Born to a prominent family in Chicago on June 4, 1936, actor Bruce Dern's grandfather was the sixth governor of Utah, serving from 1925 to 1933. His godfather was well-known politician Adlai Stevenson, who ran for president twice in the 1950s. Dern attended the prestigious Choate School before enrolling at the University of Pennsylvania in 1954. Interestingly, he first made headlines while a student at Penn; in February 1957, Dern was benched by his track coach for having long sideburns, and the controversy spilled over into newspapers across the country. In the late 1950s, Dern also studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actor's Studio alongside Marilyn Monroe and Susan Strasberg. He found roles in several plays before being cast in the Broadway production of The Shadow of a Gunman in 1958. During the following year he was cast in Sweet Bird of Youth in a supporting role.

After a brief first marriage at the age of 21, Dern married actress Diane Ladd in 1960. During that same year, he headed to Hollywood to act in television. His first credited TV role came in an October 1960 episode of Route 66, and soon other appearances followed on Naked City, Surfside 6, and The Fugitive. In addition, he was cast as a regular in the short-lived ABC western series Stoney Burke (1962-1963). In 1964, he took on supporting roles in the films Marnie (1964; with Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery) and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964; with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland).

Bruce DernDiane Ladd, Jack Nicholson, and Bruce Dern

LEFT: A 1964 20th Century-Fox photo of Bruce Dern. RIGHT: With Diane Ladd and Jack Nicholson during the filming of The Rebel Rousers, shot soon after the 1967 birth of Ladd's and Dern's daughter, actress Laura Dern. Dern and Ladd divorced in 1969

Although he's not considered a western actor by many fans, Dern acted in numerous television and film westerns in the 1960s, making numerous appearances on such series as Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, and The Big Valley and taking supporting roles in the films The War Wagon (1967; with John Wayne), Will Penny (1968; with Charlton Heston), and Hang 'Em High (1968; with Clint Eastwood). But he came into his own in a handful of late 1960s biker films: The Wild Angels (1966; with Peter Fonda and Diane Ladd), The Cycle Savages (1969; with Melody Patterson), and The Rebel Rousers (1970; with Jack Nicholson and Diane Ladd). Dern knew little about biker culture and neither smoked nor drank in private life, yet he turned in highly believable performances in each film. In the 1970s, he moved out of B pictures and starred in such bigger-budgeted films as Silent Running (1972; with Cliff Potts), The Great Gatsby (1974; with Robert Redford), and Coming Home (1978; with Jane Fonda). For the latter film, Dern was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

the films of bruce dern

The Outer Limits (1963-1965 ABC TV Series)

Bruce Dern

From a December 1963 episode of ABC's horror/sci-fi series The Outer Limits titled The Zanti Misfits

The Wild Angels (1966)

Bruce Dern and Peter Fonda

With Peter Fonda in the American International biker flick The Wild Angels. This film, with a $350,000 budget, grossed more than $6 million at the box office and ultimately became one of AIP's biggest moneymakers

Will Penny (1968)

Bruce Dern

Dern's performance in the Paramount western Will Penny is one of the strongest in his career

The Cycle Savages (1969)

Bruce Dern and Maray Ayres

With Maray Ayres in the biker flick The Cycle Savages

The Rebel Rousers (1970)

Bruce Dern

Shot in 1967, the independent biker film The Rebel Rousers was not released until 1970

Bloody Mama (1970)

Robert Walden and Bruce Dern

Filmed in Arkansas, American International's crime drama Bloody Mama sports a highly talented cast. In this scene, Dern and Robert Walden meet in jail and become lovers upon their release

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971)

Berry Kroeger and Bruce Dern

With Berry Kroeger in the campy American International horror flick The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant

The Cowboys (1972)

John Wayne and Bruce Dern

The Duke slugs it out with Bruce Dern in the Warner Bros. release The Cowboys

The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)

Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern

From the Atlantic City-set drama The King of Marvin Gardens with Jack Nicholson

Silent Running (1972)

Bruce Dern

Universal's excellent sci-fi effort Silent Running gave Bruce Dern his first lead role in an A picture and is one of the few films in which Dern portrays the protagonist

The Great Gatsby (1974)

Bruce Dern and Karen Black

Dern and Karen Black have an adulterous affair in the period drama The Great Gatsby, probably the biggest picture of Dern's career

Posse (1975)

Bruce Dern and Bo Hopkins

Dern portrays outlaw Jack Strawhorn in the Paramount western Posse. Also pictured is Bo Hopkins

Smile (1975)

Bruce Dern

From one of Dern's few comedies, the underrated independent film Smile casts the actor as a beauty pageant host

Family Plot (1976)

Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern

With Barbara Harris in Alfred Hitchcock's tongue-in-cheek thriller Family Plot, the great director's final film. Dern and Hitchcock had known each other for more than a decade before lensing the film

Black Sunday (1977)

Bruce Dern and Marthe Keller

Dern and Marthe Keller plan to pull off a terrorist act in the thriller Black Sunday

Coming Home (1978)

Bruce Dern

Bruce Dern is a disillusioned Vietnam veteran in the respected drama Coming Home

The Driver (1978)

Ryan O'Neal and Bruce Dern

Dern sets a trap for getaway car driver Ryan O'Neal in the 20th Century-Fox actioner The Driver

Middle Age Crazy (1980)

Ann-Margret and Bruce Dern

From the Canadian-produced dramedy Middle Age Crazy with Ann-Margret. This film failed at the box office

Tattoo (1981)

Bruce Dern and Maud Adams

From the 20th Century-Fox thriller Tattoo with Maud Adams. Controversial in its time, this film is nearly forgotten today

Toughlove (1985)

Bruce Dern and Lee Remick

With Lee Remick in the drug addiction-themed made-for-TV drama Toughlove

Diggstown (1992)

Bruce Dern

As John Gillon, a corrupt businessman who runs a town full of boxing enthusiasts known as Diggstown

Mrs. Munck (1995)

Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd

With Diane Ladd in the made-for-Showtime comedy/drama Mrs. Munck, produced and directed by Ladd. Althouth Dern and Ladd have been divorced for many years, they have acted in a number of films together, as recently as 2009

bruce dern today

Bruce Dern's film career faltered in the early 1980s, with the release of Middle Age Crazy (1980; with Ann-Margret) and Tattoo (1981; with Maud Adams). By the mid 1980s, he revived his career doing made-for-TV movies such as Toughlove (1985; with Lee Remick), Roses Are for the Rich (1987; with Lisa Hartman and Joe Penny), and Trenchcoat in Paradise (1989; with Dirk Benedict). By the 1990s Dern's career had rebounded nicely, and today, at age 78, he shows no signs of stopping. Recently, he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Nebraska (2013; with Will Forte). He's been married to third wife Andrea since 1969.

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Cut Bank (2014) with Teresa Palmer, Liam Hemsworth, Billy Bob Thornton, and John Malkovich
Pete's Christmas (2013) with Zachary Gordon
Fighting for Freedom (2013) with Kristanna Loken
Nebraska (2013) with Will Forte, Stacy Keach, and Rance Howard
Northern Borders (2013) with Geneviève Bujold
Coffin Baby (2013) with Brian Krause
Django Unchained (2012) with Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson
Hitting the Cycle (2012) with J. Richey Nash
Twixt (2011) with Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, and Joanne Whalley
Inside Out (2011) with Parker Posey
Choose (2011) with Katheryn Winnick, Kevin Pollak, Nicholas Tucci, and Lenny von Dohlen
Trim (2010) with Michael Pataki
The Lightkeepers (2009) with Richard Dreyfuss, Blythe Danner, and Julie Harris
The Hole (2009) with Teri Polo
American Cowslip (2009) with Ronnie Gene Blevins, Diane Ladd, Rip Torn, Cloris Leachman, Val Kilmer, Peter Falk, Bruce Dern, and Priscilla Barnes
The Golden Boys (2008) with David Carradine, Rip Torn, Mariel Hemingway, Charles Durning, John Savage, and Julie Harris
Swamp Devil (2008) with Cindy Sampson
The Cake Eaters (2007) with Elizabeth Ashley, Kristen Stewart, and Talia Balsam
The Hard Easy (2006) with Henry Thomas, David Boreanaz, Peter Weller, Nick Lachey, and Gary Busey
The Astronaut Farmer (2006) with Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, and J.K. Simmons
Walker Payne (2006) with Jason Patric and Sam Shepard
Believe in Me (2006) with Jeffrey Donovan and Samantha Mathis
Down in the Valley (2005) with Edward Norton, Evan Rachel Wood, Rory Culkin, and Geoffrey Lewis
Madison (2005) with Jim Caviezel, Mary McCormack, and Paul Dooley
Hard Ground (2003) with Burt Reynolds and Martin Kove
Monster (2003) with Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Lee Tergesen, and Scott Wilson
Milwaukee, Minnesota (2003) with Randy Quaid, Josh Brolin, and Holly Woodlawn
Masked and Anonymous (2003) with Bob Dylan, Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, and Cheech Marin
The Glass House (2001) with Diane Lane, Kathy Baker, and Chris Noth
All the Pretty Horses (2000) with Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Penélope Cruz, and Sam Shepard
Hard Time: The Premonition (1999) with Burt Reynolds, Charles Durning, Roscoe Lee Browne, Michael DeLuise, and Paul Bartel
If... Dog... Rabbit (1999) with Matthew Modine, David Keith, John Hurt, and Lisa Marie
The Haunting (1999) with Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, and Virginia Madsen
Perfect Prey (1998) with Kelly McGillis, David Keith, and Joely Fisher
Comfort, Texas (1997) with Brian Benben
Last Man Standing (1996) with Bruce Willis, William Sanderson, and Christopher Walken
Down Periscope (1996) with Kelsey Grammer, Lauren Holly, Rob Schneider, Harry Dean Stanton, and William H. Macy
A Mother's Prayer (1995) with Linda Hamilton, Kate Nelligan, RuPaul, and Jenny O'Hara
Wild Bill (1995) with Jeff Bridges, Ellen Barkin, John Hurt, Diane Lane, Keith Carradine, David Arquette, Christina Applegate, and Marjoe Gortner
Mrs. Munck (1995) with Diane Ladd, Kelly Preston, and Shelley Winters
Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (1994) with Diane Keaton and Rutger Hauer
Dead Man's Revenge (1994) with Michael Ironside, Doug McClure, and Randy Travis
It's Nothing Personal (1993) with Xander Berkeley, Claire Bloom, Veronica Cartwright, and Yaphet Kotto
Diggstown (1992) with James Woods, Louis Gossett Jr., and Oliver Platt
Carolina Skeletons (1991) with Louis Gossett Jr. and Clifton James
Into the Badlands (1991) with Mariel Hemingway, Helen Hunt, Dylan McDermott, and Lisa Pelikan
The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson (1990) with Andre Braugher, Daniel Stern, Ruby Dee, and Paul Dooley
After Dark, My Sweet (1990) with Jason Patric and Rachel Ward
Trenchcoat in Paradise (1989) with Dirk Benedict, Catherine Oxenberg, Michelle Phillips, Jeremy Slate, and Kim Zimmer
The 'Burbs (1989) with Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman, Wendy Schaal, Henry Gibson, and Courtney Gains
1969 (1988) with Robert Downey Jr., Kiefer Sutherland, Mariette Hartley, Winona Ryder, and Joanna Cassidy
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1987) with Avery Brooks, Kate Burton, Paula Kelly, and Phylicia Rashad
World Gone Wild (1987) with Michael Paré, Catherine Mary Stewart, and Adam Ant
Roses Are for the Rich (1987) with Lisa Hartman, Joe Penny, Richard Masur, Howard Duff, and Betty Buckley
The Big Town (1987) with Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Tommy Lee Jones, Lee Grant, and Tom Skerritt
On the Edge (1986) with Pam Grier
Toughlove (1985) with Lee Remick, Jason Patric, Dedee Pfeiffer, Dana Elcar, and Piper Laurie
Harry Tracy: The Last of the Wild Bunch (1982) with Helen Shaver, Michael C. Gwynne, and Gordon Lightfoot
That Championship Season (1982) with Stacy Keach, Robert Mitchum, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, and Arthur Franz
Tattoo (1981) with Maud Adams, Leonard Frey, and Cynthia Nixon
Middle Age Crazy (1980) with Ann-Margret
The Driver (1978) with Ryan O'Neal, Isabelle Adjani, and Ronee Blakley
Coming Home (1978) with Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Robert Carradine, and Robert Ginty
Black Sunday (1977) with Robert Shaw, Marthe Keller, Fritz Weaver, and William Daniels
The Twist (1976) with Jean-Pierre Cassel, Ann-Margret, Maria Schell, Sybil Danning, Curd Jürgens, and Tomas Milian
Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) with Shecky Greene, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Sterling Holloway, William Demarest, Art Carney, and Virginia Mayo
Family Plot (1976) with Karen Black, Barbara Harris, William Devane, and Katherine Helmond
Smile (1975) with Barbara Feldon, Geoffrey Lewis, Nicholas Pryor, Paul Benedict, and Dennis Dugan
Posse (1975) with Kirk Douglas, Bo Hopkins, James Stacy, David Canary, and Beth Brickell
The Great Gatsby (1974) with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Karen Black, Scott Wilson, Sam Waterston, and Lois Chiles
The Laughing Policeman (1973) with Walter Matthau, Louis Gossett Jr., Anthony Zerbe, Cathy Lee Crosby, and Joanna Cassidy
The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) with Jack Nicholson, Ellen Burstyn, and Scatman Crothers
Thumb Tripping (1972) with Michael Burns, Meg Foster, Marianna Hill, Michael Conrad, and Joyce Van Patten
Silent Running (1972) with Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, and Jesse Vint
The Cowboys (1972) with John Wayne, Roscoe Lee Browne, Colleen Dewhurst, Robert Carradine, and A Martinez
Who Killed the Mysterious Mr. Foster? (1971) with Ernest Borgnine, Judy Geeson, Will Geer, Sam Jaffe, John McGiver, and Slim Pickens
Drive, He Said (1971) with Karen Black and Robert Towne
The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971) with Pat Priest, Casey Kasem, Albert Cole, John Bloom, and Berry Kroeger
The Rebel Rousers (1970) with Cameron Mitchell, Diane Ladd, Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Philip Carey
Bloody Mama (1970) with Shelley Winters, Pat Hingle, Don Stroud, Diane Varsi, Robert De Niro, Robert Walden, Alex Nicol, Scatman Crothers, and Stacy Harris
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) with Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Gig Young, Red Buttons, Bonnie Bedelia, Michael Conrad, and Al Lewis
The Cycle Savages (1969) with Melody Patterson and Chris Robinson
Number One (1969) with Charlton Heston, Jessica Walter, John Randolph, Diana Muldaur, Mike Henry, and Bobby Troup
Castle Keep (1969) with Burt Lancaster, Patrick O'Neal, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Peter Falk, and Scott Wilson
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) with James Garner, Joan Hackett, Walter Brennan, Harry Morgan, Jack Elam, and Henry Jones
Hang 'Em High (1968) with Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Ben Johnson, Alan Hale Jr., Dennis Hopper, and L.Q. Jones
Psych-Out (1968) with Susan Strasberg, Dean Stockwell, Jack Nicholson, and Adam Roarke
Will Penny (1968) with Charlton Heston, Joan Hackett, Donald Pleasence, Lee Majors, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, and Clifton James
Waterhole #3 (1967) with James Coburn, Carroll O'Connor, Claude Akins, Joan Blondell, and James Whitmore
The Trip (1967) with Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg, Dennis Hopper, Barboura Morris, Luana Anders, and Dick Miller
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) with Jason Robards, George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Clint Ritchie, Joseph Campanella, and David Canary
The War Wagon (1967) with John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn, Bruce Cabot, and Joanna Barnes
The Long Hunt of April Savage (1966) with Robert Lansing, Piper Laurie, and Rip Torn
The Wild Angels (1966) with Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Diane Ladd, Buck Taylor, and Michael J. Pollard
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) with Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Cecil Kellaway, Victor Buono, Mary Astor, Wesley Addy, and William Campbell
Marnie (1964) with Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, Diane Baker, Martin Gabel, and Mariette Hartley

Big Love, 2006–2011 HBO TV series. Dern portrayed Frank Harlow on a recurring basis
Lost Drive-In, 1996–2001 SpeedVision TV series. Dern introduced drive-in films and hosted segments in this wraparound series
Stoney Burke, 1962–1963 ABC TV series. Dern portrayed E.J. Stocker

The Immortal, episode To the Gods Alone, originally aired December 31, 1970
The High Chaparral, episode Only the Bad Come to Sonora, originally aired October 2, 1970
Bonanza, episode The Gold Mine, originally aired March 8, 1970
Land of the Giants, episode Wild Journey, originally aired March 8, 1970
Lancer, episode A Person Unknown, originally aired November 25, 1969
Then Came Bronson, episode Amid Splinters of the Thunderbolt, originally aired October 22, 1969
Gunsmoke, episode The Long Night, originally aired February 17, 1969
The Big Valley, episode The Prize, originally aired December 16, 1968
The F.B.I., episode The Nightmare, originally aired November 10, 1968
Lancer, episode Julie, originally aired October 29, 1968
Bonanza, episode The Trackers, originally aired January 7, 1968
The Big Valley, episode Four Days to Furnace Hill, originally aired December 4, 1967
Run for Your Life, episode At the End of the Rainbow There's Another Rainbow, originally aired October 25, 1967
Run for Your Life, episode Trip to the Far Side, originally aired October 11, 1967
The Fugitive, episode The Devil's Disciples, originally aired December 6, 1966
Run for Your Life, episode The Treasure Seekers, originally aired November 14, 1966
Gunsmoke, episode The Jailer, originally aired October 1, 1966
The Big Valley, episode The Lost Treasure, originally aired September 12, 1966
The Big Valley, episode By Force and Violence, originally aired March 30, 1966
The Loner, episode To Hang a Dead Man, originally aired March 12, 1966
The Big Valley, episode Under a Dark Star, originally aired February 9, 1966
Branded, episode The Wolfers, originally aired January 9, 1966
The F.B.I., episode Pound of Flesh, originally aired December 19, 1965
The Fugitive, episode The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, originally aired December 14, 1965
12 O'Clock High, episode The Jones Boys, originally aired December 6, 1965
Gunsmoke, episode South Wind, originally aired November 27, 1965
A Man Called Shenandoah, episode The Verdict, originally aired November 1, 1965
Gunsmoke, episode Ten Little Indians, originally aired October 9, 1965
Laredo, episode Rendezvous at Arillo, originally aired October 7, 1965
Rawhide, episode Walk into Terror, originally aired October 5, 1965
The Virginian, episode A Little Learning, originally aired September 29, 1965
Wagon Train, episode The Indian Girl Story, originally aired April 18, 1965
12 O'Clock High, episode The Mission, originally aired April 2, 1965
The Fugitive, episode Corner of Hell, originally aired February 9, 1965
12 O'Clock High, episode The Lorelei, originally aired January 22, 1965
The Virginian, episode The Payment, originally aired December 16, 1964
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, episode Lonely Place, originally aired November 16, 1964
Wagon Train, episode Those Who Stay Behind, originally aired November 8, 1964
12 O'Clock High, episode Golden Boy Had Nine Black Sheep, originally aired September 18, 1964
The Greatest Show on Earth, episode The Last of the Strongmen, originally aired March 3, 1964
The Virginian, episode First to Thine Own Self, originally aired February 12, 1964
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, episode Night Caller, originally aired January 31, 1964
The Fugitive, episode Come Watch Me Die, originally aired January 21, 1964
77 Sunset Strip, episode Lover's Lane, originally aired January 3, 1964
The Outer Limits, episode The Zanti Misfits, originally aired December 30, 1963
Kraft Suspense Theatre, episode The Hunt, originally aired December 19, 1963
Wagon Train, episode The Eli Bancroft Story, originally aired November 11, 1963
The Fugitive, episode The Other Side of the Mountain, originally aired October 1, 1963
The Dick Powell Theatre, episode The Old Man and the City, originally aired April 23, 1963
Cain's Hundred, episode The Left Side of Canada, originally aired May 1, 1962
The Dick Powell Theatre, episode Squadron, originally aired January 30, 1962
Ripcord, episode Sentence of Death, originally aired 1962
The Detectives, episode Act of God, originally aired December 29, 1961
Ben Casey, episode A Dark Night for Billy Harris, originally aired December 18, 1961
Thriller, episode The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk, originally aired December 18, 1961
Surfside 6, episode Daphne, Girl Detective, originally aired October 9, 1961
Cain's Hundred, episode Crime and Commitment: Part 1, originally aired September 19, 1961
Sea Hunt, episode Crime at Sea, originally aired September 16, 1961
Naked City, episode The Fault in Our Stars, originally aired March 22, 1961
Naked City, episode Bullets Cost Too Much, originally aired January 4, 1961
Route 66, episode The Man on the Monkey Board, originally aired October 28, 1960

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Watch the trailer for Bruce Dern's 1971 horror flick The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant
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