We have more entertainment at our fingertips, and practically unlimited choices than history could have imagined.

So it's not surprising if you're unfamiliar with the history of the entertainment business. But history is always present, and without those who came before, today's culture wouldn't exist.

Goliath Season 4, its last, leaned heavily into the history of filmmaking with its storytelling, set design, and cast.

Bruce Dern has been working non-stop since 1960. He's worked with some of the greatest actors, directors, and writers of any generation.

Having the opportunity to talk with some who has touched so many aspects of our cinematic history is a blessing you cannot overlook.

Like many people with so many cherished moments behind them who are still charmed enough to make more, Bruce is an avid conversationalist, eager to share with anyone willing to listen.

He makes a connection, and suddenly an interview feels more personal. I'm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I say. "Oh, you're kidding? ... Laura did a movie in Pittsburgh, my daughter. Do you know what it was?"

His daughter is award-winning actress Laura Dern, who often shares his arm as the two of them walk various red carpets. The movie in question is The Fault In Our Stars, "It's the only movie I've ever watched I couldn't get through," Bruce said, incredulous that any 16-year-old child could be so generous at that age.

Bruce loves talking about Laura. From playing Shailene Woodly's mother in The Fault In Our Stars to working alongside her in Big Little Lies four years later, Laura is the apple of her father's eye.

He's effusive about his love and admiration for his daughter, recalling both the first time Laura asked about being an actress at age nine and the advice he gave her from learning to dance even though her mother (Diane Ladd) wouldn't allow it and using that skill to dance around problems on set, especially because they're rarely focused in an actor's direction.

He also told her to "Take risks, go to the edge of the cliff and play parts other actresses won't do," and he said she "got on pretty quick."

Although his marriage to Diane Ladd lasted only nine years and ended in divorce, it doesn't preclude her from his admiration.

"And do you know that her mother, Diane Ladd, and me and Laura are the only family in the history of Hollywood to all have stars on Hollywood Boulevard? Other families, plenty of them, but never mother, father, child," Bruce says proudly.

Bruce doesn't allow life's difficulties to distance him from those he befriends. He's got a history of love and friendship that impacts his life and his work.

Elia Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Nicholson, John Wayne, and Quentin Tarantino are just a few notable names he's had the pleasure of working with throughout his storied career. Working with Billy Bob Thornton as Frank Zax on Goliath is more than just another job for his resume.

Bruce has known Billy Bob for years. Laura and Billy Bob dated for a time, and although they split, Bruce and Billy Bob remained friends.

With Billy Bob's love of cinema, it's no surprise the two men would hit it off. And about two years ago, Billy Bob called Bruce to talk about a role in Goliath. Bruce recalled that phone call in detail.

"He said, 'Would you do a series?' And I said, 'Well, I did Big Love, but I didn't have much to do in it, even though I got nominated for an Emmy a couple of times from it.' I don't know why, but I did. So then I said, 'Well, what's, what's the series?' He said, 'Well, I do a series called Goliath. And this year, I want to do a series about two brothers that own pharma.'

"And I shouted out. I said, 'I'm not a Sackler am I?' Sackler is the family that owns big pharma. And he said, 'No, no, no, but the same idea.' And I said, 'Well, what's the part like?' He said, 'Think Raymond Burr in Rear Window.'

"And I thought, 'I get it.' He saw them when he was cutting up his wife, watching him cut her up. Therefore, they know he saw them watching him, and he knows they saw him watching them. And that's what Billy got me right away. I said, 'I'm hooked. When? Where do I go?'"

It wasn't a hard sell, and their shared love of cinema put them on the same page almost immediately. Bruce says he shares the same views on acting as Billy Bob. "I've always thought that the ability to act if you will because I don't consider myself acting, I consider myself behavior.

"And out of the behavior comes to dialogue, so to speak. But I've always considered acting to being, having the ability to be publicly private. So you're starting with yourself, with your heart, what's in it. What fits that character out of you?"

When studying at the Actor's Studio in New York alongside Marilyn Monroe, Bruce has the opportunity to talk with Arthur Miller about writing, and Arthur shared a secret of his that still helps him connect to his roles today. "'Well, I never write anything until I know the name of every character I'm writing. Before ever write a word of dialogue, I need to know their names and what they do. And then I start asking questions.'

"And by what he was telling me, I realized the questions that he was talking about was what I do in my acting. Everybody always says, 'Okay, there's your partner in the scene. There's Helen, or whoever it is in the scene. And what do you think of her? Who do you think she is?' I reverse it. I immediately reverse it.

"When I walk into another scene, I say, 'What do they think of me? What do they think I'm up to? Who do they think I am?' And that immediately he gives me the paranoia of a character."

Bruce chalks it up to "having the ability to be publicly private." He's enormously impressed by "people that get shit done," an expression he apologized for using, but something he felt needed to be addressed because he and his family get things done.

Sure, Bruce, Diane, and Laura have well-documented careers, but it goes back farther than that. "People never knew that my father's father, George Dern, was the first non-Mormon governor of Utah from 1924 to '32, and then was secretary of war in FDR's first cabinet.

"And they never knew that my father's law partner, who was my godfather, ran for president twice. And that was Adlai Stevenson. I just wanted the folks to know. And my grandmother, her roommate at Wellsley was Madame Chiang Kai-shek before she was the president of China and the general of China's wife because she was only 17."

All of this came to mind when Billy Bob and Goliath showrunner, Lawrence Trilling, created the most welcoming feeling he'd ever had on any film or TV set in his career. Only his six genius directors, as he calls them -- Mr. Kazan, Mr. Hitchcock, Douglas Trumbull, Alexander Payne, Quentin Tarantino, and Francis Coppola -- sit above his experience on Goliath.

Larry and Billy Bob thought that he and J.K. Simmons would bring something new to the final season. He hadn't seen the episodes at the time of our interview, but he said, "The thing that blew me away was I felt at days like they were trying to do an opera. I felt at days, like the backbone of the show were the women, who had no recognition.

"But the women make that show. And why? Because every one of them as an opportunity to say, 'What about me? What's in it for me?' And at the same time, say, 'I'm in the business of welcoming others and taking care of others,' the downtrodden, or whatever they are like that."

I shared that Bruce would be thrilled with the result of their collaborative effort on Goliath Season 4 because it's reminiscent of many projects he's been a part of as the industry has grown.

"You use an amazing phrase in "reminiscent" word, and I'm not a Pope, so I can't bless you, but bless you for that. Because what I miss in our business today and your business ... Not so much of your business. You guys and gal seem to bring it that way. But I miss the appreciation for what went before."

Many elements of Goliath's final season reinforce the feeling that there's a reason Bruce was involved with it. His history suits the breadth of the production.

The production leaned into Bruce's history, too. He claims never to have been a good horseman, laughing that when a horse saw him coming, he'd say, "Oh, my God, here comes this asshole again. He's going to spike me. He's going to do this to me, jerk the rains."

But the nature of the beast was, at one time, that you had to feign good horsemanship whether you had it or not. Of course, Bruce gets the obligatory horseriding scene within one of Billy McBride's dreams. What he didn't know about that scene touched him.

"But what they did that I didn't know, they went back to Western Custom and got the 1972 exact costume I wore in The Cowboys when I killed John Wayne."

That's the kind of reminiscence he misses and appreciates. "They did stuff like that. I was totally surprised. I said, 'Shit, I've seen this stuff before.' And they said, 'Yeah, you wore it in The Cowboys when you killed John Wayne.' Oh, my God.

"Each day, they'd come up with little things like that, particularly for me. I really appreciated that. And that is Larry Trilling and big-time Billy Bob Thornton. He's all about what was there before. I mean, we're not inventing the wheel, so to speak. We're trying to find new ways to communicate things. And I enjoyed the opportunity to do that."

When you have the only man in history who killed John Wayne on set, it would be remiss of even the slightest cinephile not to try to recapture some of that magic.

Bruce credits the writers with telling the story of the opioid crisis and the audacity of killing so many people in the name of the almighty dollar. And he's thrilled that he was allowed the space within that writing to bring in his "Dernsies," or things that he says that aren't in the material.

"Obviously, if you saw the courtroom scene, there were a bunch of them. And the first day, the first shot that we did with his lawyer. I mean, my defense lawyer starts with me or Frank Zax, so forth and so on. And the other guy, JK's lawyer, jumps up, and he says, 'Wait a second.' And I turned to the judge. I said, 'He's not allowed to do that, is he?' Well, that's a Dernsie.

"It made perfect sense. ... I mean, I'm not in a courtroom before. You know? So that's what Dernsies are. And they allowed me that."

Although he's 85 years old, Bruce has no desire to retire. "I'm excited, and that's why I'm excited to keep working till I'm on over until they take me away. Because I feel excited about how people see to cast me, how they see me helping their movie or being in their movie if you will, or whatever it is."

I just get excited by the fact that they see me playing that role, knowing what I could bring to it if I had my whole game every day. And on that, I hopefully did have it every day. And I wasn't a guy who was there day after day, so there wasn't much continuity. But I was there because all I had to do was talk to Billy."

Bruce's understanding of the importance of family and friendship, building bridges, and not tearing them down has ensured his long-lasting and notable career.

We could all learn something from his effervescent attitude and enjoyment of work and life. But, for now, be sure to catch him in Goliath Season 4, streaming on Amazon.

source https://www.tvfanatic.com/2021/10/bruce-dern-talks-goliath-family-importance-of-history/


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