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Annette Bening Is Up for an Oscar and Starring in a New Peacock Show — Look Back on Her Career

Currently in the running with her fifth Oscar nomination, the Apples Never Fall actress shows no signs of stopping. 

By Jax Miller

The outstanding career of five-time Academy Award-nominated actress Annette Bening has spanned the decades, garnering mountains of critical acclaim along the way. It’s no wonder then, that the 65-year-old San Diegan shines as the leading lady in the new original series, Apples Never Fall, premiering March 14, 2024, exclusively on Peacock.

Bening stars as Joy Delaney, who, alongside her husband, Stan (Sam Neill), just sold the couple’s successful Florida tennis academy to settle into a quiet state of retirement. Things take a dark turn, however, after a young stranger shows up wounded at their front door shortly before Joy mysteriously vanishes.

Ahead of the Apples Never Fall premiere, take a look at Bening’s impressive acting career and the many (many) accolades she has to her name.

What was Annette Bening’s first movie?

The stage might have been where Bening began her acting career, but her movie career began in 1988, just one year after Bening earned a Tony nomination for her starring role in Broadway’s Coastal Disturbances. For her film debut, Bening co-starred in the comedy The Great Outdoors alongside Second City comedians John Candy and Dan Akroyd.

Speaking to The Guardian in December 2023, Bening admitted that she “didn’t know the first thing” about switching from stage to film.

Portrait of actress Annette Bening

“But I did know how to act,” she said. “It felt very funny to speak very quietly, very funny not to fill a room with your voice. They would always say: ‘You’re going to be too big and too loud — and, by the way, you also put on 10 pounds.’”

Of her time on The Great Outdoors, Bening said she was “happy and amazed” to get the job despite the film earning less than favorable reviews.

In 1989, Bening joined Colin Firth and Meg Tilly in the French-set romance, Valmont.

What are Annette Bening's most famous movies?

But 1990, Bening had what’s widely considered her breakthrough role in The Grifters, a neo-noir film starring John Cusack and Anjelica Huston. For playing the seductive and scheming Myra Langtry, Bening garnered her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

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“It was a movie where the world and milieu in which we made the movie reflected it: we made it on the cheap, and it was sort of seedy like the movie is, but there was also a great style in the picture, a style to the way that it looked,” Bening told Venice Magazine in 2006. “It was really designed brilliantly. It was due to the designer much more than anything any of us, the actors, did. Plus, the source material was amazing: Jim Thompson was such an amazing writer.”

One year later, Bening starred alongside her future husband, Academy Award winner Warren Beatty — whom she met while making the film— in Bugsy, a biopic about the notorious New York mobster Bugsy Siegel.

Rob Reiner’s 1995 rom-com, The American President, would be another boost in Bening’s career, in which Bening played an environmental lobbyist who catches the adoration of the widowed U.S. President, played by Michael Douglas.

In a January 2024 interview with Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Bening called it “a great experience.”

“I love that movie,” Bening said. “My parents love that movie, so that was a good one for my parents to watch. There were quite a few they didn’t want to watch.”

Annette Bening onstage at the Center Theatre Group 50th Anniversary Celebration

Throughout the ’90s, Bening would appear in about a dozen successful films, including Mars Attacks!, The Siege, and In Dreams. But what many consider her most outstanding role was when she played Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty, which swept the 72nd Academy Awards with five wins, including Best Picture.

For Sam Mendes’ directorial debut, the 1999 film depicted the darker undertones of suburbia. Bening played a neurotic, rose-pruning real estate agent opposite Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham, a man suffering a midlife crisis with eyes for his daughter’s high school-aged friend.

In 2015, Bening spoke at a Chapman University acting masterclass, explaining how she and the rest of the cast rehearsed four to five hours for five days, which she called “a lot.”

“The writing was so good, but I knew how difficult some of the work was going to be, and emotionally demanding,” Bening told the class. “I felt an instinctive and intuitive connection to the character — I’m laughing now because she’s such an insane maniac.”

Bening said Alan Ball’s “writing was excellent,” adding: “When you have good writing, you’re just riding the wave of that, in a sense.”

Annette Bening and her husband, Warren Beatty, attend the 44th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards after party

Bening’s role as Carolyn Burnham earned her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress.

What has Annette Bening done today?

With about 50 acting credits under her belt, Bening found more success as the world forwarded into the early aughts. She played in What Planet Are You From?, Open Range, and Running with Scissors, among other roles. But one of her more prominent roles in the early 2000s was her starring role as Julia Lambert in Being Julia, a period film set in the 1930s about a British stage actress who falls for a much younger, conniving American actor.

The part marked Bening’s third Oscar nomination and second Golden Globe win, receiving worldwide critical praise. The New York Times said Bening’s “quick, high-spirited charm is on marvelous display” in the film, adding that her performance was “sensational.”

In 2010, Bening was praised for her Golden Globe-winning performance in The Kids Are All Right opposite Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. Bening starred as Nic, a woman who shares two teenage children with her wife and whose life takes an unexpected turn when the children secretly seek out their shared biological father.

The actress said she “loved” the script as soon as she read it, as stated in a 2010 interview published by ReelRave.

“I see Nic as pretty straightforward,” said Bening. “I loved playing her because of that.”

The role also garnered Bening yet another Best Actress nomination at the Oscars, plus two SAG Award nominations and another BAFTA.

Annette Bening of 'Apples Never Fall' speaks at the Peacock presentations at the TCA Winter Press Tour

Since 2010, Bening has featured in nearly two dozen films, including 20th Century Women, with Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning. Bening was nominated for yet another BAFTA for playing the “complicated” part of a mother in 1970s Santa Barbara.

“I loved the fact that I didn’t quite know who she was,” Bening said in a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Sometimes people jump off the page in more definition, but I would look at scenes and think, ‘This could go in any number of directions.’”  

Esteemed film critic Roger Ebert called it “one of the best performances of the year (and one of Bening’s personal best as well).”

Bening’s next BAFTA nomination came from the 2017 movie Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool as real-life femme fatale actress Gloria Grahame. The role was familiar to Bening, per Vanity Fair, because while filming The Grifters in 1990, director Stephen Frears suggested she watch Grahame’s work (which included It’s a Wonderful Life, Sudden Fear, and The Big Heat) to channel the role of Myra Langtry.

Captain Marvel and Death on the Nile would be a few more blockbusters Bening added to her sparkling résumé throughout the 2010s.

In 2023, Bening starred in Nyad opposite Jodie Foster, the true story of 64-year-old marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, who — against all odds — remarkably swam the 110-mile, 60-hour trek between Florida and Cuba.

“Bening doesn’t hold back,” PEOPLE said of the actress’s work. “This is her boldest performance ever, and almost certain to get her an Oscar nomination — although she's such a disciplined actress you feel cheap letting words like ‘vehicle’ or ‘awards bait’ float plankton-like to the surface of your consciousness.

Annette Bening as joy on Apples Never Fall

Bening’s work in Nyad already snagged her SAG Award and Golden Globe nominations, and she's currently in the running for Best Actress in the 96th Academy Awards, taking place on March 10, 2024.

How many Oscar nominations does Annette Bening have?

Annette Bening has five Oscar nominations for The Grifters, American Beauty, Being Julia, The Kids Are All Right and Nyad. She has yet to win the award.

Be sure to watch more of Bening’s shining talent in all seven episodes of Apples Never Fall, premiering March 14, 2024, on Peacock.