura thanked her parents in her Oscars speech

<p>Amy Sussman/Getty</p> Diane Ladd and Laura Dern attend the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California.

Amy Sussman/Getty

Diane Ladd and Laura Dern attend the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California.

When Laura took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in 2019's Marriage Story, she dedicated the award to her parents. Her mother tearfully watched on from the audience.

“Some say, ‘Never meet your heroes.’ But I say, if you're really blessed, you get them as your parents,” she said on stage. “I share this with my acting heroes, my legends, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. You got game. I love you.”

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.