- Father was Adlai Stevenson's law partner.
- Studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York City, and made his film debut in Elia Kazan's Wild River (1960).
- Among his many unsavory character roles, known as the guy "who killed John Wayne" in The Cowboys (1972), which brought him death threats from some of the Duke's fans.
- Is an avid long-distance runner since childhood who has, by his own estimate, logged more than 100,000 miles.
- Took on the supporting role of Jane Fonda's marine captain husband suffering from post traumatic stress disorder in Coming Home (1978) after Jon Voight switched from that part into the lead, playing the paraplegic.
- In 2007, wrote about his life and career in Things I've Said, But Probably Shouldn't Have: An Unrepentant Memoir.
- 2014, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical: Nominee
- 2013, Cannes Film Festival — Best Actor: Winner
- 2014, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Leading Actor: Nominee
- 1978, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Nominee
- 2014, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Male Lead: Nominee
- 2014, Critics' Choice Movie Awards — Best Actor: Nominee
- 1981, Genie Awards — Best Performance by a Foreign Actor: Nominee
- 1975, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Nominee
- 1979, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Nominee
- 1983, Berlin Film Festival — Silver Bear for Best Actor: Winner
- 2013, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Nominee
- 2011, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
- 1983, Genie Awards — Best Performance by a Foreign Actor: Nominee
- 2013, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: Nominee
- George Dern — Grandfather
- Jean Dern — Mother
- Adlai Stevenson III — Godparent
- John Dern — Father
- Laura Dern — Daughter
- Diane Ladd — Ex-wife
- Archibald MacLeish — Uncle
- Diane Elizabeth Dern — Daughter
- Andrea Beckett — Wife
- Attended University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
- Birth Name: Bruce MacLeish Dern
- Birth Place: Winnetka, Illinois, United States
- Profession: Actor
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