The Marriage Story star took to the stage at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 9, to accept the award, calling it the “best birthday present ever.”
“Thank you to the academy for this honor,” the Big Little Lies actress, who turns 53 on Monday, February 10, began. “Just to be in this room with such remarkable artists, including my fellow nominees, my sisters and colleagues. Thank you to Netflix, my friend Ted Scott and everyone for their support and love. To [director and screenwriter] Noah [Baumbach], his vision, his magic. Thank you, Noah, for your words and for your friendship in art and life with you and Greta [Gerwig].”
Dern has had a nearly perfect awards season after stealing scenes in the Noah Baumbach film. Dern stars alongside Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as Nora Fanshaw, a high-powered Los Angeles divorce lawyer who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and fight dirty when needed. Earlier this year, Dern accepted a Golden Globe, SAG Award and BAFTA for her turn in the gripping drama.
“Noah wrote a movie about love and about braving divisions in the name and in the honor of family and home and hopefully for all of us, in the name of our planet,” the Jurassic Park actress continued. “I would like to say a special thank you to the gifts of the love stories in my life. My stepchildren, C.J. and Harris, my heart and inspiration, Ellery and Jaya.”
“You know, some say never meet your heroes, but I say, if you’re really blessed, you get them as your parents. I share this with my acting heroes, my legends, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern,” she continued as her mom teared up in the audience. “You’ve got game. I love you … This is the best birthday present ever, thank you.”
Dern’s win for Marriage Story marks the first time an actor has taken home an Oscar for a Netflix film. Before signing on to the movie, she felt an instant connection with Marriage Story‘s visceral plot, admitting to Variety in January that she “cried for half an hour” the first time she read the script.
“We all know that pain of loving someone so much and they’ve hurt you so much,” the Little Women star, who was married to Ben Harper from 2005 to 2013, said. “Whether it was in real life or you’ve had a dream where you kill them or beat the crap out of them. The terror of loving so deep that you feel that hatred from heartbreak.”
At first, her character has an almost too cutthroat energy, but Dern brought nuance to Nora that she felt spoke to an important discrepancy in how the world views men and women in positions of power.
“Noah and I did a lot of talking about this and it’s interested me a lot lately to think about when women are given the opportunity finally to have a position of power that we so haven’t been bred to even consider it,” Dern explained to Variety. “That when we’re given it, it’s like, ‘Look, I’m giving you this one slot and this one chance so you better act like the boys, you better play ball like the boys.'”
The Enlightened star’s long-awaited Oscar win follows her Best Supporting Actress nomination for 2015’s Wild and Best Actress nod for 1992’s Rambling Rose.