Annette Bening Reveals Her First Impression of Warren Beatty: 'Incredibly Intelligent' and 'Charming' 

Annette Bening talks to PEOPLE about first meeting her now-husband of almost 30 years, Warren Beatty

Annette Bening Warren Beatty
Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty/GQ

Annette Bening had her breakout Oscar-nominated performance in 1990's The Grifters — and just a year later, her now-husband of almost 30 years, Warren Beatty, cast her as his love interest in the 1991 film Bugsy.

Her first impression of the actor, director and legendary ladies man "was that he was incredibly intelligent," she tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I remember thinking 'Wow, this guy is so smart and so sharp and funny, but more — just articulate."

"He was very talkative, Bening, 63, adds. "He was very passionate about the movie that he was about to make. He had a lot to say — and he was charming, for sure."

Warren Beatty Annette Bening Bugsy
TriStar Pictures/Getty

As for Beatty, he famously returned after his first lunch meeting with Bening and told Bugsy director Barry Levinson: "I'm going to marry her."

She and Beatty, 84, have since formed one of Hollywood's most private and enduring unions. Together they raised four kids out of the spotlight: Stephen, 30, an artist and writer, Ben, 27, an actor, Isabel, 25, a writer and film student, and Ella, 21, an acting student.

Having a family together, "was something I always wanted to do, ever since I was a little kid, the minute I could start babysitting, like 12 or 13, I was the neighborhood babysitter," Bening says. "It just always felt natural to me. Nothing comes close."

With their four kids moved out of the family home, Bening now finds herself with an empty nest.

"Sometimes it's hard for me to let go and just remember, oh that's not my job anymore," she says. "I'm so proud of these adult children, who aren't children, but they're my kids. They're all so different and they're all out there discovering themselves and their voices. We think we're there to teach them, and of course, what we realize is that that they teach us everything."

Known for her bold and intelligent film choices, Bening is having fun with her latest, the sumptuous Agatha Christie murder-mystery Death on the Nile, directed by Kenneth Branagh. "It was like being at a cocktail party all day long," she says of the star-studded film, "although we weren't drinking. Sometimes we'd drink afterwards. It was a blast."

Death on the Nile opens in theaters Feb. 11.

For more on Bening, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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