Despite stealing our hearts once again this year as a businesswoman in Big Little Lies and as a divorce lawyer in Marriage Story, Laura Dern doesn’t have a college degree herself, making her the perfect recipient of Vulture’s first totally official, unofficial honorary degree. At the ceremony honoring her achievement today at Vulture Festival in New York, Dr. Dern explained why she never graduated: a little role in some movie called Blue Velvet, by a director you may have heard of named David Lynch.
When Dern tried to convince the head of her college’s film department to give her a leave to do the role, “They read it and said, ‘Not only are you giving up your college career if you go make this film, but we can’t believe you would want to do this movie,’” she explained. “And yes, that movie was Blue Velvet, and now when you go to get your master’s in film at that school, of three movies that are musts, one of them is Blue Velvet.” She showed them!
So when Lynch asked her to work on a project three decades later, she said “yes” right away … even if he wouldn’t tell her what exactly it was. “You go to his house for a cappuccino, and he says, ‘You’re gonna do something, I can’t tell you what it is, but I need you to find a leopard coat from a thrift store, and we want a yellowish-white lipstick,’” she said, with an Oscar-worthy Lynch accent. “I was like, ‘Okay, how do you want my hair?’ And then he started to describe my hair, and I was like, ‘What is it for?’ ‘I can’t tell you!’” Once she thrifted her coat and picked out her wig, he explained the role, and she realized who she was playing: the never-before-seen Diane Evans in Twin Peaks: The Return, which “was amazing.” For one of her final moments in the series, when her Diane was shot by a group including Lynch as Gordon Cole, “It was so wild to be looking in the eyes of the person who’s been directing me, right here, for so many years. Super beautiful and cool.”
At the Governors Awards in late October, Dern presented Lynch with an honorary Oscar, which gave way to a “quintessential moment” with her pal. She followed him outside for a smoke after he received the award, and asked him how it felt. “He goes, ‘Wow, this is so pretty,’” she said. “And then he goes, ‘But you know, we’re just lucky … They’re not our ideas. We’re just lucky if we catch them.’ And I was just like, ‘Yeah well, that’s David Lynch.’” But she agreed, adding, “I just think that’s really beautiful.”
And that’s Laura Dern.