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“I’ll Die with My Boots on,” Says Indefatigable Diane Ladd

Diane Ladd—who along with Laura Dern makes up Hollywood's most acclaimed mother-daughter duo—is still at the top of her game in her new movie.

How does someone who started life in the Mississippi Delta become part of Hollywood royalty? With a lot of talent and discipline. That’s how Diane Ladd, the much loved writer-director-author, did it, winning more than 72 awards along the way, including a Golden Globe, Independent Spirit, and Cannes Palm d’or and appearing in over 200 films and TV projects. And she’s not done yet. 

“I will never retire! I will die with my boots on!” she quips to Nexttribe.com.

In her latest film, Gigi & Nate, Ladd plays a sassy grandmother of a young man whose life is turned upside down after he suffers a near-fatal illness and is left a quadriplegic. Jim Belushi and Marcia Gay Harden also star.

Her spirit of generosity shines through with a grace only she could provide.

“It’s really a beautiful, uplifting film, which is based on true events,” Ladd says. “The character has such trouble moving forward, until the family decides to get him a service animal, Gigi—an adorable and smart capuchin monkey, who renews his spirit.”

Ladd enjoyed her experience working on the film. “We got good people…some old war horses here, that love the work, not necessarily the business, but the work – and the work we do is precious. I am thrilled that director Nick Hamm chose me to be a part of this. I think he’s made a great film, and one that even children can go see and learn from. These kinds of pictures are lights in the tunnel.”

Hamm is equally effusive in his praise of Ladd. “Diane created a beautiful character, nuanced, emotionally complicated and above all, hilarious. She’s still at the top of her game and her spirit of generosity shines through with a grace only she could provide.” 

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All Hail the Pro

The veteran actress resonates with films that deeply connect with audiences. “We might see ourselves in some of the players and we might learn something. We can laugh, cry, empathize, and get angry,” she says. “It’s an array of good emotions to explore within yourself, that’s what films are for…I think this film is an open window for us all to take a step through. And this has the potential to impact millions of lives.”

Belushi was excited to have had the opportunity to watch and learn from Ladd.

Talk about a soulful woman. She just radiates artistic joy and accomplishment.

“The joy in working with Diane–she has been acting for around 60 years. I rode with her to the set one day and she made me cry,” Belushi shares. “The speech she gave me about being an actor was one of the most beautiful and inspiring things I ever heard. Talk about a soulful woman. She just radiates artistic joy and accomplishment and understanding, and that is the luxury of being generous.”

Adds Harden: “I just wanted her to sit there and tell us stories. At her core, she is an elegant woman of incredible morality and tenacity. She had to fight, I’m sure, many battles in her llifetime and she did so with grace, and that’s what I got from working with her.”

Ladd was endlessly impressed by her furry co-star. 

“That service monkey was so gentle and sweet! I loved him!” she enthuses. “They are really helping to save lives. They have done screenings in several cities and the director told me the audiences all loved the monkey, he’s their favorite! And I told him, ‘omg, I have worked all these years to get upstaged by a monkey?! And he said, ‘but Diane, you are their second favorite!’

On Being Laura Dern’s Mother

One of Ladd’s favorite things in life is to collaborate with her daughter, actress Laura Dern. For their film Rambling Rose, the two made Hollywood history as the only mother/daughter to both be nominated for Academy Awards—same year, same film. She also co-starred in the HBO series, Enlightened, with her as well.

Ladd describes Dern as her `miracle child.’

Ladd describes Dern as her “miracle child,” with my ex-husband/actor Bruce Dern. “Our first daughter died in a tragic accident. I was trying to get pregnant and had a tubular pregnancy afterwards and almost died,” she recalls. “And the doctors said, ‘Sorry Diane, you will never have another child. It is impossible.’ And to that I said, ‘I will, I will, will.’”

For two years, Ladd was at the library studying the human body, examining what women can do to get stronger. 

“When I got pregnant, the doctors said, `You cannot be, it’s impossible.’ But God gave me another child, a human being who cares about the planet and other people. And in my opinion, one of the greatest actresses that ever lived,” Ladd says proudly.

Next year, the dynamic duo have a book coming out, which they wrote together. “I have completed co-authoring a new book with Laura called Honey Baby Mine, which will be released ‘Mothers’ Day 2023. We took long walks together and recorded our conversations. It’s really lovely.” And so is their bond. 

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By Susan Hornik


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