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Warren Beatty on Life with Annette Bening and Kids: ‘They’re the Biggest Thing That Happened to Me’

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Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Warren Beatty‘s list of ex-girlfriends reads like a who’s who of Hollywood in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. That all changed when the actor met Annette Bening on the set of the 1991 film Bugsy.

However, Beatty was intrigued by Benning — now his wife of 24 years — before he even met her. In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, the 79-year-old actor reveals Bening canceled a meeting with him when she was being considered for a role in the 1990 film Dick Tracy.

When they met for lunch in preparation for Bugsy, Beatty knew his life was going to change forever.

“I remember losing interest in the garlic chicken I was eating within 20 seconds. And the garlic chicken had been very good,” he recalls.

At that meeting, the screen legend promised Bening that he wouldn’t hit on her while filming. However, that rule went out the door toward the end of shooting when he asked her out to dinner. Although there was “a moment of hesitation on her part,” the duo went out to eat — and the rest is history. 

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

The couple married in 1992 and had four children — Stephen, 24, Benjamin, 22, Isabel, 19, and Ella, 16.

“That’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me – and their mother,” Beatty says of his kids. “That’s bigger than fame, and it came not a moment too soon.”

For much more from Warren Beatty, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

 

Beatty recently told Vanity Fair that oldest child Stephen, a transgender activist and writer, is “a revolutionary, a genius and my hero, as are all my children.”

He says now: “They’ve always known I felt that way.”

Although he’s one of the biggest movie stars of his day, Beatty’s fame doesn’t mean much to his kids – they haven’t even seen their parents’ iconic movies.

“Once in a while I’ll say, ‘Did you ever see such and such?’ And they haven’t,” Beatty says. “I said to my 19-year-old last year, ‘Have you ever seen Shampoo?’ and she was like, ‘Nooo.’ So there’s my legacy for you. At least around here.”

What’s important to him isn’t that his kids know his biggest roles, but that he’s a great parent. When asked if he thinks he’s a good father, he replies without hesitation, “I know it.”

  • Reporting by CHRIS NASHAWATY