Annette Carol Bening
May 29, 1958
Topeka, Kansas, U.S.
Annette Carol Bening (born May 29, 1958) is an American actress. In a career spanning more than four decades, she has received many accolades, including a BAFTA Award and two Golden Globes as well as nominations for a Primetime Emmy Award, two Tony Awards, and four Academy Awards.
Bening began her career on stage with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival company in 1980, and played Lady Macbeth in 1984 at the American Conservatory Theater. She made her Broadway debut in the Tina Howe play Coastal Disturbances (1987) for which she received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She played the title role in a Geffen Playhouse production of Hedda Gabbler (1999). She returned to Broadway in the revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons (2019) earning another Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Play.
Bening won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for playing a materialistic wife in American Beauty (1999), and received nominations for four Academy Awards for her roles in The Grifters (1990), American Beauty, Being Julia (2004), and The Kids Are All Right (2010). She was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for playing the title role in the television film Mrs. Harris (2005). Her other notable films include Postcards from the Edge (1990), Bugsy (1991), Richard III (1995), The American President (1995), 20th Century Women (2016), Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017), The Seagull (2018), The Report (2019), Captain Marvel (2019), Death on the Nile (2022), and Nyad (2023).
Early life and education
Bening was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Shirley Katherine (née Ashley) and Arnett Grant Bening. Her mother was a church singer and soloist, and her father was a sales training consultant and insurance salesman. Her parents, originally from Iowa, were practicing Episcopalians and conservative Republicans. She is of mostly German and English descent.
The youngest of four children, she has an older sister Jane, and two older brothers Bradley and Byron. The family moved to Wichita, Kansas, in 1959, where she spent her early childhood. When Bening was in elementary school, her father relocated the family to San Diego, California, where she spent the remainder of her youth. She began acting in junior high school, playing the lead in The Sound of Music. She graduated in 1975 from San Diego's Patrick Henry High School, where she studied drama. She then spent a year working as a cook on a charter boat taking fishing parties out on the Pacific Ocean, and scuba diving for recreation. Bening attended San Diego Mesa College and graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts at San Francisco State University.
1986–1999: Rise to prominence
Bening began her career on stage with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival company in 1980, and appeared in plays at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. She was a member of the acting company at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco while studying acting as part of the Advanced Theatre Training Program. There, she starred in such productions as Shakespeare's Macbeth as Lady Macbeth. Bening also starred in productions of Pygmalion and The Cherry Orchard at the Denver Center Theatre Company during the 1985–86 season. She made her Broadway debut in 1987, garnering a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play and receiving a Theatre World Award for her performance in Coastal Disturbances. Bening made her film debut in The Great Outdoors (1988), starring Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. Her next role was as the Marquise de Merteuil in Valmont (1989) opposite Colin Firth.
She made her breakout role in The Grifters (1990), in which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1991, she portrayed Virginia Hill in Barry Levinson's biopic Bugsy, alongside Warren Beatty. Bening co-starred with Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry. In 1994, Bening and Beatty starred together again, in Love Affair. In 1995, Bening played a leading role in The American President, with Michael Douglas, a role she followed with Tim Burton's sci-fi spoof Mars Attacks! (1996), and The Siege (1998), a thriller with Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis.
She gained acclaim for her starring role in Sam Mendes' directorial debut film American Beauty (1999). Bening starred opposite Kevin Spacey in the dark comedy about a man suffering a mid-life crisis in 90s American suburbia. The film won five Academy Awards, including for Best Picture. For her performance as the materialistic wife Carolyn Burnham, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.
In 1999, Bening returned to the stage for the first time in 10 years playing the title role in Hedda Gabler at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times praised her performance saying "Bening uses her vocal instrument to fine effect, without throwing it around... In the movies you don't always hear what Bening can do with that voice, especially when she's playing virtuous, "sensible" types... But Ibsen's antiheroine—thwarted sensualist, a woman wrestling with her inner troll, belle of a ball that never comes—is neither virtuous nor sensible. She's no easy-to-read villain, either, nor a mere vindictive brat, though plenty of actresses have reduced her thus. Bening lays into the venomous sarcasm mighty heavily, but she's cagey enough to avoid reductive extremes."
2000–2014: Established career
Bening starred in other films, including In Dreams (1999) and What Planet Are You From? (2000). Bening played Sue Barlow in Open Range (2003). She played the title role in Being Julia (2004), in which she won a Golden Globe, NBR Best Actress, was a runner-up for NYFCC and was nominated by SAG and for the Academy Award for her performance. She was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for her role of Jean Harris the 2005 HBO film Mrs. Harris. She replaced Julianne Moore and starred in the film adaptation of Running with Scissors (2006), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Bening starred in The Women (2008) remake. In 2009, Bening starred in a new interpretation of the Euripides classic Medea at UCLA's Freud Playhouse. She received positive reviews for her performance in the independent film Mother and Child (2009).
In 2010, she starred in The Female of the Species, Joanna Murray-Smith's comedy, at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Later that year, Bening received critical acclaim for her performance in The Kids Are All Right; a reviewer said that she "deserves an Oscar" and another praised her "sublime" performance. For her role Bening won a Golden Globe, NYFFC Best Actress, and was runner-up for a NSFC award. She was also nominated for a SAG award, a BAFTA award, and for the Academy Award for the performance.
In 2012, Bening's audiobook recording of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway was released at Audible.com. In 2014, she starred in Shakespeare's King Lear at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, as part of the Public Theatre's Free Shakespeare in the Park. It marked her first New York stage appearance in twenty years. Bening starred in Dan Fogelman's 2015 American comedy drama, Danny Collins, with Al Pacino.
In 2016, Bening starred in Mike Mills's comedy drama 20th Century Women alongside Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup. Bening played a chain-smoking first-wave feminist struggling to raise her teenage son. Sheila O'Malley of Roger Ebert.com declared, "[Bening]] has one of the best performances of the year (and one of Bening's personal best as well)". For her performance she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical as well as the Independent Spirit Award and Critics' Choice Movie Award.
The following year she portrayed Gloria Grahame in Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017) alongside Jamie Bell, Vanessa Redgrave, and Julie Walters. Peter Bradshaw critic from The Guardian praised her performance declaring, "Bening is excellent as Grahame: imperious, vulnerable, romantic, sexually excited about her younger man, wanly aware of secrets she cannot share with him". She was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance. The following year she starred as Irina Arkadina in The Seagull and as Dr. Cait Morris in Life Itself (2018).
In 2019, Bening returned to the Broadway stage after a 32-year absence. She starred in the revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons alongside Tracy Letts at the Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre. The play opened on April 4, 2019, and closed on June 23, 2019. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. The following year she portrayed Senator Dianne Feinstein in the political drama film The Report (2019) for which she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture nomination.
Bening joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Dr. Wendy Lawson in Captain Marvel (2019) alongside Brie Larson. The film was a financial box-office hit. In 2022 she acted in Kenneth Branagh's Death on the Nile and the comedy Jerry and Marge Go Large opposite Bryan Cranston. That same year she filmed Nyad with Jodie Foster where Bening portrayed long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad. The film will be distributed by Netflix and premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2023, she started shooting in Queensland for the TV mystery drama mini-series Apples Never Fall in which Sam Neill co-stars; in July shooting was suspended by the actors' and writers' strike.
Bening married James Steven White, a choreographer, on May 26, 1984. They divorced in 1991. She has been married to actor Warren Beatty since March 3, 1992. They have four children.
Awards and nominations
Bening has received numerous accolades such as a BAFTA Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. She has also received nominations for four Academy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award and two Tony Awards.
She has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the following performances.
- 63rd Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress, nomination, as Myra Langtry in The Grifters (1990)
- 72nd Academy Awards: Best Actress, nomination, as Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty (1999)
- 77th Academy Awards: Best Actress, nomination, as Julia Lambert in Being Julia (2004)
- 83rd Academy Awards: Best Actress, nomination, as Dr. Nicole 'Nic' Allgood in The Kids Are All Right (2010)
- "#83 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: A Third Set of Ten Hollywood Figures (or Groups Thereof), with a Coda on Two Directors". AmericanAncestors.org. April 18, 2008. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- "Annette Bening Biography: Film Actress (1958–)". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Archived from the original on July 3, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
- "Public Record of Shirley Bening". FamilySearch. Archived from the original on February 21, 2015. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
- "Putting 'Real Life' First Makes Bening A Better Actress". Nl.newsbank.com. Archived from the original on October 4, 2018. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- "Annette Bening Biography". TV Guide. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
- Dutka, Elaine (February 21, 1999). "The Aura of Annette; If She Makes the Merging of Career and Family Appear Effortless, It's an Illusion". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
- Thomson, Desson (October 24, 2004). "Annette Bening, Acting on Her Maternal Instincts". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2010.[dead link]
- Whipp, Glenn (January 17, 2017). "Annette Bening wonders: Can kids and parents ever truly know one another?". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 21, 2022.
- Zack, Jessica (November 17, 2020). "Annette Bening, S.F. State and ACT alum, can't wait to 'get back into the theater'". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on February 21, 2022.
- "Love's Labour's Lost (1980 Colorado Shakespeare Festival)". Internet Shakespeare Editions. Archived from the original on July 1, 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
- Fleming, Michael (September 23, 1998). "Bening in 'Beauty': Actress close to joining Spacey in DW pic". Variety.
- Phillips, Michael (March 26, 1999). "'Hedda': A Woman Always on the Verge". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 26, 2020. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- "Annette Bening Awards". imdb.com. April 19, 2018. Archived from the original on March 12, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
- "Annette Bening Emmy Nominated". Emmys.com. July 19, 2012. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- "UCLA Live's new season: Annette Bening stars in world premiere". Los Angeles Times. June 3, 2009. Archived from the original on May 21, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
- Scott, A. O. (May 7, 2010). "In a Melancholy Los Angeles, 'La Ronde' of Motherhood". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 14, 2011. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
- "She's So Under the Gun, She Can't Leave Her Desk". The New York Times. March 1, 2010. Archived from the original on June 24, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
- "At the Movies: The Kids Are All Right". ABC Australia. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
- Gordon, David (May 20, 2014). "Annette Bening, Jessica Hecht, and More Will Join John Lithgow in Shakespeare in the Park's King Lear". TheaterMania.com. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
- "Annette Bening, Jessica Collins, Jessica Hecht Will Be John Lithgow's Daughters in King Lear". Playbill. May 20, 2014. Archived from the original on July 30, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
- McNary, Dave (May 14, 2015). "Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning Join '20th Century Women'". Variety. Archived from the original on June 6, 2017. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
- "20th Century Women". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
- "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool review – Annette Bening and Jamie Bell in stranger-than-fiction love story". Guardian. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
- "Arthur Miller's All My Sons". Archived from the original on March 21, 2019. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
- "TIFF Lineup Unveiled Amid Strikes: Awards Contenders 'Dumb Money', 'The Holdovers', 'Rustin'; Starry Pics For Sale With Scarlett Johansson, Kate Winslet, Michael Keaton, Viggo Mortensen & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
- "Board of Trustees". Actors Fund. February 11, 2016. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- "'In real life, people aren't heroic': Annette Bening and Bill Nighy on why marriages implode". the Guardian. August 28, 2020. Retrieved July 23, 2022.