At a recent screening event in Los Angeles, Annette Bening, the acclaimed actress known for her roles in films like American Beauty and The Kids Are Alright, discussed the transformative experience of portraying marathon swimmer Diana Nyad in the Netflix biopic Nyad. Alongside Bening were co-directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, co-star Jodie Foster, Nyad herself, and Nyad’s coach Bonnie Stoll, who is portrayed by Foster in the movie.
This role, however, was more than just another acting gig for Bening; it was a life-changing experience. Bening spoke about her newfound passion for swimming, stating, “It has changed my life… I actually came to the conclusion recently that I’m a better swimmer now than even when I made the movie because I just kept swimming. I love it so much.” This newfound love for swimming comes after Bening’s extensive training for the role, which included working with former Olympian Rada Owens for about a year. Despite her initial nerves about the role, Bening embraced the physical and emotional challenges that came with it.
Bening, who grew up in San Diego and is trained as a scuba diver, had previously felt comfortable in the water but had never been a serious swimmer. To prepare for Nyad, she not only worked with a former Olympian but also spent countless hours in the gym with a personal trainer. However, Bening’s hard work paid off, and she not only overcame her initial nervousness but also found a deep love for swimming. She explained, “Now, if I don’t swim, I have to, I don’t know, grit my teeth. It is so deeply, deeply good for the brain and the soul, and I just love the water.”
Nyad also praised Bening’s dedication to the role, noting that the actress rarely used stunt doubles. “She swam some days [for] eight hours a day… You did it, girlfriend,” Nyad shared. This commitment to accurately portraying Nyad’s journey resonated with audiences and critics alike, leading Nyad to become a top Oscar contender, particularly for the performances of both Bening and Foster.
Nyad follows the real-life story of Diana Nyad as she attempts to become the first individual to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage in her 60s. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and opened in select theaters before being released on Netflix, where it continues to garner critical acclaim and a growing fan base.
Bening’s dedication to the role of Nyad has not only earned her praise and attention from the film industry but has also sparked a personal transformation in her own life. Her newfound love for swimming has not only broadened her horizons but has also served as a source of joy and fulfillment, proving that sometimes, the most memorable experiences on a film set are the ones that extend beyond the screen.