The Boulder International Film Festival just announced that Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern (The Hateful Eight, Nebraska, Coming Home) will be honored at the twelfth annual festival. A Conversation with and Tribute to Bruce Dern is set for Friday, March 4, at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street.
Dern's first screen credit came in 1960, in Elia Kazan’s Wild River. Dern was part of that first generation of extraordinary post-studio-era American actors — including Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, James Caan, Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall — who all did a lot of TV work early on. Soon Dern was a familiar presence on our TV screens, first in oaters like Stoney Burke, playing a comic sidekick to Jack Lord before Lord became Steve McGarrett on the original Hawaii-Five-O.
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Dern soon segued into what he termed assorted “psychotics and freaks and dopers” in multiple series. He seemed to be a natural heavy, pigeonholed as an eccentric performer. In his early work he enjoyed many juicy and variegated death scenes, a standard privilege for a screen villain; as such, he forms the missing link between Elisha Cook Jr. and Sean Bean.
A small but key role in Hitchcock’s Marnie led to more big-screen opportunities. Dern gets decapitated early on in Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte, but his head makes a few more appearances, off and on, so to speak, throughout the film. He entered the first level of awesomeness with his immortal Biker Trilogy — The Wild Angels, The Cycle Savages and The Rebel Rousers — which also made him a life-long friend and associate of Jack Nicholson, Roger Corman and other key figures in the American New Wave of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Dern hit the big time when he landed the part of Asa Watts, the villainous “Long Hair” who kills John Wayne in The Cowboys, an act for which he is punished by being pulled apart by horses. Finally, in films such as The King of Marvin Gardens, Family Plot, Smile, Coming Home, The Driver, After Dark, My Sweet, Monster and Nebraska, he demonstrated his ability to play serious, subtle and complex characters, for which he has been rightly honored at Cannes and other festivals.
The Boulder International Film Festival runs March 3 through March 6. Find a full schedule and buy tickets at biff1.com.