Bruce Dern is a legend. Truly, he stands tall as a part of Hollywood, past, present, and even future. That’s due in no small part to his talent as an actor, but it’s a testament to his mind, as well as his kindness, that he’s remained someone people seek out, even after his 86th birthday. Many of you know that an interview that I did with him about a decade ago for Nebraska was the start of a periodic correspondence that we maintain to this day, but I wouldn’t be writing this today just because I like the guy. No, he’s the type of industry gem that we all should be valuing more, so anytime I have the opportunity to remind folks, especially younger cinephiles, of Dern’s power, I want to make sure that I do it. You don’t get to work with the likes of Alfred Hitchock, Elia Kazan, Alexander Payne, Douglas Trumbull, and more, without having the goods. For more than half a century, Dern has had the goods, in fact re-writing the acting game as he went along. Truly, no one does it like he does, even to this day, which makes his future roles still so exciting to consider.
Taking a plum supporting role on the final season of Goliath has given him a rare television showcase. Not only is he featured prominently, especially on the seventh episode, but watching him work alongside folks like J.K. Simmons (who Dern raved about to me in a recent conversation) and Billy Bob Thornton, but it’s a continued reminder of the gravitas that the man possesses whenever he’s on a screen. Not only is it a solid role for anyone, it’s a part that lets Dern really shine, in his singular manner.
Dern is at a point in his career, in his mid-80s, where he’s getting not just patriarchal roles, but grandfatherly ones too (though recent work like The Artist’s Wife, which I reviewed fondly here, still preserves his status as a romantic figure, interestingly enough). As such, hopefully it will continue to give the man the respect that he deserves. Go back to his iconic performances from a generation ago and you’ll see how underrated he truly is. Being seen as a senior figure in films and television may help increase his already strong stature in the business. Goliath utilizing him so well here is just another reminder of the force of nature that he is.
When I interviewed him again around the launch of Awards Radar (our two hour conversation can be found here), I had this, in part, to say about his talent and the unlikely relationship we’ve developed:
Not only is Bruce Dern one of the greatest (not to mention, most interesting) actors alive, I’m also lucky enough to call the man a friend. We’ve developed a friendship and mutual respect over the years, dating back to an interview we conducted in the lead-up to the release of Nebraska. We keep in touch and speak a few times a year, often having long conversations about a wide range of topics.
For those who are somehow unaware, the man is a stone cold legend, as stated above. Even though Dern has worked pretty steadily over the years, including popping up in several Quentin Tarantino outings like Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, he really came back to cinephiles in a big way with his award winning leading man role in Nebraska. He took Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and at one point seem poised to finally take home his first Academy Award (having been previously nominated in Best Supporting Actor for Coming Home and snubbed multiple times before/after), but he wound up falling just a bit short short. He still received his second Oscar nomination though, getting into the Best Actor lineup. It officially made him overdue for a win in my book, not that he wasn’t already, if we really think about it. While things like The Artist’s Wife, Chappaquiddick, The Hateful Eight, and White Boy Rick didn’t do it for him with the Academy, the Emmys do present another opportunity for him with Goliath, as mentioned above.
An Emmy nomination for Dern would certainly be another highlight in a career few can match up with, though a win would give him an elusive statue. Getting into the final lineup would legitimately give him a solid chance, even though the Emmy race can often be unpredictable. We know he’s deserving, so it’s just a matter of voters recognizing his work.
Dern is one of the all time greats, there’s no debate there. Few in the business are more deserving of an Oscar statue than him, so hopefully the Academy recognizes him in the years to come. All he needs is one filmmaker to give him the sort of character he does best. Then, it’ll just be academic. Perhaps some Emmy attention will play into that? We shall see, but not only is he a tremendous actor, he’s a tremendous person as well, and that counts for something in this industry…
Stay tuned to see how Bruce Dern fares in the Emmy race for this work on Goliath!