In her acceptance speech, Dern thanked her legendary parents, actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. “Some people say, ‘Never meet your heroes,’” she said. “But sometimes if you’re blessed, you get them as your parents.” Dern had also been posing with Ladd on the red carpet before the ceremony, four decades after her mom brought her to the 1975 Oscars.
This is Dern’s first Oscar win, on her third nomination. (She received a Best Actress nod for 1991’s Rambling Rose and a Best Supporting Actress nomination for 2014’s Wild.) It caps a few years of acclaimed work by Dern in both film and TV shows like Big Little Lies. Her award-winning performance as the hard-charging feminist divorce lawyer Nora Fanshaw in Marriage Story allowed her to deliver meaty speeches about how women like her client Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) have to fight hard to make up for the institutional biases against them.
“As an actor, you can’t dream up speeches that delicious!” Dern told EW in October. “It’s just crazy amazing. But let me just say, I’ve never cried so hard as when I first read the script. It wasn’t just the emotion of reading the story, it was the perfection of the screenplay. Being a parent, I understood this unbelievably sad, broken moment.”
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This award isn’t just a first for Dern. The fact that she won for Marriage Story makes this the first time an acting Oscar has gone to a movie distributed by a streaming service (in this case, Netflix). It was bound to happen some time: Another Netflix movie, Roma, earned two acting nominations last year (one in this same category, for Marina de Tevira). This year featured multiple nominations for both Marriage Story and The Irishman, but Dern’s the one who won. Slowly but surely, the Academy is getting accustomed to streaming.
Marriage Story wasn’t Dern’s only praised role of the year either; she also starred in Little Women alongside fellow nominee Florence Pugh. In addition to Pugh, Dern beat out Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Marriage Story costar Johansson (for Jojo Rabbit), and Margot Robbie (Bombshell).
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