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5 pieces of wisdom from Laura Dern’s moving Oscars speech
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5 pieces of wisdom from Laura Dern’s moving Oscars speech

The Marriage Story star took home the award for Best Supporting Actress

Having been nominated twice before, Laura Dern finally took home a long-deserved Oscar last night, winning the Best Supporting Actress accolate for her role in Marriage Story.

In her on-stage speech, the actor thanked Netflix, director Noah Baumbach, as well as his partner and Little Women director Greta Gerwig – who was snubbed in this year’s all-male Best Director category – and her castmates Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta. Dern, whose birthday is today (February 10), said it was “the best birthday present ever”.

Also thanking her family, Dern said: “Some say, you never meet your heroes, but I say if you’re really blessed you get them as your parents. I share this with my acting heroes, my legends, Dianne Ladd and Bruce Dern. You got game. I love you.”

But it was the actor’s post-ceremony speech that offered the most wisdom. Speaking to the press, Dern offered advice to young female actors, addressed divisions in the US, and said if she could, she’d give her award to Greta Gerwig.


When one journalist addressed “the elephant in the room”, asking Dern which female director she would nominate if she could, the actor smirked and turned to the crowd before saying: “If I could give this Oscar to Greta Gerwig, I would do it right now!” The actor added: “I would love to see her continually awarded for all her beautiful work.” When asked how Hollywood and the Oscars can be more inclusive for women and people of colour, Dern said: “When we say ‘use our voice’, we’re talking about us – each other. In whatever industry we’re in, we have power to say something, and when we don’t see our culture reflected around us, we get to say something. Likely referencing the #MeToo movement – which stemmed from the multiple sexual abuse accusations against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein – Dern added: “I think the biggest shift we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that voices matter, and a community of voices rallying around the truth really matter. In journalism, in this industry, and in many others. Make sure that your crew and the storytelling reflects our global community, and if you’re an actor in a movie, or you’re the filmmaker or the producer, you get to say something – and that matters.”


Offering guidance to women hoping to break into the industry, Dern recalled “the best advice” she ever got, which was given to her by her fourth grade teacher: “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” She added that in our “social media heyday”, women shouldn’t focus on the noise, and should instead listen to their own inner voices and feel blessed to do what they love. Dern also said that fledgling actors, filmmakers, producers etc. should “use your voice in this life”, and “stay true to yourself whoever you are”.


Referencing a previous quote by Dern in which she said it was a gift to be able to talk about love through storytelling, one journalist asked the actor what she realised through Marriage Story that should be thought about by the US and the world more widely in 2020. Not missing a beat, Dern answered: “If a couple – through heartbreak and divisiveness – can come together to raise a child, then this country better get its act together.” Going on to address the ecological emergency, the actor added: “On a global level, we have a planet to save, so I pray that we can all come together to focus on something that is not at all about politics, it’s all about our home.”


Addressing Gerwig and the other women snubbed at this year’s ceremony – who include The Farewell’s Lulu Wang, Queen & Slim’s Melina Matsoukas, and Honey Boy’s Alma Har’el – Dern added: “There’s so many beautiful films. I think that our lens should focus perhaps less on the lack of accolades, and more on the (lack) of opportunities and second chances given to female voices. As the business and the people with the money give more and more opportunities to extraordinary and diverse voices, and represent who we want to see reflected in film, which is ourselves, we’re going to be in a lot different shape.”


In Marriage Story, Dern plays cut-throat lawyer Nora Fanshaw, a powerful female role similar to her portrayal of career-driven Renata Klein in Big Little Lies. When asked about these parts, Dern said: “I’ve been blessed in this year to have extraordinary roles, and they (journalists) said, ‘wow this year you’re playing powerful women versus complicated addicts’, and I said, ‘that’s because there are women in positions of power to play now’. Five years ago I probably wouldn’t have gotten to play a leading divorce lawyer, or CEO of a major tech company because (women) weren’t in those positions.” Referencing the next gen of female actors, Dern concluded: “There are many more exciting roles to play, and the future generations are going to be the ones that lift us up and show us, because they know it’s their role, not because they are going to ask for permission – they’re just going to do what they love. Bless them for showing us the way.”

Watch Dern’s full speech below, and read her spring/summer 2020 cover story with AnOther here.