Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xvi

Sometime in 2004, Bruce Dern received a script for a film titled Nebraska, which was to be directed by Alexander Payne. At the time, Payne had only three credits, Citizen Ruth, Election, and About Schmidt, the first starring Bruce’s daughter, Laura, and the last, his pal...

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1. How Does This Happen, Bruce Dern?

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pp. 1-7

I never dreamed of Hollywood. I never thought of movies. The goal was just to go to New York. I saw movies, but I knew that my way, and any real actor’s way, was to go through the theater. The movies were a last resort because they took another skill I hadn’t developed...

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2. Dinner with the Derns

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pp. 8-17

Where I grew up, the houses all have names. It’s not 85 Main Street, it’s Craig E. Lee. Burke and Craig. Burke and Locke was our house in Glencoe, Illinois. A huge structure with all these bedrooms, and the third floor wasn’t even heated because everybody...

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3. You Can Train All You Want, but the Watch Don’t Lie

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pp. 18-32

I went to Penn because I was on a railroad to Penn. My dad went there. My brother, Jack, had just graduated from there. When he left Penn, my brother was a big student campaign manager for Harold Stassen and involved in his career. This pissed me off because Adlai...

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4. The Name Is Stern, Bruce Stern

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pp. 33-43

Shadow of a Gunman opens and there are two reviewers in New York that mean something: Walter Kerr of the New York Herald Tribune and Brooks Atkinson at the New York Times. These are esteemed theater critics who have never been equaled in the history of

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5. Sick Brucie

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pp. 44-56

Lee Strasberg told me to get on a plane the next day. Mike Gruskoff, my first Hollywood agent, met me at the airport and told me I was going to have a reading for a TV show called Surfside Six that afternoon. Gruskoff drove me over to Warner Bros. I auditioned, ...

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6. I’m Having Bill Smithers’s Career

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pp. 57-76

In January and February, I started to panic. It wasn’t actual panic, it was just worry: how do I get off the television train and get onto the movie train where I had had a taste of major motion pictures? In March, I got a phone call to meet a guy named Roger Corman at his...

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7. “You Are Not a Leading Man”

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pp. 77-82

It’s the week before Christmas, 1968, and my agent calls: “Bruce, you won’t believe this. I got a call from Sydney Pollack.”
I said, “What are you talking about? Sydney Pollack? I just finished with him in January.”...

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8. Star of the Second-Best Two-Headed-Transplant Movie of 1971

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pp. 83-87

In the summer of 1969, I meet Andrea Beckett in a class I’m teaching. Lee asks me that summer if I would teach at the Strasberg Institute he’s opening in L.A...

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9. Jack Job

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pp. 88-95

It’s early 1970, and Andrea and I have been married three months. I’m doing a TV show on a rainy, pissing-down, horrible, thunder, lightning, rainy cold January day at Fox called...

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10. Saying No to Coppola

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pp. 96-106

A month after that Two-Lane Blacktop incident, I got a letter from Fred Specktor, who was at William Morris.
He said, “Dear Bruce. I’ve watched your career for about eight years. And it’s my opinion that you have been both marketed and sold...

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11. I Killed John Wayne

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pp. 107-120

I passed on The Godfather, not because I didn’t want to be in it. Of course I wanted to be in it. But I was so angry that Francis Coppola wanted to use me as a wedge to get Robert Duvall to work for no money in a part that I knew he was going to play, but Francis was fucking...

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12. I’m Still Sorry, Burt Reynolds

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pp. 121-129

Bob Rafelson had always kept an eye on my career since seeing me in 1959 and ’60 on Broadway. He liked my work in Drive, He Said, and he had just seen both Silent Running and The Cowboys. He said, “I have a script that I’m going to give you called...

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13. Saying No to Woody Allen

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pp. 130-139

In December of 1972 Stuart Rosenberg is directing The Laughing Policeman, starring Walter Matthau, and they want me to star in it. They offer me $35,000. Matthau got $350,000. I got thirty-five grand. That means I was about one-tenth as good as Matthau...

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14. And I Said No to Bertolucci

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pp. 140-147

Everybody knows I like buttercream frosting on birthday cake. In May of ’74, I get a birthday cake and a manila envelope with a script delivered to my house. The frosting on the cake says, “Smile.” I don’t know what it means. So I smile. I open the envelope and the...

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15. Le Dern Hot

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pp. 148-152

Iwent to France to do The Twist in 1975. We arrived in Paris on Armistice Day, the eleventh of November. Everybody said, “Oh, great, you’re going to the City of Light.” Well, they must have meant electric light, because we got there on Armistice Day and I left the...

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16. Dr. Death El Demento

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pp. 153-173

One day after New Year’s, 1976, I come home from work, and in Paris at the hotel, I get a package with a manila envelope and a bunch of pages in it but no cover page, no first page, no letter. It was just script pages without numbers on it. No phone call, no nothing. So...

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17. I Can’t Make It through a Hobbit Movie

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pp. 174-181

In Coming Home, Jon Voight was a fabulous partner, as was Jane Fonda, and the partnership between the two of them was wonderful.* In one scene, filmed at the Rancho Los Amigos VA Hospital, in Downey, California, there is a rap session. It’s where guys are talking...

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18. Briefer’s Better

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pp. 182-187

Alifetime achievement award is not something that Bruce Dern would aspire to or applaud. Lifetime achievement awards go to guys who rescue people off mountaintops or carry people out of burning buildings. On stage at the Kennedy Center Honors, it’s nice to see...

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19. Three Days, Two Million

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pp. 188-193

People ask, “When you’re not making a movie, what are your hobbies?” My hobbies are getting ready to bring it every day I work. Some days I’ll run longer, but I stress myself every day with some kind of Mickey Mouse time trial, usually six hundred meters to one thousand...

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20. Glencoe Asshole

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pp. 194-202

The play doesn’t run long on Broadway, and when I get home I get a phone call from Marty Krofft saying, “I want to bring a script to your house. Jon Voight said he won’t do my movie. He recommended you.”...

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21. It’s a Maud, Maud, Maud, Maud World

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pp. 203-209

I did Tattoo because I didn’t get a movie I wanted to do, which was Four Seasons, an Alan Alda movie with Carol Burnett and Jack Weston. Alan Alda saw Middle Age Crazy and, according to the people that watched it with him, laughed his ass off and loved it and called Fred...

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22. Cycle Savage Meets Gumby

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pp. 210-215

I hosted Saturday Night Live twice—in February 1982 and March 1983. Fred called me up and said, “I’ve got a phone call from a producer, Dick Ebersol. Lorne Michaels isn’t with the show this year, and Ebersol wants to know if you want to host Saturday Night Live.”..

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23. A Manilow for All Seasons

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pp. 216-224

That Championship Season began shooting with George C. Scott.* I don’t know who was playing my part. But then, George C. Scott was out, and the film fell apart. When the producers came back with Robert Mitchum, they offered a role to me. In the play...

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24. The Final Frontier, for Now

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pp. 225-229

Space, based on James Michener’s book about the history of the NASA program, was a miniseries—thirteen hours, five nights, a very ambitious project. I was excited about it because there were good people involved. James Michener, even though he was in his late...

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25. The Encyclopedia Brucetannica

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pp. 230-242

I played a blind man in Big Town. I liked the role. Laura had played a blind girl in Mask, and I asked her how tough it was.
She said, “Well, you’re the one who told me what to do.”
So I got dark glasses with blacked-out Coke-bottle lenses.

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26. Hitting the Wall

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pp. 243-254

The eighties died out for me. At the end of that decade, my career was trickling down into an area of not knowing what was going to happen next. The eighties ended up in what I felt was an unsuccessful, unfulfilled period for me. I didn’t know where I fit in...

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27. Apocalypse Marriage, Redux

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pp. 255-271

Mrs. Munck was tough, because Diane wrote and directed it.* Diane was playing herself as an elderly lady, and Kelly Preston was playing Diane as a young lady. Diane and I were dealing with a tragedy in our own life, and Kelly was playing Diane going through...

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28. Making a Monster

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pp. 272-278

In 2001, I filmed The Glass House.* I didn’t have much to do in it, but I thought I was good. I liked the director, Dan Sackheim. Glass House was the first feature he ever directed. He was good. I liked Leelee a great deal. When Leelee was twelve, she came to Hollywood...

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29. Going Right for the Jugular

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pp. 279-287

We are our moments. And the inspired ones have those moments. I got a lot of them. Robards had a lot of them. Jack’s got a lot of them. Brando’s got one fabulous moment in a terrible movie called The Chase. He plays a sheriff and he’s chasing...

Acknowledgments

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pp. 288-290

Index

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pp. 291-298

Images

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pp. 299-306