Annette Bening Talks Artists' "Important Role" in Political Climate

Annette Bening - Museum of Moving Image Salute - Getty - H 2017
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The actress was honored with a Museum of the Moving Image Salute on Wednesday night in Manhattan, during an evening that doubled as a celebration for her latest movie, 'Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool.'

On Wednesday (Dec. 13), the Museum of Moving Image in New York City honored Annette Bening with its 31st annual salute, which benefits the museum’s education and community engagement initiatives. Following a screening of Bening's new film, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool at the Paris theater, the actress, husband Warren Beatty, Bening's past collaborators and other high-profile figures attended a dinner, award presentation and showing of clips that highlighted some of the actress’s most memorable roles.

During her acceptance speech, Bening thanked the museum and attendants for their consistent contributions to the arts. “You are supporting the art form and in the current political climate we really need that. With the proliferation of technology, museums like this and film festivals are becoming more and more havens for the art of film and that’s a good thing, and there’s a lot of things to be happy about,” she said. “With the political situation that we’re in ... what everybody in this room is trying to do in some way or another is really important.”

“We have a really important role to play right now, even if we’re not making a political play or film. In trying to do what we’re doing, we try to move people and entertain people and enliven people,” Bening told the room full of actors including Beatty, Jamie Bell and Kate Mara. “We’re not involved in this nationalistic, racist, xenophobic, homophobic movement. We are not part of that. We’re part of something that’s full of hope and love and acceptance and openness, and our voices will be heard. We’ve just got to keep the faith.”

Earlier in the night, Bening talked about the importance of art in the current political climate. “We need to support arts institutions. We need to support arts education and not lose hope and not lose heart, even though there’s a lot of people who are sort of trying to close walls down and there’s a lot of homophobia and nationalism and populism that is ugly,” she said. “We’re a country of diversity and openness and love, and those of us that are trying to make what we’re making [are trying] to open up people’s hearts.”

A number of Bening’s former and current colleagues took the stage to present clips that showcased just a few of her many roles. Timothee Chalamet opened the segment by introducing a clip from the 1991 film The Grifters.

Beatty took the stage next. “I really don’t know a more honorable person, and having been married to her for more than 25 years, I think I know her pretty well,” he said before introducing a clip from their first collaboration Bugsy.

Other collaborators that honored Bening throughout the night included American Beauty producer Bruce Cohen, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool co-star Jamie Bell, Mother and Child co-star Cherry Jones, Girl Most Likely co-star Bob Balaban and Tom Hulce, who produced the upcoming film The Seagull in which Bening plays an actress who brings her younger lover to her country estate.

While the night honored Bening’s career, it doubled as a celebration for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. Bening talked to reporters on the red carpet about her preparation process to play Gloria Grahame in the film. “I had watched her while I was preparing for The Grifters, a movie I did many years ago, because Stephen Frears suggested that I watch her, but I had another big Gloria Grahame film festival for myself.” she said. “She was a wonderful actress and I really admire the fact that after things weren’t going well for her in Hollywood, she really couldn’t get work, she just kept going,” she said of the late actress. “I admire that about her. She was a survivor, and she didn’t take herself that seriously. I just think that’s awesome.”

When it came to casting the role of Graham, producer Barbara Broccoli always knew Bening was the right person for the job. “She probably is the greatest actress of our generation and she gives the most exquisite performance in this film,” Broccoli told The Hollywood Reporter. “I talked to her about this role 20 years ago when she was too young for it, but she sort of stuck with us, and she was the only person we could imagine in the role and she stayed with us and she’s just magnificent.”

Peter Turner, who wrote the book of the same name based on his relationship with Grahame, also praised Bening’s performance. “It’s kind of the most incredible performance that I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “She gives me the world with this performance and she’s just exquisite.”

As for seeing his story unfold on the big screen, Turner could not be happier with the outcome of the film. “It was quite a privilege,” he said. “It brought back a lot of memories and everything was going so beautifully.”

Presenter Chalamet revealed on the red carpet that his favorite work of Bening’s is the 2016 film 20th Century Woman. Chalamet also reflected on the success of Call Me By Your Name following his SAG nomination that was announced earlier in the day. “It was the opportunity to play a role that complex at a young age. It was the opportunity to work with Luca Guadagnino, the opportunity to work with Armie [Hammer] and the challenge of telling the story of a book that is really special to people.” As for the film’s critical success, he said he had “no expectation of this.”