Crowds braved the windy evening on Wednesday to gather in front of the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood to honor a woman whose whole-hearted performances both on stage and screen have transcended generations.
Through her unrelenting devotion to truly becoming the character she's playing, Annette Bening has made her mark as one of the most prominent and respected actresses in history. A mother of four and wife of actor/filmmaker Warren Beatty, Bening made her Broadway debut in Coastal Disturbances in 1987, a performance that garnered her a Tony Award nomination for best featured actress in a play. Since then, she's gone on to be nominated for four Academy Awards, received the BAFTA Award for best actress and the Screen Actors Guild Award for best actress for American Beauty, won Golden Globe Awards for Being Julia and The Kids Are All Right and was nominated for a 2006 Emmy Award for Mrs. Harris.
Wednesday night's tribute featured an onstage conversation with Bening, a reel of her past roles and a screening of her new film from director Mike Mills, 20th Century Women.
"Is this really for me?," Bening joked with reporters before entering the theater. "I'm really grateful for this and that I get to share it with my family." Prior to the tribute, the actress was joined by her fellow 20th Century Women castmembers Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig and Lucas Jade Zumann, along with helmer Mills and producer Anne Carey.
"Mike has a really beautiful sense of true human behavior, which can sometimes be very sad and sometimes very funny," Carey said to The Hollywood Reporter regarding the tone of the film. "I think he's just absolutely dexterous at combining the two."
Mills also spoke with THR about his personal connection to the film. "In many ways, it's a portrait of my mom," he said. "She's a very funny person, so the humor is in the heart and DNA of the script and the movie."
Set in 1979 Santa Barbara, 20th Century Women follows a brief moment in the life of Dorothea Fields (Bening). A witty, eccentric single mother in her late 50s, Fields is forced to question her own happiness while raising her maturing teenage son Jamie (Zumann) during a period of cultural change and youth rebellion. Fields forms a makeshift family with Abbie (Gerwig), the free-spirited punk photographer renting a room in her house; William (Crudup), the gentle handyman who helps restore the house in return for a room; and Jamie's crush and neighbor, Julie (Elle Fanning). All of whom, she enlists to help raise Jamie.
"William has a gentle quality that I really appreciated," Crudup said of his character. The actor, who played master of time, space and matter Dr. Manhattan in Watchman, enjoyed the casualness of his role. "It's nice to have a sense of humor and sweetness."
20th Century Women, Bening's 28th film, was produced by Annapurna Pictures and is being distributed by A24. The movie is set for a Christmas release.