Bening, a San Diego native who grew up in the San Carlos neighborhood, was honored at Variety's Night of the Stars Tribute at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. The four-time Academy Award nominee was honored with the Gregory Peck Award for Excellence in Cinema.
After the ceremony, Bening said her interest in acting began when she was encouraged by an acting teacher at Pershing Middle School and gained steam when she participated in the theater program at Patrick Henry High School.
"I was really lucky. My teacher from Pershing Junior High, who is here tonight, Mrs. McLaughlin, except now she has a different name, Mrs. Hember, took me to the Old Globe. I saw my first play there. And then I had a great drama teacher in high school, Anna Krill at Patrick Henry. And then I went to Mesa Community College. One of my teachers from Mesa is here tonight. That's very special to me. His name is Woody (Milton Woodruff)," she said.
"Woody had a big influence on me. He and another man, Art Knowle, ran a theater program at this community college. I think it was $1 a unit. And I had just graduated from high school and I walked in, and they had this two-year theater program that was serious. So that was just good luck.
"And Woody had a big impact on me, as did Art. Art has passed away, but (Woody's) just the same. He's just as passionate. In fact he had a film class that he taught and that's when I saw my husband in a movie for the first time."
Bening is married to actor/director Warren Beatty, who was also at the La Jolla event Thursday night.