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Stars & the City: Annette Bening

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The Tony and Oscar nominee reveals what fuels her passion

Annette Bening recently wowed as firecracker actress Irina in a film adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. The movie was shot over a mere 21 days in Monroe, New York. Directed by Michael Mayer, the dream team cast also stars Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Corey Stoll, Brian Dennehy and Mare Winningham. Bening recently joined the cast of Captain Marvel with stars Brie Larson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn and Gemma Chan. A prolific actress Bening got her start in theater. In fact, Bening was nominated for a Tony Award when she debuted on Broadway in the play Coastal Disturbances.

Annette Bening as Irina (Photo: Nicole Rivelli, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

Annette Bening as Irina (Photo: Nicole Rivelli, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

What do you love about Irina? 
Annette Bening:
I like Irina’s ridiculousness. How deeply she feels. She is not a perfect woman. She gets a lot of things wrong. But she’s a hell of a lot of fun. And she’s a worker. At that time, a lot of women didn’t have that. So she is quite an independent spirit.

What can you tell us about joining the cast of Captain Marvel
It’s so cool. And it’s top secret. I can tell you nothing about it. It’s the Marvel world and now I’m in it.

What has been some of the best advice you have received when you were starting your career? 
Don’t try to be anybody but yourself. Be who you are. Find what you want to do and follow what you love. I had a good high school drama teacher. I went to community college in San Diego at Mesa College. I’m really proud of that experience. And there were two guys who ran a small theater program there. They made a huge difference in my life, so then I followed that. Then I went to San Francisco State and followed my way along because I loved dramatic literature, and the challenge of that intellectual rigor. 

Things happen along the way and you deal with a lot. You deal with rejection as an actor.  Everybody does. You have to be tough. It’s like being a salesman. My dad was a salesman and taught selling. And you get a lot, a lot of “no’s” before you get a “yes.” And my parents are lovely people, and they were very encouraging. So that helped.

You started your career in the theater. Do you ever see yourself going back to Broadway? 
Yes. My youngest just graduated from high school. So I do plan to come back to New York and do something, I don’t know exactly what yet, but I would like to do that.

Do you have a dream role?  
Actually Irina is a role that I really wanted to play. But I didn’t know if it was going to work out. So I’m very excited that it has.

How do you pick your roles? 
Part of it has been quite practical since I had kids. I think in terms of time. Does it work with my children and not being away during the school year. And things like that. But first it’s the writing, and whether I have a connection. It’s usually that there’s something in it that I can’t get out of my head. It’s like being asked a question, and you don’t quite know the answer. But you want to get into it, learn more about it and figure it out. And film is a director’s medium. So a lot of it is the director. They can be new. But it’s, “Do they have a connection to that person?” 

When the film wraps or the curtain comes down, how do you come back to Annette?
Since I have children, that has always grounded me. My oldest is 26 now. Since I started doing movies I’ve had children. And it’s been a wonderful grounding thing where I can go back to my responsibilities and basically leave show business for chunks of time. I feel very fortunate that I was able to do that. 

When you’re not working, what do you love to do? 
Just simple stuff. My girlfriends and friends are very important to me. They are everywhere, but certainly there's my core group of friends in LA. I’m a big reader. I love to read. I started this new book by Jon Meacham called The Soul of America that a friend of mine gave me. I think he’s really trying to address the political situation now, put it in historical context and offers some hope. We will get through it and the book is to remember that we’ve been through hard times before. I mean, from some people’s perspective it’s a hard time. 

What do you love to do in New York? 
I go to the theater. The last times I have been in New York I have been working a lot. But I love both plays and musicals. I saw Three Tall Women. It was great and I really enjoyed it. I’m a fan of all three of those women, all three of the tall women, Laurie Metcalf, Alison Pill, and of course Glenda Jackson. She is one of my heroes. Seeing her on the stage was really exciting, especially after she had been a member of Parliament for 20 years. Incredible.

For the best of New York theater, check out our list of Top Shows in July 2018

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