Laura Dern: “We have to evolve together”
Ms. Dern, is it difficult for actresses to find powerful and complicated roles in today’s industry?
For whatever reason, I have been lucky to play pretty ferocious people, even when they’re broken. I’m thinking of Citizen Ruth as an example; she was a really crazy, complicated character — or even Jurassic Park, I mean, they are badasses in their own way. With a film like Wild at Heart, in the mind of the filmmaker, David Lynch, through everything that happens to that character, even trauma, she tries to become empowered. She’s so objectified that she says, “I am not going to let you win, I’m the one that’s going to win.” And that’s a very complicated thing… My collaboration with David is so respectful and so generous. I’ve played so many different kinds of characters for him; sexuality being one of the things that he has deeply explored in very traumatic ways with and towards women.
But also in very empowering ways.
Right, it’s all over the map. It’s like his paintings; it’s all in there. And I have been inspired by that and it hasn’t scared me because it’s complicated. I might see it very differently now than I would have as an 18-year-old or 19-year-old or something, but at the time, I would have still seen the value of exploring all of it. I find that exciting. When it comes to exploring, especially with the likes of David, you want it to be fearless and messy. Even working with Noah Baumbach on Marriage Story, you know, I love his films, I love him, and it was an amazing way to have a working relationship.
- “I have an irrational fear of boredom. That’s why I now have this tattoo that says “Carpe Diem.” That’s what we should live by!”
- “You don’t have to please everybody. As long as you and the people whose opinions you respect are comfortable and happy with it, then… keep going! Keep making that weird stuff.”
- “The more experience you have, the more time you’ve spent on this earth, the more regrets you accumulate. It’s normal. You can’t do everything right, nobody’s perfect. But if you think too much about that, you’re not here. You have to make some efforts to stay open-minded.”
- “Life is struggle. Life is about struggle. You’re not supposed to be happy all the time. It’s about challenging yourself and pushing yourself, you know? You become content. That’s not happiness.”
- “One of the things that I’m striving for is an authenticity, to do things which feel natural and make choices which feel authentic and real. I think in a way you sort of can’t help sounding like yourself. You can’t help but put yourself into your work.”
- “I like the accidents, the things that happen by chance. I let the life come to the picture and the creativity flow.”
- “I wouldn’t ever compromise on the essential, on the essence of a project, the ideas or the themes.”
- “You’re always looking for a second chance. You’re always looking to do a little bit better than you did the last time. And you hope that the readers will stay with you.”
- “At what point do you feel you’ve achieved it and you can move on? I think you usually have to start thinking, ‘So what’s next?’”
- “I learned by doing. The rest is doing experiments and testing and not giving up. If something is not satisfying start again, turn everything upside down and find a new formula for printing. Everything is learning by doing.”
- “I don’t want to only do what I know how to do. I want to be pushed somewhere else.”
- “The truth. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. And that’s it! May it be ugly, may it be beautiful, may it be perverse, may it be all of those things. That’s it, I can’t lie; it is what it is, unabashed, naked. I expect that of myself, that’s for sure.”
- “Each of my projects is kind of a marathon run. A lot of them won't make it to the finish line and the only reason they make it is because I go back and nurture them and try to figure everything out.”
- “I was always trying to innovate; I don’t like repetition. Time is something that changes every moment, it’s never repetitive — I try to follow this example.”
- “Architecture is the oddest profession. In the beginning you're very much involved in finding your voice and locating yourself artistically. For 25 years you're working with small projects, domestic projects. And then you mature at 50 and you're given your first projects.”
- “I think you always have to have risk when you’re creating a piece of art. Without that, I don’t understand really what the drive is to succeed. It’s the risk factor that, weirdly, keeps you feeling safe. It keeps you on your toes.”
- “I have a tattoo that goes around my right wrist that looks like barbed wire, but it’s actually ANDAND linked together, which stands for “A New Dawn, A New Day.” It’s about waking up every day knowing that you have a chance to start again and forgive and be forgiven and to let go of yesterday.”
- “My work is integrated completely into my life and vice-versa – I’ve been working since I was sixteen and my work is my life and my life is my work. It made me who I am.”
- “You better make every moment count. Live your life now; start in the morning. You mustn’t sit around waiting to die.”
- “The only thing that you have to be very sure of is that nothing can go wrong. You can’t get in the way of the whole thing by messing it up with great ideas or smart moves. Absolute trust is, I think, the crucial ingredient.”
- “You can look at these tough times as an opportunity to get closer and to learn from each other. I learned a lot from my wife. There are so many things that pop up. If you are paying attention, you can learn every second of the day. Life is my guru.”
- “One day I realized that it didn’t matter whether people loved me or not. I was released of all that insecurity when I released myself from that fantasy and came to the conclusion that I could be happy making music regardless of whether I was successful or not.”
- “I have to free myself from my creation, I have to send it off, I have to give it up. And that is also the beauty, that you pass on something, that you let something live, that you allow it to confront. To get in contact with others.”
- “Art is something about everyday life. Art is about finding creativity in the normal gutter next to you. To see the potential in something where there is no potential is often where art or creativity is a great tool. It’s about making the impossible possible.”
- “I think when you’re an artist who’s been around for a while like I have you understand that it’s almost impossible to make work that is unanimously loved or understood! You can’t please everyone, and that is a great realization.”
- “I can’t make people happy if I’m not happy myself. That applies to anyone who tries to achieve something in their life: if you’re not happy, you can’t transfer any happiness to anyone else.”
- “When you are at a crossroads, mistakes can help you decide the right way forward, and I think I really grew when I understood that I need to accept my mistakes.”
- “Failure is more interesting. Success only comes in one form. It doesn’t teach you anything. Failure kind of comes in all sorts of ways, and teaches you all sorts of things. You learn by failing.”
- “I think you get more confident as you get older. You realize what your strengths and weaknesses are and you’re more okay with your weaknesses and you value your strengths more. I look forward to being 50 and I’m hoping that I’m as confident as some of the people that I look up to.”
- “It’s easy to have inspiration and have a vision and an aesthetic, but if you don’t have the execution and you don’t get it out there properly and on time, it doesn’t matter. It’ll sink.”
- “The journey of an artist is a journey of discovery and some engagement with the nature of material, with bodily things and all that has led me to this place. I’m really interested in that as a process because the process moves you in directions that you couldn’t rationally put there.”
- “If I knew that tomorrow a meteorite would destroy our planet, I would start shooting a new film today.”
- “I don’t think I’m ever going to stop wanting to see and experience things. I think the day that you don’t long for that anymore is the day you have kind of given up.”
- “I never thought of art as a career. I thought it was more like a monastic practice. It is something that you do – you can't not do it. If I made money doing it, I would do it; if I didn't make any money, I would do it. Obviously I’m not perfect but the thing I am best at is painting.”
- “My whole purpose in life is to communicate what I’m doing. I see myself as a modern nomad and a soldier at the same time. Being mainstream won’t change me because once I have something to perform, a task, then I’m a soldier. And I’ve always been a soldier.”
- “I never have been into trends. Not now or then! I was born like that, in fact, if I see too much of something, I change it. I like independence. I love the eccentrics. Find your style and stick to it.”
- “I don’t regret anything. I feel that I’ve made what I would call mistakes. But everything you do is a part of you. And you get something from it. The idea and excitement of being in these situations and places — they are more than just memories, they inform your life.”
- “I used to tease the other kids because I played better than them. Then my father said, ‘Come here. Don’t do this with the kids, because God gave you the gift to play football. You didn’t do anything. You have to respect people, be a good person. From now on, you must be this example.’”
- “Everyone’s life comes to an end. We’re all going to come to the same fate. So you just keep going while you can, doing what you like.”
- “Part of being a designer is to fail every day, to try things that don’t work out. In a way, every project fails every day until it succeeds! That’s what the iterative process of design is about. Timing in many ways is key.”
Renée Zellweger: “I try to concentrate on something true”
Ms. Zellweger, as an actress, what do you do to stay grounded?
I spend a lot of time alone. I run a lot so there’s a sort of physical expelling of anything that is extraneous. I have responsibilities and challenges like everybody does: sick friends, friends with babies… And those are the things that I tap into, they are the treasures in my life. More so than work or what people think of your work, those things are defining. There’s not a whole lot of consideration for things that aren’t projections; I try not to spend time on things that don’t matter.
Often that is easier said than done.
Of course — there’s so many things that you can’t control; intangible things especially. But there are are certain things that you can control, and those are the things that I focus on. The things that I can’t control I just leave alone. When I’m working, for example, I always try to concentrate on something that is true, something that moves me in the context of the story that we’re trying to tell through the film, and just trust that.