Six days after Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” opened the AFI Fest, Annette Bening‘s “20th Century Women” held its Los Angeles premiere at the TCL Chinese along with a pre-screening career tribute.
Beatty was in a supporting role for his spouse on the red carpet, asserting, “She’s the best actress I know of.”
Bening portrays single mother Dorothea Fields, dealing with raising her 15-year-old son in 1979 in “20th Century” — and stressed that the festivities underlined the importance of family and friends.
“Having that focus on my family has been a way of staying sane because a moment like this is fleeting,” she noted. “I’m so honored that the AFI would ask me to do this.”
She also said that director Mike Mills‘ setting the story in his hometown of Santa Barbara was irresistible, since she had grown up in San Diego.
“I had never read a story that was placed where I grew up,” Bening said. “So I felt like I knew the people. I loved what Mike was saying. I didn’t know quite who the character was that I was going to play but I loved the story.”
“I always planned to shoot in Santa Barbara since I grew up there — it’s based on my life and it’s a portrait of my mom and sister,” Mills said. “In a weird way, I wrote a list of what I wanted it to be and it’s very much what I wrote.”
He added that Santa Barbara has become far more upscale, adding, “When I go there now, I stay at the Motel 6.”
Prior to the screening, the festival showed an assemblage of Bening’s career highlights, including the Oscar nominated roles in “American Beauty,” “Being Julia,” “The Grifters” and “The Kids Are All Right.” Lisa Cholodenko, director of “The Kids Are All Right,” conducted the Q&A.
Bening revealed that she had decided to become an actress after seeing Shakespeare’s work performed at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.
“I was taken on a class trip by my eighth-grade English teacher,” Bening said. “I loved the theater, I loved the sweat and spit. There was something about the vehemence of the actors that stuck. I didn’t know exactly what they were saying but I knew what they meant.”
Bening also said she still loves acting — “It’s the grittiness of it. There’s something very very gratifying about working so intimately with everyone” — all the way back to working with Dan Aykroyd and John Candy on her first big screen credit, 1988’s “The Great Outdoors.”
Cholodenko asked Bening which of her movies was her favorite.
“It’s sort of like your children and we love them all,” Bening replied. “The only good answer is that I met my husband on ‘Bugsy’ so that holds a very special place. That was 26 years ago. How do you like that?”
Dakota Fanning, Lucas Jade Zumann, Billy Crudup and Greta Gerwig co-star in “20th Century Women,” which A24 opens on Dec. 25.