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Annette Bening at 61: The Kids Really Are All Right, So the Empty Nester Moves On

By Sixty and Me January 06, 2020 News

The rumor has been circulating among moviegoers for years. In 1992, when Columbia Pictures wanted to give their toga-clad, torch-bearing logo lady her fifth facelift, Annette Bening served as their model.

Given her striking resemblance to the regally beautiful Torch Lady, the rumor isn’t surprising. But it also isn’t true. 

The actual model, Jenny Joseph, worked at a New Orleans newspaper. If Columbia had approached Annette Bening for the assignment, however, she might easily have refused.


Because, as she once told the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Annette was busy fulfilling a long-held wish…

“I Always Knew I Wanted Kids in My Life”

Twenty-eight years ago, in January of 1992, Annette and her husband Warren Beatty welcomed Kathlyn Elizabeth into their lives. The parent-child bond she felt with her first little one only grew stronger over the next eight years, as Benjamin, Isabel and Ella joined the family.

So, as Annette recently revealed to AARP Magazine, when at age 14 Kathlyn came out as transgender and began transitioning to life as Stephen Ira, she had her mother’s full support.

Today she says of Stephen, “He’s managed something that’s very challenging with great style and great intelligence. He’s an articulate, thoughtful person, and I’m very, very proud of him.”

But that’s only natural, because acting has taught Annette that freedom only comes from being one’s authentic self.  She once observed,”… good acting is not putting a mask on. It is taking your mask off… That is in a way terrifying. But on the other hand, it’s truly liberating.”

And now that Ella has left home to study drama at New York’s uber-prestigious Juilliard School, the four-time Oscar nominee finds herself liberated in an entirely new way!

“I Think We’re Both Still Adjusting to the Quiet at Home”

With Ella’s departure, Annette and Warren joined the ranks of millions of 60-plus empty nesters.  Gone are the days she once described lovingly as “chaos in my house… I always scheduled my acting around my family… a mother first, then a wife, then an actress.” So how does she approach her new role as a long-distance mom?

First, by seeing her new life as a growth opportunity. In her words:

“When you’re younger, you think there’s some point at which you arrive, but that’s an illusion… A lot of women have a period of incredible growth after their children are no longer with them on a day-to-day basis.”

And although her kids stepped up to coach their Mom’s portrayal of an intelligent cyborg in the 2019 superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel, she hopes the future brings film roles more appropriate for older audiences:

“But, hey, we’re out here, too… looking for films that are stimulating, provocative, intelligent and not exploitative in any way… When you make movies, you want to make an impact on people, not just entertain them.”

It’s the times when strangers stop to tell her how her performances have captured pivotal episodes from their own lives that the actress treasures most. And we can only hope her newfound freedom means many more of them are on the way!

What are your favorite Annette Bening films? What experiences have you had when “taking your mask off” felt truly liberating? If you’re an empty nester, what ways have you found to make the most of your free time? Please share your story!

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Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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