In the drama movie, the 51-year-old actress portrays documentary filmmaker Jennifer Fox who begins to question the relationships she had as a teenager with her female horse riding instructor and male running coach at summer camp, which the character eventually realises was grooming and rape.
The film’s story made Dern reassess her early years as a teenage actress and conclude that she was subjected to inappropriate behaviour from some adults she worked with.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, she said: “I started making movies as an 11-year-old, so I was on location at 13. I remember every compromised situation. I was a child, and adults took advantage of me or tried, and I justified the behaviour as me misunderstanding it.”
Although she has spoken about being the victim of inappropriate sexual behaviour Dern has never gone into specific detail about what happened to her or who was responsible and she is adamant that each individual must deal with their experience in their own way.
She said: “No one has to speak about their experience. It’s also remarkably brave to sit in your own home and look in the mirror and say: this is the truth of what happened.
I will tell you I experienced everything barring assault. I mean, there were a million of these circumstances where … What director or casting director needs a 13-year-old to go to the Chateau to audition in a room, sitting on a bed beside the director, to read a scene together alone? You just don’t create that scenario. There was behavior that was definitely the worst kind of behavior that somehow I got myself out of or someone stopped it.”
Dern – whose parents Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern were actors – regrets not having the confidence or awareness to realise that when she did feel uncomfortable in a situation she could have spoken out.
The ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ star said: “The tragedy of my life is that when things were in the grey, I didn’t know they were wrong. I didn’t know I was entitled to say something as simple as ‘I feel a little uncomfortable. Can someone else be in the room?’ Or, ‘No, I don’t want to come with you to get a book you’re going to give me as a wrap present in your hotel room.’ Or, you know, that ultimate grooming line for young girls … ‘I see you, and I understand you like nobody else does.’ “