Laura Dern collects unique filmmakers like trinkets. Over her career she’s worked with David Lynch, Todd Haynes, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jonathan Demme, Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg and more. She places Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff”) right up there with them.
In the filmmaker’s latest, “Certain Women,” she takes the lead in one of the film’s three stories. (The others star Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone and Kristen Stewart.) Her character, named Laura, is a lawyer whose wronged client (Jared Harris) winds up involving her in a hostage situation. It sounds powder-keg, but Reichardt is more interested in the deceptively mundane moments. It’s a quiet film, unlike any out there. And for Dern, 49, that’s what excites her about screen acting.
One thing I love about Reichardt’s films is how much they dwell on in-between moments, when it seems like not much is happening but so much actually is.
She’s definitely interested in what we usually don’t see. What we often don’t see is often what we missing in people: what they’re actually feeling and what they’re going through, but which is not what’s being spoken about. For me, it was a very exciting education in not simplicity — that’s something I strive for no matter who I’m playing — but the character has a very specific kind of simplicity. The aspect she looked at with my character was that she doesn’t necessarily lead with empathy. There’s a real journey toward how to become empathetic. She’s really just going through the routine of her life and trying to be detached. It’s helped her in her work. It’s interesting as an actor to make the choice to not feel. [Laughs] It’s a bit counter-intuitive, and Kelly was a great guide with that.
You seem to love working with filmmakers who have unique — often very, very unique — voices.
I’m such a fan of film, and I’m such an admirer and advocate for filmmakers making their visions. We have so few that really want to tell stories the unique way they want to tell them and will do whatever it takes to do that. Kelly is as fiercely true to that as anyone. She knows that if she wants to do it this way, it will have to be in a certain budget in a certain way, very run-and-gun. But she’s going to make her movie. I’ve had that experience with David Lynch for my whole adult life. It’s a beautiful thing when you get to witness that commitment to your vision. To be part of that vision, to be a collaborator in someone’s voice that’s particular and individual — that’s why we do what we do.