Annette Bening, who plays ’50s screen siren Gloria Grahame in the upcoming romance “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” sat for a live interview with actor Bob Balaban at the Hamptons International Film Festival Sunday night.
“It’s this very close-up picture of a relationship,” Bening said of the movie, which stars Jamie Bell as Peter Turner, a young man who fell for Grahame later in her life. “I like to think — I don’t know if this is true — that she’d never had a relationship with someone like Peter before. It’s all about that, the closeness between us.”
Bening’s appearance at the East Hampton Middle School began as a casual chat but soon became a one-hour seminar on the craft of acting. The four-time Oscar nominee, whose credits include 1990’s “The Grifters,” 1999’s “American Beauty” and 2010’s “The Kids Are Alright,” touched on the many directors she has worked with, from Milos Forman to Mike Nichols. She also talked about preparing for roles, rehearsing and changing her approach to suit each project.
“Being flexible as an actress is important, because all these directors do everything so different,” Bening said. On 1990’s “Postcards From the Edge,” she read through the script with Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and director Nichols. On smaller films with limited budgets, though, “You just show up — and you’re my husband, and you’re my child. Or you’re my mother. Or I’m your mother,” Bening said. “It’s enough to make you a neurotic person.”
Bening, born in Kansas but raised in San Diego, credited her stint in the 1986 play “Coastal Disturbances” — for which she received a Tony nomination — for strengthening her acting skills before she entered movies. She also said she prepares as much as possible for a role before showing up to work.
“Look at paintings, listen to music, watch people, interview people. But then, in the moment, it’s all secondary,” she said. “If you’ve done a lot of preparatory work, then in the moment, your mind is clear.”
The Hamptons film festival ended Monday with jury awards going to the Icelandic comedy “Under the Tree” and the Spanish documentary “Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle.” Margot Robbie was on hand Monday evening for a screening and a Q&A for the film “I, Tonya,” in which she plays the disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding. The festival’s audience awards are to be announced Tuesday.