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Annette Bening - Idol Chatter
Annette Bening - Idol Chatter

Being Julia's star opens up about getting naked, being a diva, and how she loves to hit men.

Wow. In Being Julia, you get to have an orgy of a romp as a saintly-to-slutty, foolish-to-wise, imperious-to-needy theatre diva. Are you practicing your Oscar speech yet?
Thank God the waiter just handed me the menu at the perfect moment. [laughs, turns to waiter] Do you have a Caesar salad?

Not so fast. Don’t you care if you’re “Oscared”?
Do I care? [smiles demurely] I guess the truth is that I am wisely reluctant to comment on that. But this diva, Julia, is a dream role, no question.

You get to play one, but do mommies of four get to BE divas?
Good question. I’m sure my children would say yes sometimes. And my husband [Warren Beatty] might say that, too. But I don’t think too often. [to waiter] Could you kill the music? We’ve got a tape recorder here.

Exactly. [laughs]

Well, you have said if you weren’t able to have a life separate from the family, you’d be “one of those women with a pistol to her head, or having a nervous breakdown.”
Like Hedda Gabler. [laughs] Acting to me is like life’s blood, it’s so important, but . . . well, I completely lost my interest [after my first child], so when it came back I thought, “Okay, this is what happens—it’s cyclical.” But I know it’s always inside me percolating.

Julia says, “Real actresses don’t make films.” You ever feel that way?
I just knew nothing about movies. I wasn’t someone growing up who thought, “That’s my dream!” And once I got interested in acting, I aspired to the theater and people like Eleonora Duse and Maggie Smith. Hey, I even did a whole movie—Richard III [1995]—just because Maggie Smith was gonna be in it. Anyway, when I started seeing movies as a young adult that were really powerful, I thought, “Okay, someone has to make these things, so maybe I could.”

And, voilà, you ended up giving a performance in The Grifters that began your run as “the thinking man’s sex symbol.”
And that was fantastic and fun. But the fact that I was almost 30 before I made a film was a huge advantage: I had years of happily making a living in repertory and plays, so I don’t have a romantic notion about being in movies and all the things that come with that—money, prestige, fame—because I know that I’d be perfectly okay if I didn’t have all that. I had a life before.

But you didn’t have Warren Beatty and Bugsy, the film that gave you your fabulous, signature movie line, which is . . .
“Why don’t you go outside and jerk yourself a soda.” It’s a damn good line.

And it led to the next Beatty-Bening collaboration, Love Affair, which is a Jeopardy question waiting to happen: “Who is, literally, the last person ever to share the big screen with Katharine Hepburn?”
Wow. It’s an honor. She was an intense lady, though—I remember walking onto the set the first time, and her looking up and saying [doing a scary Hepburn], “How tall are you?”

Tall enough to bitch-slap grown men to the ground in films like The Siege and Open Range.
I love to slap, yes. In Open Range, there was originally no slap in it, and I said to Kevin [Costner, the director], “Uh, Kevin . . . ,” and he said, “You want to slap him, right?” and I said, “Yes!” I tried not to do too many takes, though. [laughs]

Okay, silly American Beauty question coming up: Are Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows real?
They are. [laughs] Peter is hilarious. We have a sex scene, as they say, in American Beauty, and we were hysterical all day long.

Nevertheless, regarding The Grifters, you do first-rate naked work. Any more nude Annette Bening sex frolics coming up?
Well, I certainly hope so. [laughs]

Excellent. Listen, besides being Mrs. Warren Beatty, what’s the most Hollywood thing about you? Being the face of the Columbia Pictures logo lady or . . . ?
Yes, I was at a screening, and a guy who’d worked on it told me they’d used my face to compose her face. Very flattering.

Or is it having Shirley MacLaine as a sister-in-law?
[big laugh] That’s pretty Hollywood!

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