Though Bruce Dern has been in the movie business for over half a century, he's only been to one glitzy award show.
The 77-year-old attended the Academy Awards in 1979 -- back, he jokes, "when there were covered wagons" -- after earning a nomination for his supporting role in Hal Ashby's "Coming Home."
That will change come January, when Dern will walk the red carpet outside the Shrine Auditorium at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. On Wednesday, he was one of five men nominated in the leading actor category for his turn in "Nebraska," in which he portrays an elderly curmudgeon convinced he's won a $1-million sweepstakes.
Dern will be competing against Matthew McConaughey, seen as a man battling AIDS in "Dallas Buyers Club"; Forest Whitaker, who played the White House's head servant in "The Butler"; Tom Hanks, who took on the role of a seaman kidnapped by Somali pirates in "Captain Phillips"; and Chiwetel Ejifor, who portrayed a free Northerner-turned-Southern slave in "12 Years a Slave."
Speaking from his bed in Pasadena early Wednesday morning, Dern said he was thrilled to be recognized for his work after appearing in more than 80 films.
"It appears to me that some folks are getting together and saying, 'You know what? Bruce Dern can play,' " the actor said. "I’ve done this a long time, and it finally seems they’re seeing I’ve got game. I’m not sure they didn’t recognize it before, but certainly not at the level they are now."
The recent flurry of attention surrounding his "Nebraska" performance is already benefitting his career, Dern said. He said he's been shown scripts that "never would have been sent my way" six months ago.
"I guess they weren’t ready for Brucey from Winnetka, and now they’re a little more ready," he said.
So it wasn't already obvious: No, he isn't looking to retire from acting anytime soon.
"First of all, what the hell would I do?" he said with a chuckle. "I gamble on sports a little bit, but I can’t make a life doing that, nor can I take the risk doing that."
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