Diane began her career in show business with bit roles in series such as ‘Decoy’ (1957) and ‘Naked City’ (1958–1959) and uncredited roles in films such as ‘Murder, Inc.’ (1960). Her first credited film role was that of ‘Gaysh’ in the hit 1966 American outlaw biker film ‘The Wild Angels.’
She made her ‘Broadway’ debut with the American play ‘Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights’ in 1968. She garnered a ‘Drama Desk Award’ nomination for her performance in the play ‘A Texas Trilogy: Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander’ (1976).
Moving on with other TV and film roles, Diane landed up with a role in the long-running ‘CBS’ soap opera ‘The Secret Storm’ in 1971, becoming the second actor to portray ‘Kitty Styles.’
She appeared in the supporting role of ‘Ida Sessions’ in 1974- released critically and commercially successful American neo-noir mystery film ‘Chinatown,’ directed by Roman Polanski.
Her portrayal as a rough, sharp-tongued waitress, Florence Jean Castleberry, in the American romantic comedy–drama ‘Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore’ earned Diane her first ‘Academy Award’ and ‘Golden Globe’ nominations and won her a ‘BAFTA Award,’ all in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category. This critically and commercially successful film premiered at the 27th ‘Cannes Film Festival’ and was released theatrically on December 9, 1974. Her performance in the movie helped her bag several other memorable and acclaimed roles.
In 1980, Diane joined the cast of the ‘CBS’ sitcom ‘Alice,’ which was based on the film ‘Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.’ She featured as a tough but kind-hearted woman named ‘Isabelle "Belle" Dupree’ in 22 episodes of the series, till 1981, and won the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for the ‘Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film’ for her performance in the series.
She starred as ‘Marietta Fortune,’ the on-screen mother of her real-life daughter, Laura Dern, who played ‘Lula Pace Fortune’ in the American neo-noir black comedy ‘Wild at Heart’. The film, also starring Nicolas Cage, debuted at the 1990 ‘Cannes Film Festival’ and won the ‘Palme d'Or’ there, before being released theatrically on August 17 that year. Diane bagged both ‘Academy Award’ and ‘Golden Globe’ nominations for the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for her performance.
One of her most noteworthy films was the 1991-released American drama ‘Rambling Rose’ that featured Diane’s daughter, Laura, and Robert Duvall in leading roles. Diane played the supporting role of ‘Mrs. Hillyer’ in the film. Both Diane and Laura earned ‘Academy Award’ nominations, in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ and the ‘Best Actress’ categories, respectively. Thus, they became the first mother–daughter duo to achieve this feat for the same film, in the history of the ‘Academy Awards.’ Diane also garnered a ‘Golden Globe Award’ nomination for the ‘Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture’ and won the ‘Independent Spirit Award’ for the ‘Best Supporting Female’ for her performance.
Diane appeared in the independent screwball comedy film ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me’ (1992) with her real-life mother, Mary. The film featured Diane as ‘Lucille,’ a flirty, aging Southern belle.
Over the years, Diane has appeared in several other films, such as ‘The Cemetery Club’ (1993), ‘28 Days’ (2000), and ‘Joy’ (2015). She has also co-produced and appeared in the film ‘Mother’ (1995) and has starred in, written, and directed the1995 American comedy film ‘Mrs. Munck.’ The latter also starred her ex-husband, Bruce Dern and marked Diane as the first woman to direct her former husband in a film. She will be seen playing ‘Alice Pitsenbarger’ in the upcoming war drama ‘The Last Full Measure,’ which is scheduled for a 2019 release.
While succeeding in her big-screen pursuits, Diane has also appeared in several TV programs, such as the series ‘Kingdom Hospital’ (2004) and ‘Enlightened’ (2011–2013) and the TV movies ‘Get a Clue’ (1997) and ‘Montana Sky’ (2007). ‘Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman’ (1993) and ‘Touched by an Angel’ (1997) have both earned her ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ nominations. She also bagged a ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ nomination for ‘Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series’ for ‘Grace Under Fire’ (1994).
She presently stars as ‘Nell O'Brien’ in the Canadian–American drama series ‘Chesapeake Shores.’ The series premiered on the ‘Hallmark Channel’ on August 14, 2016.
She released the books ‘Spiraling Through The School of Life: A Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Discovery’ (April 2006) and ‘A Bad Afternoon for a Piece of Cake: A Collection of Ten Short Stories’ (November 2016) and won the 2014 ‘Tennessee Williams Literary Award.’
She holds a master’s degree in esoteric psychology and a certificate in nutrition. Diane lectures on spiritual and health matters throughout the nation, whenever she is free. She serves as the president of the ‘Art and Culture Taskforce’ and is a member of the ‘National Board of Directors’ of the ‘Screen Actors Guild.’
Family & Personal Life
Diane was married to American actor Bruce Dern, from 1960 to 1969. Their first daughter, Diane Elizabeth Dern, who was born on November 27, 1960, succumbed to a massive brain haemorrhage as an infant of about 18 months, after she fell into a swimming pool on May 18, 1962. Their second daughter, actor Laura Dern, was born on February 10, 1967.
From April 1973 to 1976, Diane was married to William A Shea, Jr. Since February 14, 1999, she is married to Robert Charles Hunter.
Diane, Laura, and Bruce earned adjoining “stars” on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ on November 1, 2010, with Diane’s star being the 2,421st. This recognition made them the first-ever family to have received such an honor on the ‘Walk.’