But Bening said she didn't want to take the character home to longtime husband Warren Beatty.
"I tried not to. You don't get any points for that, " she tells PopcornBiz. "When I first started in this business I thought you did. But you don't actually. It's pretend."
Bening plays a woman still struggling with giving up a child for adoption at the age of 15 in the movie opening today. She admits it's hard to turn it off the sadness when you know you have to turn it back on again the next day.
"I do struggle with that," she says. "Because when the director yells 'action' you are supposed to be there full in the moment."
Shooting the scenes showing some of her character's "agony" did take it's toll.
"I had to grit my teeth and get through the earlier scenes," she says. "In the beginning people say, 'my god, she's so unsympathetic.'"
"I was looking forward to the scenes where things begin to break through and my character begins to figure things out."
She was helped by Jimmy Smits, who plays a determined suitor who sees beyond the scowl. Off-camera, Smits was able to laugh at the abuse his character takes in the beginning.
"Jimmy was very tolerant of all of that and had a great sense of humor," she says. "He made it very easy for me."