Annette Bening: 'I Like This Stage of Life'

Benning appears on "Popcorn with Peter Travers" to talk about her role in the film "20th Century Women"
19:26 | 02/01/17

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Transcript for Annette Bening: 'I Like This Stage of Life'
Now. Something. Are you think Chris can he do not just he's he's kept them exactly. Thinking back to the stock. Thinking that you know he's coming out now it I just think that. Human having your heart broken this is tremendous way to learn about the world. Who are. Lake. Is happy thought would be. You are my age. Seriously. You know asked people questions. And my mom. But. But figured but wondering if you're happy it's a great circuits it just being depressed give me that. Hi everybody I'm Peter Travers and welcome to popcorn we we tell you what's happening at the movies and there's a movie out now called twentieth century women that I. Bluff and the star of that movie our guest today in that banning he had some time in the twentieth century. Didn't you in that and I can't hear you why giving one of your great performances in the 21 century thing Q yes thank you so much but you know what's the title. That seems so all encompassing. For such a specific. Story not know this woman that you find what do you think Mike Mills called it that. Because I think his aspirations for tale to tell a story about about a time and it's about. Millions group of people in three different women at that time teenage girl girl early twenties than me so I think he's trying to look at. At the bigger picture as well as the political situation the social situation. Muse sick. But I deaths and I think that he did want to say is something larger about. Mainly women about time a movie about women and specific time we don't get a lot of that in movies these days you. I yeah I know this is an this is what's remarkable to me about it is that. There's a teenage girl who is a fully realize complex human being with secrets than. Do you really get into her played by Elle Fanning they fail fanning which is why I think is so beautiful because Al does have that magical thing. Redeker way playing the girl who's in early twenties is a funk that then she's also got illness to deal with so there's. There's just. There's a lot of human this complexity in these women and I love that. Look who your character Darth via sushi. That is a good question. Who is she she's somewhat enigmatic. Which unlike. She's very much a woman of her generation. Was born in the to put during the depression and all but. So in some ways she sort of lives up to the expectation of that time but then she's also very iconoclast at which I like about her. Mike's mother was sort of the point of departure for his writing about it and his interest in and trying to understand and investigate his own mom. To serve the story was certainly a part of this process known Mike Mills as a record for a terror. And when he did beginners he's dealing with his dad right coming out is gay in his seventies yet you know when this is happening and now he's writing about asthma you know he. Nothing was wasted on Mike when he was growing this would say it but yes you know he talks a lot about how. He figures if he's investigating things that are closest to him he's has the best chances telling the story that serves and kind of can. In pertaining to other people. And I think he achieves. Well the movie set in 1979. Yeah. And here in Santa Barbara in this have you solved. It said Victorian then. The being basically as a single mother with this teenage boy and you're asking these are the winner and a teenager. Women in her twenties to help you yes raised its war yes rather than what you do look for remand for how. But as usual with us men would we don't count. No I actually I think I figure out that it's not really a man that he needs T he's. So it's not like I looked for a man and couldn't find one I really decided that it wasn't in fact the best thing from my son. There wasn't one handy number one he doesn't connect to William who's played by Billy Crudup. And there are these two amazing women he's fascinated by them so yes I recruit them to try to help raise me raise this cared what. Would be the first thing when you read that script that you related to that there via what was. You know when I read the script. The thing that struck me was it was placed in 1979. In Southern California I was when he won living in San Diego at the time. So I don't think I've ever read a story. That illuminated my own world to life that I was and when I was young woman so. I kind of experienced more on that level just personally like an audience what now you can. And I know that you yeah and I know that guy over he was my boyfriend then. And and the music and the time I mean I wasn't a punk music but. So that was more my experience and Dorothea to me was of was very and it now that the woman that I eventually play. In a way that intrigue me often. A character will kind of jump out and to me this didn't happen I found her to be. That she could've gone so many different directions with an in any scene and that ended up being very liberating. You have become well extent that the film anchor is writing and he's directing you your playing basically his mother. She's now with us anymore right but you're playing somebody who is when you look at Mike every day. On the set you realize you're playing somebody back close but he was very accepting of the fact that that's the point of departure for this character. And that that's where we all started together and we would talk a lot about his mom what she was really like the more I talked to him the more I thought well. You're telling me things that are contradictory. And at first I got a little scared about that and then I realized known about half the gold apps. Where maybe perhaps all of us have a certain amount of internal contradiction. And if if there's a way to get that across that isn't unclear right when you're working on it you don't wanna just be all over the map but. There's a way to do that. To show that. Her and predictability year and and the fact that she was somebody who didn't do which is expected her to do sometimes he. I liked soaps trying to find that but no he was very open. He was very open to what what we brought. And then at the same time he's a very fierce. Has a very fierce idea about what he's trying to do. On his very strong that used graphic artist is very strong idea visually about what he's trying to. The colors in the frames and you know images in the movie are very strong and that's one to me. That's one of the virtues of the movie is that it's very eccentric in the way that it looks. When you look to you on screen are you critical of yourself yes on critical I've learned over the years when I first watched myself I found it. You really hard because I've been doing plays for quite a few years I've been acting for a while but I've never seen myself act. So I had to get used to it because there's so much to be learned from watching yourself. That I found that it was nurses and their sometimes. That is harder than others and there are sometimes I really enjoy. I I don't watch that everybody had any idea. But then there's always something I think I mean generally I think it's tunes I can say that. I'll watch something and I think I can make that matter. Who live. Yeah exactly ten. Which is which is what you can stay. That's I mean you get that either get that ordinances that other night to do it I remember seeing you in coastal disturbances which was Broadway debut right that yes. An amazing time in your life yet that. Yes and you've always I think I asked you last time you hear why you didn't do more shows on Broadway and he said four children. That's right that's and that could really get in the way as it gets in the way and you're need to. You need to have a chunk of time to commit to a Broadway play you really need at least four or five months. And I couldn't ever be away for about tried take kind of how would have that was the end of the school year in the summer in the beginning and that it on I I really tried and a number of occasions and then I realized. It's not going to be possible to my kids were out. House yet. What do you remember about you growing up when you said you were 21 or something went twentieth century women is taking place other than it looked familiar the you would there will have read relay eating. Yes I mean I remember. Certainly. Jimmy Carter and I remembered. Voting for and I remember I was in San Francisco by that time I was up in San Francisco's going to acting school. I have to admit I was kind of in the theater bubble. I I want it to be a classical actress I've gone to college and then I was in the conservatory. And my whole world was centered. And in pretty much that's all like to lived and breathed was just wanting to train in and do plays and work in the theater. Well but if that I was in San Francisco in 1978. When. George Moscone and Harvey Milk were. Were killed when the whole aids epidemic can't act when I first moved there aides did it excess heat and then it happened while I was there so. That was an incredible time in the Bay Area die Dianne Feinstein took overs mayors San Francisco. I mean it was a time incredible. Turmoil and a lot of tragedy. And it was fascinating to be there so. So what is it now what is now as the 21 century when Iwuh. What to different about you. Then that twenty world that was growing up at the same time you know as these kids that word that there of the it was dealing. Eating meals on them yes well I think that I would say at this stage in my life a lot of it has to do we have. My husband and I've been together 25 years we have these letters jails and it doesn't happen de que. I'm very very proud that my children are amazing and they are young adults I still have one kid in high school also. That's still very much part of our lives but they're beginning to go out into the world and how their lives. And for a mom that's a profound moment it's. There's certain sadness to it and there's also a great liberation and a great joy in it for me and my husband we have each other and then we also have our work and and also just as a woman individually. Unlike the stage of life I feel that's more about for me now it's about. Seeking. Freedom in a way inner freedom he in the work and it's all the same thing it's like the work in the life it's all the same thing so with these connections and these. Deep relationships. With my friends my husband my children my my found my parents are still alive. But within all of that I I I just feel more free and I like that. A lot of people will remember you for a lot of parts but I remember that scene in American Beauty where you. I think yourself and in just like. We does that come from from you and I did it's not. We can say we'll attack the I mean that they're so I'd learn how to do this but that's a very difficult thing to do do you have a harsh inner critic I do. OK so I'll aisles that I think most of us certain. And not everybody and it's a problem that's something. But we can they company backed up. So I think that tan Caroline we've played in American Beauty heady very very harsh in your critic. And that was the thing I. Tapped into for me personally when I was exploring her. Is that she's acts actually someone who almost can't bear it because she so hard on. And she suffers. When you look at your career when you're looking into you do you watch yourself do you go back and look at movies to you and warned sometimes sit at home and say let's look at what I did. Once and awhile I I'll find myself watching something I know that it's. When he did the dvd of Red Sea me we had the pleasure of really sitting and watching that in the theater and that was a great. The rail and everyone salon I will watch something off happen upon something on television nor. Yeah and on its. It's interesting when you first make something all of your associations are about your real life at the time so what you're seeing and what other people listening. Have nothing to do with each other. But as the movies as more time goes by you are literally can't remember what was going on on it dated a best basis when I'm watching a film that I was since like it. I can see it a little bit more objectively or a little bit more like maybe other people see good people not critics of the. The fans to people who would approach you who have seen you in there on stage or on screen and one of our crew came in before. You came here it to do this interview and he just said. And I loved her and in the American president I just. Just loved that some people come up to you and say that is begin at ten they approached him and say I love you in this sir yes it's wonderful players who are one that they look them that they approached you about them. Either American president because it's something that can play on television and want it doesn't. Anything that's more objectionable so people can watch you know you can play and any time we don't care about your objection. Exactly yes money. My parents watch open rain in July which is being western gas at a given quite sure it I think it is on recently or something he I don't know when we say. American Beauty you. American president and kits are all right people mentioned to me. Especially people who. That meant something to because of their own personal lives yeah but again that that's a family story that's at this rock video what's happening and think we can connect. To that so strong I Ellis isn't a picture called mother and child which is about adoption. And every once have someone quietly come up to me in sort of grabbed my arm and tell me their story about. Either having given up child support usually it's that. A woman who had to give up a child for adoption when she was a teenage mom and so in in some ways those moments that are. Just remarkable because someone is opens up so readily so quickly on something subject that so intimate that then a but I love. I always like to ask actors when their. On about the movies that I didn't so much get away that they never found the audience and that they should. You know some movies don't find an audience because maybe they didn't deserve to yes let others that you gave everything to a missing do you have couple of those that you wanna get rich. Out of two it's really kind of you've asked that mother and child is certainly one of them. Rodrigo Garcia wrote and directed at and Naomi Watts is in it it was a very. Very. On the it was a great experience it's I play it very difficult woman and I I have an affection for her this character that I play. Because she's so unlikable in so many ways at the beginning of the story and I. And that I loved. Getting the chance to try to do someone like her who is the person who is. Doesn't relate well to people doesn't have good relationships and and it's all very much traced. Jimmy Smits was great so anyway I love that movie and I feel like it was one of those that never really got a chance. And made another film called the face of club with Ed Harris but I have to say I'm very fond I'm very fond of Ed for me that was. Just such an experience to work with him he is a great actor and we've gone very well and can I got kind of a crush on in -- minute that I know is why so it's okay. That's what makes it okay. Yet and it is yet view is that you know he's one of the greats that we have and we really had a great time working on that. Story by our in person so. Those of the a couple of written. All right this show always dance and song now I want even remind you what saying from the last what you did it was wonderful. But you were telling me before about how Mike Mills and tweets entry when said. Gay and saying what songs would be carried through listened to. What songs would directly be this till I was listening to a lot of big bands. Swing yeah in Vietnam and Frank Sinatra and also I listen to things from. The forty's and the fifth test of my guess is a thing for yet disciplined as time goes by it again can't you give me a little taste of that. One thing will likely need their enemies and pray that. You months to remember this. Kiss is still their kids. And it's. Stillness. House that's beautiful. Blond guy I would be rule law. Cheated with. It was it was lovely it was a whole different take on as a rule seductive than there there was. Yes yes. Nice work when is it that inning musical come. I did them in junior colleges and my parents came vector unit and the sound of music. Well come on you wore the happy now it. It was in junior high doesn't matter was only one or two scenes that wasn't them all. No limits that you Lori Andrews was my year she was like she is well she should be exactly as we could have done hills a lot about the brightly. Could it but it the next when he won anyway. You can do I know I can't do it must you don't missing although I do okay. I'm happy to duet with but I'm not happy to just had these cities think. Then that you say. That's just think it's just the tip of the way directly but that you did it and we had a nice laugh. And that thank you thank you thank you much having you I'll let you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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