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When Oscar-nominated actress Diane Ladd developed a life-threatening illness, her doctors recommended long walks to rebuild her lung capacity. That began a series of walks, and conversations, with her daughter, Oscar-winning actress Laura Dern. The result: a new joint memoir, “Honey, Baby, Mine: A Mother and Daughter Talk Life, Death, Love (and Banana Pudding)” (Grand Central Publishing).
In this excerpt, the two talk about the gift of working together.
Listen to this excerpt from the audiobook of “Honey, Baby, Mine” (read by Laura Dern & Diane Ladd), or read the excerpt below; and don’t miss Rita Braver’s interview with Dern and Ladd on “CBS Sunday Morning” May 14!
“Honey, Baby, Mine” by Laura Dern & Diane Ladd
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LAURA: Mom, I thought a natural place to start talking would be working together. I’ve been thinking a lot about what a gift it’s been to work alongside you all these years at a job we both love. I mean, many people follow in their parents’ footsteps and do the same job, but they don’t usually work side by side. How lucky are we?
DIANE: I’ve always said that it’s a gift when parents get to work with their children. Oh, remember that hat shop in New Orleans?0
LAURA: Yeah, I do. We saw the mother and daughter working on hats together.
DIANE: Every feather, every pearl, every bauble was just so! And one time I was at a butcher shop and the butcher said, bursting with pride, “That’s my son helping me.” I think a lot of parents want their children to go into the same business. I didn’t want you to go into the business.
LAURA: What are you talking about? Yes, you did. You were delighted when I booked jobs as a kid.
DIANE: No, Laura.
LAURA: What were you most worried about?
DIANE: My God in heaven, Laura! The rejection! The unsteadiness of it! Never knowing when your next job will come—if there will even be another one. But I had to let you, because of your talent. And because you outsmarted me. You met a film agent at a party and said, “My mom and daddy won’t help me, and I want to act!”
LAURA: Yeah, I was ten. We were at your friend Bo Hopkins’s house. His agent was there. I knew she worked with children also and was very patient and seemed very kind. You guys had just finished the movie you made with Johnny and June Carter Cash. And so it felt familiar enough for me to hang out with you all and go up to his agent and say, “My parents don’t want to help me. Would you ever let me audition for you to see if you thought you would send me out on an audition or two to get feedback?” I didn’t know about doing contrasting monologues or any of that. So I did a children’s poem called “The Little Peach” by Eugene Field. To show her my range, I did it in seven different, well-practiced—and in retrospect completely ridiculous—accents. She eventually sent me out on a few auditions and you seemed okay with that.
DIANE: I was always proud of your work. But I was afraid for you.
DIANE: Why! As if you don’t know. I wanted to protect you! It’s a hard, hard business. [Coughing fit.]
LAURA: Remember to breathe. Let’s get the pulse oximeter out. I think your oxygen level just went down.
DIANE: I’ve got to sit down, Laura. I’ve got to sit down, right here on the bench.
LAURA: No. Wait, Mom.
DIANE: Come on, let’s go sit down. Look at the—
LAURA: I’ll tell you what, before you sit down, let’s just take two relaxed deep breaths . . . so that we can talk more about the stress of the movie business. [Laughs.]
DIANE: If I sit down, I’ll be able to take that deep breath. I can’t take that deep breath if you won’t let me sit down. I’ve got to sit.
LAURA: Do you see that bench? It’s about ten feet ahead of us and it’s a better view of the water. Do you see it?
DIANE: Oh boy, pin a rose on me, that’s far. Do I get a lollipop like at the doctor’s if I have to do all that? ‘Cause you’re starting to piss me off.
LAURA: Yes, Mom. A lollipop or a sticker or a cocktail, whatever you like. Before we sit, take a deep breath. Because once we sit, we can take a nice long break. Deal?
DIANE: OK. But you talk for a minute while I catch my breath. What’s new with Ellery and Jaya?
LAURA: Oh, I’m about to freak you out. Ellery had coffee yesterday with David Lynch, and David gave him a DVD of Wild at Heart.
DIANE: He did?!
LAURA: Apparently Ellery’s been watching all his movies, and he said to David, “I can’t find Wild at Heart anywhere.” So David gave him the DVD, but when he did, he said, “Wait to watch this one until you’re thirty.” And Ellery said, “Why? Is my mom crazy in it?” And he said, “It’s not you seeing your mom I’m worried about. It’s you seeing your grandmother that might be worth the wait.”
DIANE: [Laughs.] Hilarious! He’s not wrong. Were you worried about Ellery watching it?
LAURA: Oh, I forbade him from watching it! I might show him a few scenes, especially one that’s a particularly special memory I have of working with you. Can you guess what scene I mean?
DIANE: The one in the police station?
LAURA: Yes, where Sailor is locked up and I’m crying on the bench.
DIANE: Before the scene we were on opposite sides of the set doing our different preparations. You knew even then that you have to build that wall between you and the crew and your other actors so you are alone in the scene. Then they started shooting, and I came in and said, “Oh, honey baby!” We sat on that lonely bench in that police station and we both cried together. Sobbed! You were using your own private memory. I was using mine. At the end of the scene we looked up and into each other’s faces. You knew what I was thinking about. You could feel it. And as I looked into your eyes, I knew what you were feeling.
LAURA: That was crazy. I was seeing you there at the same time that I was seeing your character. I saw you and I thought, Here is the woman who knows me better than anyone. There was no acting in that moment. I was just a daughter reacting to her mother. That’s one of my favorite moments as an actress, getting to be in that scene with you.
DIANE: But that moment—when we looked in each other’s eyes—it was like we saw each other standing there naked with everyone else clothed. We witnessed each other’s vulnerability. And do you remember what happened?
LAURA: We started laughing.
DIANE: We burst out laughing, like kids getting the giggles in church!
Adapted from “HONEY, BABY, MINE: A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER TALK LIFE, DEATH, LOVE (AND BANANA PUDDING)” by Laura Dern and Diane Ladd; Foreword by Reese Witherspoon, published on April 25, 2023. Copyright © 2023 by Laura Dern and Diane Ladd. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
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“Honey, Baby, Mine” by Laura Dern & Diane Ladd
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