The Kansas-native began her career on the New York stage, where she earned a Tony nomination for her role in Coastal Disturbances. After a few television gigs, Bening made her big-screen debut in the 1988 comedy The Great Outdoors with Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. However, it was her role as a con artist in the 1990 film The Grifters that made Bening a star. She began dating her now-husband Warren Beatty while film the critically-acclaimed Bugsy in 1991. In 1999, she earned praise from critics everywhere with her performance in American Beauty, which earned that year's Best Picture Oscar.