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Laura Dern Receives Cinema Vanguard Award from Santa Barbara Film Festival

Release Date: January 21,2020

Laura Dern
Laura Dern was honored Tuesday night by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (Fritz Olenberger photo)

By Rochelle Rose, Noozhawk Contributing Writer | @NoozhawkSociety | January 21, 2020 | 11:37 p.m.

Longtime actor Laura Dern received the Cinema Vanguard Award on Tuesday night from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival as a tribute for her remarkable career and recent performances in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.

Deadline’s chief film critic, Pete Hammond, moderated 90 minutes of film clips and Q & A at the nearly full Santa Arlington Theatre.

“Laura is one of cinema’s world treasures and one of the festival’s favorite actresses," said Film Festival Executive Director Roger Durling. "Her career has been extraordinary, and continues to surprise us over and over again. We celebrated her father, Bruce Dern, in 2014, so it is very special to salute her, making it the first time a father-daughter duo has been honored.”

Dern arrived on the red carpet in a fancy black culotte pants outfit. The tuxedo-style top had polka-dot tulle sleeves, which were matched with lacey sling back heels. She was joined by Ted Sarandos, part time Montecito resident and Netflix’s Content Chief.

The Cinema Vanguard Award recognizes actors who have forged their own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant contribution to film.

Previous honorees include Michael B. Jordan, William DeFoe, Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin, Bernice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Peter Sarsgaard, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stanley Tucci and Ryan Gosling.

SBIFF chairman of the board Jeff Barbakow opened the program and remarked, “It’s hard to believe that this is the 35th edition of the film festival. It is really amazing.”

He also credited sponsor Manitou Fund. The festival is presented by Ugg.

Dern is no stranger to the acting and the film industry. Born in Los Angeles, she is the daughter of actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. 

Laura Dern talks to a fan.Click to view larger
Laura Dern speaks to a fan Tuesday night on the Red Carpet at the Arlington Theatre. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

“It is true that I was conceived while my parents were filming The Wild Angels," Dern said. "My parents divorced when I was 2 years old, so there weren’t a lot of family photos.”

Her first film foray was in 1973 as an extra in White Lightning, a film in which her mother starred.

Her film debut was with her mother in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore the following year when she was 6. Dern described working with Alice’s director Martin Scorsese, and how fascinated she was with the magic of film making even at such a young age.

Dern forged her acting career during the 1980’s and rose to prominence following her performance in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. She then received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in the drama film Rambling Rose (1991).

Two years later, she achieved international recognition following her role in the adventure film Jurassic Park. She guest starred in the "Puppy Episode" of the sitcom Ellen in 1997, during which Ellen DeGeneres publicly came out.

Laura Dern being interviewed.Click to view larger
Laura Dern is interviewed by Pete Hammond Tuesday night as she was being honored by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (Fritz Olenberger photo)

The final clips shown were from two of the biggest films of the year Netflix’s Marriage Story and Sony’s Little Women in which she played important roles.

Dern earned the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for her performance in Marriage Story; she also received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, her third overall Academy Award nomination.

Dern has garnered four Golden Globe Awards with seven nominations, as well as earned a Primetime Emmy Award and seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations.

On TV, Dern was most recently seen as Renata in the second season of HBO’s Big Little Lies, which aired on HBO last summer.

Presenting the Cinema Vanguard Award to Dern on stage was Netflix’s Ted Sarandos.

“I totally could have winged this," Serandos said. "I could talk on and on about Laura’s great work of art, but you can see that from the clips. But I think what also comes out is Laura’s great sense of humanity.

She is a great partner and a good friend.”

Upon the award presentation, the audience gave Dern a standing ovation.

Dern’s charitable work includes support of Down syndrome awareness, women's rights, gender pay parity, as well as combating gun violence and climate change. 

The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival continues through Saturday.

For more information contact SBIFF, 1528 Chapala Street, Suite 203, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, phone (805) 963-0023, or visit

Laura Dern on the Red Carpet.Click to view larger
Laura Dern on the Red Carpet. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)