People In Film | Annette Bening

Annette Bening is an American Actress

Annette Bening may have moved a far distance from her birthplace in Topeka, Kansas, but her characters still contain that non-nonsense straight-talking common sense that is all American. Indeed Nic, the character she plays in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, shines with American self-reliance and self- confidence. A doctor by profession, Nic is the main breadwinner for her partner Jules (Julianne Moore) and their two kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), and is involved (perhaps too much so) in every aspect of her family’s health and well-being. Bening’s own parents were perhaps less in touch with their daughter’s dreams. As Bening recently told Angeleno Magazine, “They never went to movies or talked about show business….I remember when I started doing plays…they would call and ask, ‘What are you doing now?’ I’d say, ‘Tartuffe in San Francisco.’ They’d say, ‘Oh, that’s nice, dear.’”

Annette Bening is a Professional

Born in Kansas to a church singer and an insurance man, Bening moved with her family to San Diego where she was actively involved in drama at Patrick Henry High School. For a short period she went to San Diego Mesa College, and even worked as a cook on a ship, before moving north to complete her drama degree at San Francisco State University. While in the Bay Area, she applied and was accepted in drama studies at San Francisco's highly competitive American Conservatory Theater, which she in time joined as a member. Her hard work in and study of stagecraft and theater eventually paid off. After moving to New York, she quickly got noticed for her part as Holly Dancer in Tina Howe's Coastal Disturbances, a role that earned her a Tony nomination in 1986.

Annette Bening is "A Terrific Combination"

From theater to film was not a completely smooth transition for Bening, as she slowly found her way from TV commercials to TV movies and pilots, and the occasional film. But by 1990, when she appeared as the femme fatale Myra Langtry in Stephen Frears The Grifters, it was clear that she was a talent to be reckoned with. The New York TimesVincent Canby was not alone in being impressed when he noted that “Miss Bening has something of the angelic looks of Michele Pfeiffer and the comic style and low-down sexiness of Kathleen Turner. It is a terrific combination.” It was so terrific that Bening received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role.

Annette Bening is Tough as Nails

Like the screen goddesses of classic Hollywood, Annette Bening was able to infuse her characters with both sense and sensuality. In the Washington Post, Hal Hinson noted that her in portrayal of Virginia Hill in Bugsy, Bening “reveals both the uncompromising toughness of a woman who's used sex to get what's she's wanted out of life, and the vulnerability that comes from knowing you can go around the track only so many times before the mileage starts to show.” Bening’s talent for creating fierce independent characters with both experience and vulnerability would show up again and again, both in such light-hearted work like The American President and in tough action movies like The Siege.

Annette Bening Is Funny As Hell

Just as Bening brought heart to her tough gal roles, she also brought an unexpected edge to her comedy turns. Her volatile mix of horror, humor and humanity created characters that were both complex and comic. As the no-nonsense real estate agent in Sam Mendes’ American Beauty––a role for which she received a Best Actress Oscar nod––she was, as the New York TimesJanet Maslin wrote, “scathingly funny, and also quite graceful, as a walking monument to despicable values.” In Being Julia (another Oscar-nominated role), Bening’s character, according to the Los Angeles TimesKevin Thomas, “can be theatrical and self-indulgent but has too much humor ever to lose sympathy.” A few years later, playing the cruelly self-absorbed mother in Ryan Murphy’s Running with Scissors, Bening was complimented by the Village Voice’s Rob Nelson for her ability “to humanize a character that in other hands would look like a vicious satire of '70s new-age feminism.”


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