Annette Bening is an American actress best known for her role as Carolyn Burnham in the 1999 blockbuster film American Beauty; and as the title character in the award-winning television movie Mrs. Harris (2005).
Bening was born in Topeka, Kansas, the daughter of Arnett Grant Bening (born 1926) and Shirley Bening (born 1930). Her sister and two brothers are Jane Bening (born 1953), Bradley Bening (born 1955) and Byron Bening (born 1957).
Her father worked for an insurance company. The family moved to Wichita, Kansas, in 1959, where she spent her early childhood.
In 1965, Annette's father took a job with a company in San Diego, California, and they moved there. She began acting in junior high school, playing the lead in The Sound of Music. She studied drama at Patrick Henry High School.
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.
She attended San Diego Mesa College, then completed an academic degree in theatre arts at San Francisco State University.
Bening joined the acting company at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco while studying acting as part of the Advanced Theatre Training Program. During this time she established herself as a formidable acting talent in roles like Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth.
In 1985, she and her first husband, choreographer J. Steven White and moved to Denver, Colorado, to work at the Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. They separated the following year.
She and Warren Beatty met on the set of Bugsy (1991), in which she played Virginia Hill, and the two began a secret romance. They married in 1992.
She and Beatty live in Los Angeles with their four children, Kathlyn Elizabeth Beatty (born 1992), Benjamin Maclean Beatty (born 1994), Isabel Ira Ashley Beatty (born 1996) and Ella Corinne Beatty (born 2000).
Bening's husband is the brother of Shirley MacLaine.
Bening moved to New York City, where she debuted off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre in the role of 'Holly Dancer' in Tina Howe's widely acclaimed Coastal Disturbances (1987). However, despite the praise and recognition, it took some time for that success to translate to her film career.
Her television debut was with the made-for-TV movie Manhunt for Claude Dallas (1986).
Her first major role in a theatrical feature was in The Great Outdoors (1988) playing 'Kate Craig' opposite Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. Her next role was as the Marquise de Merteuil in Valmont (1989) opposite Colin Firth.
Bening's next major feature, Stephen Frears's The Grifters (1990) starring Anjelica Huston and John Cusack, met with critical acclaim. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for The Grifters.
She followed that with her appearance in Bugsy.
Bening was paid $3 million to play the role of 'Elise Kraft/Sharon Bridger' in The Siege (1998) co-starring Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis. Her next role, in the 1999 film American Beauty, would give her the highest-profile role of her career thus far.
Bening's most recent appearance is in the film adaptation of the Augusten Burroughs book, Running with Scissors (2006).
On December 9, 2006, Bening hosted Saturday Night Live with musical guests Gwen Stefani and Akon.