Why Laura Dern Didn't Work For A Year, Despite Jurassic Park's Success

Between the return of Renata in season two of Big Little Lies, her highly-praised supporting roles in Netflix’s Marriage Story and Little Women, there’s been no shortage of the talented and sunshiney Laura Dern this year. In fact, the actress hasn’t seemed to have a dry spell since breaking out in Hollywood in the ‘80s and following in the footsteps of her famous actor parents Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd. Except for a period in the late ‘90s when Jurassic Park was all aglow.

That’s right, not too long after her role as Dr. Ellie Sattler became an iconic part of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, the phone stopped ringing for Laura Dern. She was being placed in the dog house by Hollywood for being part of Ellen DeGeneres’ 1997 coming out episode on her ABC sitcom, Ellen. In “The Puppy Episode”, Dern played an out and proud lesbian woman named Susan who inspires Ellen to make history on television.

For a year following the “controversial” episode of the time, Laura Dern opens up about how it initially affected her career. In her words:

It was significant. It was significant because I was doing successful independent movies, and, only months before that, I was in Jurassic Park, the most successful movie ever. So it was like, you’re being offered this, you’re being offered that — and it just stopped. Which is kind of wild. By good fortune of the long path of a career, you can look back and say, how great to have it be felt, how backward we are. I took time off when I had my son, and I feel like, in a way, it gave room for less opportunity. I will say, for women, it’s hard to take time off by choice, because then you feel like you have to start all over when you’re coming back to something.

Ellen's big episode allowed for Ellen DeGeneres to become the first person in primetime television to come out as gay. It also allowed the comedian to speak truthfully about herself to the country. While Ellen is certainly one of the most beloved personalities today, at the time it concluded in Ellen being cancelled and a massive amount of hate from audiences. Laura Dern and even Oprah Winfrey – who both starred in the episode with her were also subject to punishment as well by association.

Laura Dern was at the height of her career at the time, yet her role choices quickly became thin after her role in the now historic episode of television. She didn’t another film role until 1999’s October Sky. She also attributes another hiatus when she had her son in 2001. When she reflected back to signing on the Ellen episode, she called it “greatest thing” she could have been a part of to Vulture. She continued:

I was excited. I didn’t think twice about it. It was a great opportunity. And then the calls started coming in once I’d said yes, from a couple of advisers in Hollywood who were out gay men, [telling me] to not do it. A lot of people in my life really worried. And I was like, ‘This is ridiculous.’

Of course, in the long run being in the episode didn’t hurt her career one bit. The actress is now gearing up to return to her role as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic World 3 alongside original stars Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum in a “major role.” Colin Trevorrow’s summer 2021 film will conclude the new trilogy.

Check out our guide on what we know so far about Jurassic World 3 and stay tuned on CinemaBlend for more news on the franchise!

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.