Annette Bening

Annette Bening is a talented actress whose highest profile role was in the widely acclaimed American Beauty. She chooses her movies carefully - what's next?


The youngest of four children, she was born Carol Annette Bening on 29 May 1958, to father Arnett Grant Bening, who worked for an insurance company, and mother Shirley. Her siblings are Jane, Bradley, and Byron. The year following her birth, the family moved in 1959 to Wichita, Kansas. They remained there for six years before Bening's father found work with a company in San Diego, California, where the family moved in 1965.

Rather a shy young girl, Bening was always polite and friendly. Her interest in acting began at a young age and it was in junior high school that she played the lead role in the school's production of 'The Sound of Music'.

She then went on to study drama at Patrick Henry High School in San Diego. Following her graduation, Bening took some time out from studies and worked as a cook with a charter boat company. She went out on the Pacific Ocean with groups of people going fishing and scuba diving.

After a year of doing this, Bening decided to attend San Diego Mesa College, before completing an academic degree in Theatre Arts at San Francisco State University. She then joined the American Conservatory Theatre acting company in San Francisco, studying acting as part of their Advanced Theatre Training Programme. She spent several years there, both as a student and a teacher, and became recognised as a truly talented actress in roles such as Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth.

In 1984, Bening married her first husband, choreographer J Steven White. In 1985, the couple moved to Denver, Colorado but they separated in 1986 and divorced in 1991. In 1986, Bening made her television debut in 'Manhunt for Claude Dallas' (1986). In 1987, she moved to New York City and made her off-Broadway debut as Holly Dancer in Tina Howe's highly acclaimed 'Coastal Disturbances' (1987), being nominated for a Tony Award and winning a Clarence Derwent Award for Outstanding Debut Performance.

Moving to Los Angeles to concentrate on her movie career, Bening made her feature film debut as Kate Craig in the comedy 'The Great Outdoors' (1988), co-starring Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. She was then cast as the Marquise de Merteuil, opposite Colin Firth, in 'Valmont' (1989), which was based on the same novel as 'Dangerous Liaisons' (1988) but was not as successful.

Her next film proved to be a huge boost to her career when she played Myra Langtry, with John Cusack and Angelica Huston in the critically acclaimed 'The Grifters' (1990). Bening received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for this performance.

She was listed as one of the 12 Promising New Actors in John Willis' Screen World in 1990 and played Evelyn Ames in 'Postcards from the Edge' (1990), with Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss and Rob Reiner.

In 1991, she met Warren Beatty on the set of 'Bugsy' (1991). Beatty, who directed the film, cast her as Virginia Hill, whilst Beatty played Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel. They began a secret on-set romance and learned, shortly before the end of production of the film, that Bening was pregnant with their first child. They were married on 12 March 1992. The couple are still together, live in Los Angeles and have four children, Kathlyn, who is now known as Stephen (1992), Benjamin (1994), Isabel (1997) and Ella (2000).

Taking a few years off from film making to enjoy family life, Bening collaborated with Beatty in 'Love Affair' (1994), which was unfortunately a box-office flop. She was back on form however with her next role as Queen Elizabeth in Richard Loncraine's highly regarded 'Richard III' (1995).

To follow were Rob Reiner's romantic drama 'The American President' (1995) with Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox, and Tim Burton's sci-fi spoof 'Mars Attacks!' (1996), with Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Sarah Jessica Parker and Natalie Portman.

In action thriller 'The Siege' (1998), Bening played the role of Elise Kraft/Sharon Bridger with co-stars Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis. The following year was thriller 'In Dreams' (1999), with Robert Downey Jr. and Aidan Quinn.

In possibly her highest profile role of her career thus far, Bening received an Academy Award nomination for her notable performance as Carolyn Burnham in Sam Mendes' unforgettable 'American Beauty' (1999), with Kevin Spacey and Mena Suvari. She played Susan Anderson opposite Garry Shandling in Mike Nichols' sci-fi comedy 'What Planet Are You From?' (2000). Bening provided the voice of Abigail Adams in the animated television series 'Liberty’s Kids: Est. 1776' (2002).

In Kevin Costner's western 'Open Range' (2003), she played Sue Barlow opposite Costner and Robert Duvall. Her performance was recognised with a Bronze Wrangler for Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture award and a Satellite Award nomination for best supporting actress.

Her next performance was as a 1930s stage actress in 'Being Julia' (2004), a drama with Michael Gambon. For this role, Bening received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role and won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Comedy.
In the made-for-television thriller 'Mrs Harris' (2005), she starred with Ben Kingsley and received a 2006 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie.

Next was the film adaptation of Augusten Burrough's book, 'Running with Scissors' (2006). Bening played Deirdre Burroughs, alongside co-stars Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The role also led to further award nominations, including a Golden Globe and Satellite Award for Best Actress.

On 9 December 2006, Bening hosted the television programme 'Saturday Night Live', with guests Gwen Stefani and Akon. The following day, on 10 November 2006, she received a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However, her near perfect streak of critical acclaim ended with her next film. Bening achieved a career low when she received a Razzie Award for Worst Actress for her role in 'The Women' (2008), which she shared with the movie's other actresses. Despite scathingly negative reviews, the movie was a moderate box office success.

Perhaps determined to right a wrong following the Razzie, Bening returned to the top of her game two years later with one of 2010's critical successes 'The Kids Are All Right'. Critics were nearly united in their acclaim for the movie, which landed Bening a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and five other accolades, as well as more than a dozen further award nominations. She also picked up a Hollywood Award for Best Actress for her role in 'Mother and Child' in the same year.

She next appeared in 'Ruby Sparks', which also stars Antonio Banderas, Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano as a novelist who creates a female character and wills her into existence so they can fall in love. Later in 2012, Bening appeared in 'Imogene' with Kristen Wiig and Darren Criss. This was followed by 'Hemingway & Fuentes' about the author Ernest Hemingway's inspiration for the story 'The Old Man and The Sea'.

In 2013, Bening starred in 'The Look Of Love', as a widow who falls in love with someone who looks like her late husband.

Bening has a great screen presence and is a versatile performer. She has been nominated for numerous awards and won several more. She is a council member of the California Arts Council.