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I was doing weird stuff that they would probably never see because it was adult.
I know now, as a parent, why my mom wanted to discourage me.” Dern ended up suing her mother for emancipation so that she could work on adult film sets – but she says that it was not a big deal.
And as if that weren’t emotionally gruelling enough, she also spent every working moment shooting not one, but two “devastating” films about cancer. “It’s a pa-a-arty now,” she sings out, as she walks into the room where we meet to talk about The Fault in Our Stars, in which she plays the mother of a teenage girl who is dying of cancer. “Let’s get as close as possible,” she says as we choose chairs around a large table in a Los Angeles hotel.
“Both films explore what it is to prepare to lose someone you love,” she says.
And, despite the recent turmoil in her own life, Dern says she hasn’t given up on relationships: “Love means a lot to me, and I love loving and I love boys.” But she is not with anyone at the moment. I’m really enjoying my life right now.” She says she no longer really believes in the fairytale of marriage.
“I don’t think kids expect the fairytale anymore, either.
“I was raised on movie sets and I decided for myself at a very young age that it was what I wanted to do.” She started acting classes at the age of nine but had to cycle to them as her parents wouldn’t drive her.
Her commitment paid off and, at 11, she won a role opposite Jodie Foster in the teen film Foxes (1980). “It wasn’t popular to be a child actor, unless you were on a television series.