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Annette Bening Goes Retro

Last night, I had the fairly intimidating honor of moderating a Q&A with four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening, as part of the special retrospective of her work, which wraps up tonight with a double feature of "American Beauty" and "Being Julia." Some seats are still available for tonight, and the event is free, more information here.

Bening arrived as they were screening her current project, 'The Kids Are All Right," looking like--yes, it's a cliché but it's true--Hollywood royalty. I mean, seriously. She was wearing a gorgeous white dress with a diamond necklace and looked every inch the queen of the screen she is. Husband Warren Beatty was along, and my favorite part of the night was watching him sit in the front row, beaming at his wife.

The crowd gave Bening a thunderous standing ovation, but that was about the only time they made noise, as they raptly listened to her speak for the next 40 minutes on a wide range of topics from her worst audition ("They told me to come back dressed 'sexy'--and I thought I had") to her openness to a "Kids" sequel ("Most of the time when I'm done with a character, I'm done. I'm ready to get away. But I loved playing Nic so much, I didn't want to stop.")

There were notable moments of levity, as well. When I mentioned that after 1991's "Bugsy" she was supposed to play Catwoman in "Batman Returns," she said, "Oh, that's right..." before clarifying: "I was thinking about the timeline, I hadn't forgotten I was going to play Catwoman!" I asked her if it was hard to walk away from that plum role to start a family and without hesitation she replied: "No." She then pointed out, "I didn't get the role, but I have a 19 year old daughter instead." I noted that the role of Catwoman will figure into the next "Batman" film from Christopher Nolan and maybe it's not too late, but she pointed out Anne Hathaway just landed the part. "I actually thought maybe I should call Anne and tell her to be careful," Bening joked.

At one point, I asked if she would reveal some of her secrets for preparing for difficult scenes--most notably the moment in "Kids" where she realizes her lover, Jules,  has been unfaithful and then when Nic confronts her. Bening gave a very detailed, thoughtful reply incorporating the teachings of Stanislavski that had us all in awe. (I will try and get a transcript of it to post.) When she was done, I simply said: "I think I learned more just now than in four years of drama school." And that's what it feels like to hear Bening talk: a master class from a master of the medium.

--Jenelle Riley

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Oh, please do post the transcript. I've heard her interviewed about acting on tv before and always wish I had a copy of what she said. Brilliant! Please post the acting advice, if not the entire interview :)

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