Annette Bening: A Santa Barbara Valentine, Our Hepburn and A Woman of Parts

How open, loving, talented and kind can one woman be? AND she scored the “brophy”…the most sought after bachelor of all time… Warren Beatty.

Who is this minx? This angel? A woman who can turn a page of dialogue or for that matter, no dialogue, into something that rivets the connective tissue of your soul with the inner workings of your mind and then reveals…and reveals…and reveals. It is this revelatory and yes, seducing ability to make you see yourself and the person next to you, with fresh eyes.

She is tiny. Wearing something like a sundress with a cardigan she has the impish smile and twinkling eyes of a third grade school girl with the best secret in the world. She exudes gratitude and grace.

I remember seeing her in Valmont (the better version of Le Liaison’ Dangerous) back in the late 80’s. Her frame looked so small and frail…and then she spoke and those eyes engaged like a secret weapon of some far off land, sent to seek and destroy. As the crackling, Madame de Merteuil, she would take no prisoners. Ms. Bening came to seduce and capture and she did…and with that performance, went my heart

I have heard from friends that have worked with her that she is serious. Seriously funny. Seriously focused. A serious friend. As serious about her own children as she is about the worlds. In “14 Women” Ms. Bening interviews and narrates a portrait of women in the US Senate. It is pretty straightforward and begs the questions; “Is there actual equality for women in government?” It has been said that “women have to work 3 times as hard for 1/3 less $$ and as a result, will produce 4X as their male counterpart.”

I am at present working on playing “Hedda Gabler” and when I heard Annette would be playing the role a few years ago I leapt. She holds the role and is neck n’ neck, with my all time favorite, Glenda Jackson. She cuts like a knife in Ibsen’s intensely depressed heroin. I still am not sure whether Ibsen loved or hated women. But it is certain we love his women.

“Mother and Child” is an extraordinary film that is getting “2nd buzz” behind her Oscar Nominated role in “The Kids Are Alright.” She plays an amazing spectrum of womanhood and motherhood in both films. “Mother and Child” hit very close to the bone with me. Now I am in her pocket as a fan and a woman. And yet, at the end of the day she does not want to talk about the work as much as she wants to brag about being “Mrs. Beatty.” It is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

She loves well…her children, her husband her community, her world and then she gives her other 68% to us. Her portrayals are filled with such heart and honesty, I imagine she has an auxiliary soul at home. One she keeps safe and hidden. Cool and dry ,then sunny-sweet and almost shy. “Oh hi!” she giggles. Like your best girl friend you just ran across the schoolyard to share the good news with. She is open. Open for business. The business of life.

And here’s the twister. Warren is a mirror of her sweetness. He is silly and generous. Engaging with the throng pressing on them for photos and the even more precious…words. The were lovely. A bit rushed and still lovely.

I had the notion that had I been in front of them alone for long enough and had asked if they would like to walk over to my house for pumpkin cake and tea, their response would be, “well sure…I love pumpkin cake.”

Okay. Maybe I am in the midst of some “mad-love" a “crush” but you might as well accept it and not fight it. Annette has charm churning in her veins. A bold and elegant charm. Solid and full of grace. Not the fake saccharine kind of charm. She reminded me of, oddly enough, John F. Kennedy. A charismatic. She means business but she also comes in peace and above all her mantra is, “be kind.”

As an actor I drank deep of her delicious anecdotes. How she works, referring to the text regularly to stay centered. She starts with good shoes…”how does my character walk…how does she hold herself? It starts with the shoes.” How she stays internally awake while fueling the external fire. She is as deep as Gandhi yet as open and pleasing as Betty White. She is easy yet so complicated I found myself resting my elbows on my knees and knuckles under my chin, leaning in to listen to her words. Roger Durling, who often exclaims his love for the “boys” was vahklampt in her presence. As she took her award he was draped over the arm of his chair glowing as she walked to meet Kevin Costner center stage. Costner called her “our Hepburn…a treasure…grace personified and a blessing” “She is a directors best friend.” Costner’s speech to her was sung like a sweetheart-ballad. He spoke his adoration in eloquent turns. He thanked her for saving Mr. Beatty “who would be lost without her.” “She makes everyone she works with better.” Exclaiming, “we are better actors, directors and people when she is around.”

Today while weeping a good 15 minutes passed the end of “Mother and Child”, I thought, “I did not know how I felt about my own journey as a single Mom.” All I could think or feel was gratitude. And so Ms. Bening with all her sweet-cunning churned another life out of me. A sight, a vision of myself as an actor, Mother, partner and friend. And that is what great actors do. They show us ourselves at our most exposed, vulnerable and challenged. Ms. Bening is brave, bold, powerful and yet delicately complicated. Her star is shining bright and aren’t we lucky or even blessed, to be in her light.

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