His paternal grandfather, , was a governor and he was serving in the latter position during the time of Bruce's birth.
Dern starred with and in the original Broadway run of '.
He played a murderous rustler in , a gunfighter in , and an impoverished farm worker with a pregnant wife in the film adaptation for 's novel.
In 's film , Dern played an elderly resident who believes he has won a million dollars, and undertakes a road trip from to to claim the prize.
A lifelong avid runner, he was a track star in high school and sought to qualify for the olympic trials in 1956.