‘Big Little Lies’ co-star Laura Dern shares her experience working with Jonathan Demme on HBO’s cult hit comedy ‘Enlightened.’
Laura Dern and I intended to discuss only Big Little Lies, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Her phenomenal work on HBO’s great limited series immediately spurred Emmy buzz after the series premiered in February. Talent involved in awards-worthy series promote their projects to remain in the minds of voters. Big Little Lies comes from HBO, but the Limited Series category feels stacked with great material this year. Every little bit helps, and Dern’s volcanic performance deserved Emmy gold. So, I was all set with my 12 questions and waiting for the call. Then, the news broke that Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme passed away.
Demme’s steady hand on the brilliant Silence of the Lambs provided one of my first great movie obsessions. Sure, everyone loves Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, but the film excelled thanks to Demme’s fascination with the esoteric. He delivered what many could not: a masterpiece. The film spurred me to devour his early work and follow his subsequent projects on film and television. At the age of 73, Demme died way too soon. That is not up for debate.
But I purposefully digress.
When I spoke with Laura Dern, she seemed audibly shaken. She apologized for delaying our conversation by 10 minutes and explained she just heard about Demme’s passing. Words kind of failed me as I’d never been in the situation before. I offered my condolences, and she expressed a level of emotion not often heard during interviews.
“He was one of my best friends, and so I’m quite devastated,” Dern explained. “So, I’m speaking to you with a very heavy heart, so if I sound heartbroken, that’s what you’re hearing.”
An Enlightened Director
Jonathan Demme worked with Dern on HBO’s critically acclaimed cult hit Enlightened. He directed “Sandy” and “Lonely Ghosts,” Episodes 6 and 7 respectively. “Sandy” featured fantastic character work from Dern and Robin Wright, which is entirely fitting. Demme loved characters, and he helped deliver two great performances from both actresses.
Here is the full text of Laura Dern’s appreciation for the great Jonathan Demme.
“In all interviews when we were doing Enlightened and people were asking me how Amy [Jellico, Dern’s character] came to life, and I pay tribute, obviously, to Mike White’s brilliant writing and the evolution of the character from the seed of an idea I had about that character. The other partner I always speak to who helped me find Amy was Jonathan Demme who directed two brilliant episodes and spent so much time with me even just in our own conversations about Amy. I would always say, ‘She’s such a shit storm!’ or ‘She’s such a mess!’ He’d say, ‘What do you mean? She’s my hero! She’s so beautiful!’ His love of her really shifted how I played that part. He, like David Lynch, has been such an inspiration throughout my career in having such compassion for complicated characters. I really couldn’t play Renata [Klein from Big Little Lies] without those two men either. I’ve been so lucky… I’m so lucky and grateful for that.”
We carried on with the remainder of the interview. Dern offered brilliant observations about Big Little Lies‘ Renata Klein, and I’m eternally grateful that Dern continued with the interview despite such difficult circumstances. The full Big Little Lies interview will post on Awards Daily in early June. Don’t miss it.
Until then, Jonathan Demme’s last credited directorial work airs tonight. Demme directed Episode 6, “The Fire This Time,” of Shots Fired. It drops tonight at 8pm ET on Fox.