Annette Bening

Also Credited As:

Annette Francine Bening
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Biography

Revered by film directors for her ability to take characters into deep, unexpected, emotional places, Annette Bening was a Tony-nominated stage actress before parlaying her dramatic intensity into award-worthy film performances. Early in her movie career, she made an impression as a wise-beyond-her-years sex kitten in "The Grifters" (1990) before exploding onto the scene as sultry mob moll, Virginia Hill, in the biopic, "Bugsy" (1991). And …
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Job Title

Actor

Born

Annette Francine Bening on May 29, 1958 in Topeka, Kansas, USA

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Revered by film directors for her ability to take characters into deep, unexpected, emotional places, Annette Bening was a Tony-nominated stage actress before parlaying her dramatic intensity into award-worthy film performances. Early in her movie career, she made an impression as a wise-beyond-her-years sex kitten in "The Grifters" (1990) before exploding onto the scene as sultry mob moll, Virginia Hill, in the biopic, "Bugsy" (1991). And though she never lost that sly, brainy, sex appeal, she became more often associated with complex, professional women on the verge of self-destruction in darkly humorous dramas like "American Beauty" (1999), "Being Julia" (2004) and "Running with Scissors" (2006). The A-list leading actress managed to maintain a solid output of well-received films by limiting herself to just one carefully chosen project per year, and retreating for extended periods into her very private family life with actor and director Warren Beatty and the couple's four children. The formula would prove to be successful, with critically lauded performances in select films like "The Kids Are All Right" (2010), reminding critics and audiences alike that the supremely talented Ms. Bening was an actor still very much in demand and at the top of her game.

Annette Bening was born in Topeka, KS on May 29, 1958, to Shirley and Grant Bening, a professional church singer and a salesman, respectively. She spent the first seven years of her life in Wichita until her father accepted a job offer in San Diego, forcing the family to relocate to the sunny West Coast. Bening was active onstage from the time she appeared in a junior high school production of "The Sound of Music." She participated in the theater program at Patrick Henry High School, graduating in 1975 and going on to study for two years at the theater program at San Diego Mesa College. Bening then headed up to San Francisco, where she earned a BA degree in Theater Arts from San Francisco State University and performed with the American Conservatory Theater. Her formative theatrical years also included starring roles in Shakespeare, Chekhov, and other classic dramas at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and the Denver Center Theater Company, where she spent a year in 1985.

In New York, Bening's years of study culminated in a Tony-nominated performance in Tina Howe's "Coastal Disturbances," a New England-set summertime saga in which the newcomer starred as a passionate, free-spirited young photographer on a beach vacation. The play opened off-Broadway in 1986 and moved to Broadway in 1987, and its high-profile, year-long run offered the exposure that Bening hoped would help open doors in the film world. One of her earliest big screen roles, as the sexually frustrated wife of Dan Aykroyd in the lackluster comedy "The Great Outdoors" (1988), gave little indication of Bening's talent, but audiences took note of her sultry carriage and superb vocal instrument when she etched an aptly uneasy portrait of wickedness as the Marquise de Merteuil in Milos Forman's "Valmont" (1989). The cool subtlety of her performance caught the attention of Stephen Frears, who had directed his own version of the same tale, "Dangerous Liaisons," six months earlier.

Frears cast Bening alongside John Cusack and Anjelica Huston in his classy film noir "The Grifters" (1990), adapted from the novel by Jim Thompson. Although her nude scenes generated the most publicity, Bening injected considerable verve and authority into her portrayal of a tough young hustler who coolly uses her body as one of the tools of her trade - a performance intentionally modeled after Gloria Grahame's in Fritz Lang's landmark noir "The Big Heat" (1953). The role earned Bening a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, which helped propel her into the front ranks of Hollywood leading ladies and prompted references to her as the "thinking man's sex symbol." She went on to demonstrate her versatility by portraying nurturing, supportive wives in "Guilty By Suspicion" (1991) and "Regarding Henry" (1991) before returning to a more seductive role opposite future husband Warren Beatty in "Bugsy" (1991), earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of the tempestuous and uncontrollable girlfriend of doomed gangster Bugsy Siegel, Virginia Hill. Her line to Beatty - "why don't you go jerk yourself a soda" - could not have been delivered better by Mae West herself. More important than filling out the vintage gowns and playing Hill to the hilt was winning the heart of her co-star, the most notorious Hollywood playboy of the last 30 years - save Jack Nicholson and Hugh Hefner. Beatty fell hard for Bening - especially impressed with her maturity and no-nonsense handling of him.

During a three year hiatus, Bening became the woman "who tamed the beast" by marrying career bachelor Beatty and immediately starting a family. She relinquished the coveted Catwoman role in "Batman Returns" (1992) to Michelle Pfeiffer when the stork first flew into her life, and dropped out of "Disclosure" (1994) due to her second pregnancy. She returned to the screen in 1994 opposite Beatty in a misbegotten remake of the 1939 film "Love Affair," where the couple played people engaged to others who fall in love after an accidental meeting. The film was oddly devoid of the couple's "Bugsy" chemistry and flopped - though it did contain legend Katherine Hepburn's final film appearance. But Bening bounced back with a pair of highly acclaimed but very different film roles in 1995. She and Michael Douglas paired with sparkling results in the romantic comedy "The American President," in which Bening was feisty and charming as an ambitious lobbyist romanced by a handsome widowed president. The same year, she was praised for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Ian McKellen's adaptation of Shakespeare's "Richard III" (1995).

After appearing in Tim Burton's odd sci-fi comedy "Mars Attacks!" (1996), Bening starred alongside Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington in the controversial thriller "The Siege" (1998) and teamed with Aidan Quinn as a psychic with connections to a killer in Neil Jordan's "In Dreams" (1999). In 1999, she gave a stellar, career-defining performance as the domineering real estate broker married to a man in a midlife crisis in the acclaimed "American Beauty" (1999). For her characterization of the tightly wound, image conscious, suburban overachiever, Bening earned nominations from the Academy Awards as well as the Golden Globes. A follow-up comic turn opposite Garry Shandling in the Mike Nichols-directed comedy "What Planet Are You From?" (2000) paled in comparison, leading the actress to take another lengthy hiatus from the screen. She returned in 2003 to play actor-director Kevin Costner's spirited and refreshingly age-appropriate love interest in the under-appreciated Western revival "Open Range" (2003). She earned some of the best reviews of her career the following year when she starred as a diva stage actress caught up in a May-December romance with a young social climber in "Being Julia" (2004), a bravura turn that earned the stunner a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination.

Bening continued her run of memorable performances in "Running with Scissors" (2006), an adaptation of Augusten Burrough's bestselling memoir about growing up with his mother's therapist (Brian Cox). Bening earned another Golden Globe Award nomination for her role as Burrough's delusional mother, an unpublished p t dealing with a messy divorce with her son's alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin). She earned a second Golden Globe nod that year for her performance in the fact-based HBO movie "Mrs. Harris" (2006), as the emotionally disturbed school headmistress who made national headlines when she shot and killed her lover Dr. Herman Tarnower (Ben Kingsley), the famed cardiologist and creator of the Scarsdale Diet. Two years later, Bening was unfortunately part of the ensemble cast of "The Women" (2008), where the gold-spinning actress was given nothing to work with in Diane English's weak update of the classic 1939 George Cukor film.

In the drama "Mother and Child" (2010) Bening portrayed a bitter woman who never came to grips with the fact that she gave up a baby girl for adoption after becoming pregnant at the age of 14. While her performance in the small film was met with mostly positive notices, it was her turn in the unconventional family dramedy "The Kids Are All Right" (2010) that brought her and co-star Julianne Moore critical raves. In the film, Bening plays one half of a gay couple with two teenage children who were conceived via artificial insemination. When the kids track down their "bio dad" and invite him into their lives, the household is thrown into awkwardly comedic chaos. For her portrayal of the overbearing professional mom, Bening received Indie Spirit, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. She also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, and gave a touching shout-out to co-star Julianne Moore.

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