“It was time to break with a long list of male presidents and invite a brilliant talented and inspiring woman to chair our international competition jury,” Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera said in a statement.
“I am extremely happy that Annette Bening has accepted this role, which she will carry out by virtue of her stature, her intellect and the talents she has manifested over the course of her career, in Hollywood, Europe and on the stage,” Barbera added.
The last time a woman headed the Venice fest jury was in 2006, when French actress Catherine Deneuve oversaw the panel. Bening is the sixth female jury president of the world’s oldest film festival, following in the footsteps of Deneuve, Chinese actress Gong Li (2002), Australian director Jane Campion (1997), French actress and director Sabine Azéma (1987), and Italian screenwriter Suso Cecchi D’Amico (1980).
Last year the Venice jury was headed by Sam Mendes, who directed Bening in “American Beauty.”
“I’m honored to be asked to serve as the president of the jury for this year’s Venice Film Festival,” Bening said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing the movies and working with my fellow jury members to celebrate the best of this year’s cinema from all over the world.”
Venice in recent years has become an important awards-season driver. Movies that have world premiered on the Lido and gone on to score multiple Oscars include “Gravity,” “Birdman,” “Spotlight” and “La La Land,” which opened the fest last year.
Bening received Academy Award nominations for “The Grifters” (1991), “American Beauty” (1999), “Being Julia” (2004), and “The Kids Are All Right” (2010). She was last seen opposite Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup in A24’s “20th Century Women,” directed by Mike Mills, for which she received her eighth Golden Globe nomination. She also recently appeared in husband Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” with Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins and Beatty.
Barbera said that Bening’s career has been “marked by always interesting, often daring choices.”
“Annette Bening brings to her roles an understatement, a warmth and a natural elegance that makes watching her films a wonderful and ever-enriching experience,” he said.
Her upcoming film projects include Michael Mayer’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play “The Seagull,” opposite Saoirse Ronan; Paul McGuigan’s “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” with Jamie Bell; and Dan Fogelman’s drama “Life, Itself,” with Olivia Wilde, Oscar Isaac, Samuel L. Jackson and Antonio Banderas.
Bening has also had a rewarding stage career. Her most recent role was in the Public Theater’s 2014 Shakespeare in the Park production of “King Lear.” Additional theater credits include “Ruth Draper Monologues” at the Geffen Playhouse, “The Cherry Orchard” at the Mark Taper Forum, “Talking Heads” at the Tiffany Theater, and “Medea” at UCLA.
The 74th Venice Film Festival will run Aug. 30 to Sept. 9. The lineup will be announced July 27.