Annette Bening has been nominated for just about every major award – Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, BAFTAs, Golden Globes – and her filmography includes entries as critically acclaimed as Scammers (1990), american beauty (1999) and The kids are fine (2010).
But when it comes to her big-screen debut in The great outdoors (released theatrically 35 years ago on June 17, 1988), you’d never even know Bening was in the movie — let alone looking at the poster.
Although he played a key role in the comedy adventure directed by Howard Deutch and scripted by John Hughes, the theater-trained Bening just received a Tony nomination for the play. Coastal disturbances, was an afterthought in marketing, which positioned the film as a two-handed movie starring famed comedians Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. But she was okay with it.
“I was so excited to get the job,” Bening, now 65, told us in a Role reminder interview (see below). “It was my first film, getting paid which is [Screen Actors Guild] minimum was more money than I had ever earned. It was so exciting.”
Bening played Katie Craig, the snooty wife of Aykroyd’s skeevy banker Roman, as their family of four crashes into Candy’s Chet Ripley’s Wisconsin lakeside getaway so Roman can trick Chet into make an ill-advised investment.
“We had to shoot on the other side of the lake from where we lived,” says Bening. “So we were living in these little cabins and then we were shooting. So we had to get up very early to get to the set. But I remember thinking it was so exciting. What a pleasure to get up at 4:45!
“Now I don’t think I would feel that,” she adds with a laugh. “You know what I mean? But I remember that feeling.
Bening also remembers having a live grizzly bear on set, as the so-called “bald-headed bear” crashes into the families cabin in one particularly memorable sequence.
Actress reveals one of the film’s cameramen worked with the same bear in Robert Redford’s 1972 photo Jeremiah Johnsonand offered advice that would last a lifetime.
“What they’re saying is, ‘If the bear is running, don’t run. Freeze. You’re not supposed to run,” says Bening.
“And he said when he was on the set of [Jeremiah Johnson], this bear took off. And he said the first person to run was the coach.