Oscar-nominated actress Laura Dern continues her long and illustrious career in director Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes as Lynn, the mother of laid-off construction worker Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield). When Dennis, Lynn and Dennis’ son are evicted from their family home by a ruthless bank repossessor (Michael Shannon), Lynn tries to hold the family together even as Dennis conceals from her that he has begun working for the very man who threw them out of their house – first as a way to get their house back, but then because the money is too tempting to resist.
Dern’s resume includes classic films like Blue Velvet, Rambling Rose, Wild at Heart, Jurassic Park and many more, while her recent work includes outstanding supporting work in The Fault in Our Stars, Wild (for which she received her second Academy Award nomination) and now 99 Homes. Screen Rant sat down with Dern to discuss this movie, its real-life implications, and her old friend David Lynch.
Your character, Lynn, is sort of the moral center of the movie. Is that how you saw her?
I think so. In an interesting way Andrew’s character also is, even though he’s being pulled away from his own sense of self. We together make a moral compass and I’m losing that side of it, while at the same time, wanting my home more than anything. And that’s that odd denial of a parent who’s asking their child, their lover or their friend for the thing they want more than anything, but not recognizing the consequence of that ask could potentially be someone willing to do anything for them to get it. So there’s a tragedy between them in both the morality of the piece and the blurred lines.
I was watching this movie and wanted to scream at the screen at some of the horrifying things that happen. Did you feel that way when you first read the script?
I did, and also, you know, what I really loved about the opportunity to work on it is – both with Ramin and the way he works in improved fashion, and Bobby Bukowski, who’s such an incredible cinematographer – we watched so much documentary footage, and the idea was we would also improvise around the evictions, all of them, and create the truth to them. And that there would be many non-actors we would work with as well. And the cops are real cops and have done many evictions, so they know how it goes, so many of us were placed in the position of the person walking through this story. That was amazing too. So even just being there, you felt like screaming, and some of the eviction just are – you know, I’ve seen the film a few times now and they continue to be just so devastating ‘because you know they’ve happened.
This is something we all read about in the newspapers when the banking and housing crisis happened in 2008, but what did you come away learning about this issue and about this real estate business that maybe you hadn’t known?
One, watching all the footage, being in motels with families who are still there post-2008-09-10 – you know, they were going to be there two weeks while they got themselves back together and it’s three, four, five years later, and those people, who lost everything wrongfully, are watching the news and hearing about how, thanks to the bailouts, the banks are back on their feet and they’ve had a better year in bonuses then they’ve had in multiple years – how do you remain compassionate or loving or hopeful with the potential level of bitterness that could exist when you’re trying to just keep your family alive? I don’t understand it. Watching the bailouts from my television on CNN, that I didn’t know until I was inside this movie and seeing all the research and footage that we saw. It’s so devastating.
What does it say about us as a society that the very concept of “home” is up for grabs? Even Michael Shannon’s character is ready to flip his own home for a profit.
And if “home” equates “safety,” we don’t have it in this country. If “home” equates “family” – for those of us who spent any time in other countries, in Europe or South America, home is about family. Unlike America, there’s no age marker on that. When you become elderly, you still have a home. Not in this country. The old people get booted out, and they’re left with nothing. We aren’t a society of taking care of our own all the way through the story. In other cultures, the grandmother lives with the family – I mean, it’s just part of the culture, that’s what you do. So we have a lot to learn, and if this movie can mirror ourselves or our challenges in any way, then I’m grateful to be a part of it because I learned from it certainly.
You go back a long way with David Lynch, are you ever tempted to call him and ask him to write you a part in the new Twin Peaks revival that he’s doing? Are you happy to see him return to it?
I’m so happy he is. I’m always tempted to, and will always work with David because he’s my beloved family and my mentor and I’m sure I’ll work with him my whole life. And so excited, and I find him so brave – I mean, he’s going to direct all of it. That’s just an enormous undertaking, and he’s just the most prolific artist there is. He’s just constantly making art, whatever form it takes, so he’s just really an inspiration. I’m excited.
99 Homes is directed Ramin Bahrani from his and Amir Naderi's screenplay and story and stars Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Tim Guinee and Laura Dern.
Ruthless and charismatic businessman, Rick Carver (Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon), is making a killing by repossessing homes and gaming the real estate market. When he evicts Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single father trying to care for his mother (Academy Award nominee Laura Dern) and young son (newcomer Noah Lomax), Nash becomes so desperate to provide for his family that he goes to work for Carver – the very man who left them homeless in the first place. Carver promises Nash a way to regain his home and earn security for his family, but slyly seduces him into a lifestyle of wealth and glamour. It is a deal-with-the-devil that comes with an increasingly high cost. On Carver’s orders, Nash must evict families from their homes – an undertaking that grows more brutal and dangerous than he ever imagined.
99 Homes hits theaters on September 25, 2015.