Alum Annette Bening: A 21st-Century Woman

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

STUFF (NEW ZEALAND) -- Bening was a theatre major at San Francisco State University during the time “20th Century Women” takes place. “I moved to San Francisco in 1978, and that was the fall when Dan White killed Harvey Milk and George Moscone,” she says. “Talk about a turning point in that city and that culture, my God! It just totally shifted everything. And then, of course, the next year AIDS hit. It was like a tsunami in that city.”

The actress didn’t make her move from theatre to film for almost a decade after she left school. Her screen debut: 1988’s Dan Aykroyd/John Candy/John Hughes comedy “The Great Outdoors.” It didn’t take long, though, for audiences and critics to sit up and notice: Looking a bit like Gloria Grahame with big ’80s hair, Bening gave a sly turn as a con artist in “The Grifters” (1990) that gained her a supporting actress Oscar nomination. Three more Academy Award nominations followed: for her role as the cold, materialistic spouse in “American Beauty” (1999), as the glamorous English diva who falls into an affair in “Being Julia” (2004) and as the lesbian obstetrician and parent in “The Kids Are All Right” (2010).