Annette Bening Talks Filming 20th Century Women in Exclusive Clip: ‘I Hadn’t Ever Read Anything Like It’

 

Annette Bening’s acting career may span decades, but her latest project — 20th Century Women — she says is one of a kind.

“I hadn’t ever read anything like it,” says Bening, 58, in the clip shared exclusively with PEOPLE, which also gives a behind the scenes look at scenes from the film.

She continues, “I felt like I knew the world and I knew who the people were.”

The film takes audiences to late 1970s Santa Barbara, focusing largely on Bening’s character Dorothea Fields— a divorced single mom and her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann.)

“Dorothea I think is in search of her son,” says Bening in the clip. “I would describe her as a woman full of contradictions who loves her son deeply, who’s alone.”

Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women— Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a punk artist living as a boarder in the Fields’ home and Julie (Elle Fanning), a provocative teenage neighbor, to raise her son.

Their complicated relationship is shown in a scene where Jamie tells his mother, “You just feel guilty because it’s just me and you” and she responds, “You don’t know what I’m feeling.”

“We all seek to know our parents in a way that we can never fully realize — that’s just part of being someone’s child,” says Bening. “A lot of what you’re finding out is about yourself.”

Though it’s clear Bening shines on the big screen — she brings that same light behind the scenes, according to those who worked on the film with her.

“She’s incredible,” says co-star Gerwig. “She’s so skilled technically — it’s different every take and she’s always looking for something that’s alive.”

The film’s writer and director Mike Mills shares the same sentiment in the clip, saying “you could throw Annette in any situation and she would just start asking people questions” and “master the scene within a few minutes.”

To Bening, collaborating with a filmmaker is “a give and a take,” but she describes Mills as “very open.”

“We’re working on a moment and then he might be able to say ‘What about that?'” she says of working with Mills. “It’s like that with filmmakers. You begin to see where the story is placed in their heart.”

Overall, Bennett describes filming the movie as a “lovely, warm, very intimate experience.”

20th Century Women is in theaters now.

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