Laura Dern has reached a point in her life where she concentrates on landing the parts she knows she is right to play — such as the role of Beverly Ladouceur in "When the Game Stands Tall."
"When I know I am the person to play the part, I will fight hard to convince the director," says Dern, 47.
As soon as she started reading the script about the De La Salle High School football team, Dern wanted to play the wife of Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), the coach who found a way to build a winning football team while teaching his players valuable life lessons.
The real couple — along with the story's message about what's valuable in life — made Dern "fiercely protective" when it came to telling the story. Some poetic license was taken with the story, but any questions about the central themes were handled by calls to the coach's wife, director Thomas Carter and Neil Hayes, who wrote the book on which the film is based.
While it becomes obvious in these kinds of movies that a coach is a surrogate father to a lot of his players, the same goes for the wives of coaches who end up being surrogate mothers. That was an element Dern pushed in the film.
"I was hoping it was clear that she was also a teacher and coach. That speaks to her ability to champion him and understand his deep love of the players," Dern says.
Dern came away with a greater love for football. She's been exposed to the game because her father, Bruce Dern, has always been a huge fan. She was so taken by the power of the game that she's not ruling out another project in the genre.
"When the Game Stands Tall" isn't the only film that shows the kind of roles Dern believes she's best to play. In "Fault In Our Stars," she plays the mother of a teen-age girl who has cancer.
"They are very different roles in some ways. The mom in 'Fault In Our Stars' that John Green created in his book is a rather progressive hippie who is trying to find her way to being the best mother she can be. I wanted to pay tribute to John's writing with my performance," Dern says. "This role was very specific to being a very outspoken woman. She's a woman trying to be an amazing support to her husband."
Dern's acting skills have been honed through a long list of film and TV roles: "Blue Velvet" (1986), "Wild at Heart" (1990), "Jurassic Park (1993)" and "I Am Sam" (2001). She was nominated for an Oscar for the 1991 film, "Rambling Rose." Most recently, she starred in HBO's critically acclaimed "Enlightened," a role that earned her the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy.
She calls "Enlightened" a bittersweet situation. She's proud of the praise the cable show earned, but she is sad it never cultivated a large enough following to earn a third season. The irony is that the show has more fans now because it is available online and on DVD.
She would go back to TV if she knew the role was right for her to play.