Born on May 29, 1958, in Topeka, Kansas, Annette Bening acted on the San Francisco and New York stage before working in film. She got raves for her role as a con artist in The Grifters and went on to co-star in Warren Beatty’s Bugsy. The two wed in 1992. Bening has won acclaim for several films, including American Beauty, Being Julia and The Kids Are All Right. She’s earned four Oscar nominations.

Early Life

Actress Annette Bening was born on May 29, 1958, in Topeka, Kansas, to A. Grant Bening, an insurance salesman, and Shirley Bening, a church singer. The youngest of four children, Bening has two brothers and one sister. The family grew up in San Diego, where Bening completed studies at Patrick Henry High Schoolin just three years.

Bening was studying drama at a San Diego college when she got a job as a dancer in The Green Show outside San Diego's Old Globe Theatre. This experience led to a walk-on in a Shakespeare production and several plays with the San Diego Repertory Theatre. She moved to San Francisco to attend San Francisco University. After graduation, Bening was accepted by the American Conservatory Theatre where she trained and later joined the acting company.

Bening moved to New York where she earned a Tony Award nomination and won the Clarence Derwent Award in 1986 for Outstanding Debut Performance of the Season for her work in Tina Howe's Coastal Disturbances.

Film Debut

She made her film debut in The Great Outdoors (1988), a forgettable comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. The following year, she brilliantly portrayed the Marquise de Merteuil in Milos Forman's Valmont (1989), attracting the eye of director Stephen Frears who had released Dangerous Liaisons -- his own version of the same story-- just six months before.

Breakthrough Role

Frears cast Bening as a young hustler in his stylish film noir, The Grifters (1990). Although Bening's nude scenes got the lion's share of publicity, the film and Bening's performance were critically acclaimed. She earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the role, as well as a National Society of Film Critics Award as Best Supporting Actress.

Warren Beatty was so impressed that he sought her out for the role of Virginia in Bugsy (1991). During the making of that film, Bening and Beatty fell in love. After her divorce from first husband J. Steven White became final in 1991, she married the previously commitment-phobic Beatty in February 1992.

Commercial Success

Bening took a three year break from her acting career to settle down with Beatty and start a family. When she returned, she co-starred with Beatty in the 1994 remake of the 1939 tearjerker, Love Affair. She gained notice as a comedic performer in The American President in 1995 with Michael Douglas, and portrayed Queen Elizabeth in Ian McKellen's adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III (1995).

Bening joined the wacky ensemble cast for Mars Attacks! in 1996. She starred in the terrorist thriller The Siege (1998), reportedly earning her $3 million, and as a woman who develops a psychic link with a serial killer (played by Robert Downey Jr.) in the dark psychological thriller, In Dreams (1999).

Also in 1999, she turned in a great performance as a materialistic suburban real estate agent in the darkly funny hit film, American Beauty, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. In 2000, she starred in What Planet Are You From? as a woman who marries an extraterrestrial invader, played by Garry Shandling. She won a Best Actress Golden Globe in 2005 for her performance in the comedy Being Julia. Bening also received a Golden Globe Award and a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her role as Nic in the film The Kids Are All Right (2010). In 2016, Bening received another Golden Globe nomination for her role playing a single mom in 20th Century Women, a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama written and directed by Mike Mills. 

Bening has also returned to the stage, starring in the comedy The Female of the Species at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in 2010, and co-starring with John Lithgow in the Public Theatre's King Lear at Shakespeare in the Park in New York in 2014.

Bening and Beatty have four children: Kathlyn Elizabeth, Ben, Isabel Ira Ashley and Ella Corinne.


  • Name: Anne Francine Bening
  • Birth Year: 1958
  • Birth date: May 29, 1958
  • Birth State: Kansas
  • Birth City: Topeka
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Female
  • Best Known For: Annette Bening is an Oscar-nominated actress known for films like The Grifters, Bugsy, American Beauty and The Kids Are All Right.
  • Industries
    • Comedy
    • Drama
  • Astrological Sign: Gemini
  • Schools
    • San Francisco University
    • Patrick Henry High School

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  • Article Title: Annette Bening Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/actor/annette-bening
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: April 16, 2019
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014