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Among Dern's first 20 film roles was a part in the Sydney Pollack picture They Shoot Horses Don't They? in 1969. Career
Early in his career he acted in the Philadelphia premier of Waiting for Godot opposite Lyle Kessler and first appeared on screen for an uncredited role in the 1960 film Wild River. He frequently takes roles as a supporting character actor often playing villains of unstable nature.
Dern is the father of actress Laura Dern (1967) by his ex-wife Diane Ladd; married 1960–1969. He married his current wife Andrea Beckett in 1969.