Bening moved to New York City, where she debuted off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre (McGinn-Cazale Theatre) in the role of 'Holly Dancer' in Tina Howe's widely acclaimed Coastal Disturbances (1986) opposite Tim Daly. However, despite the praise and recognition, it took some time for that success to translate to her film career. Her television debut was with the made-for-TV movie Manhunt for Claude Dallas (1986). Her first major role in a theatrical feature was in The Great Outdoors (1988) playing 'Kate Craig' opposite Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. Her next role was as the Marquise de Merteuil in Valmont (1989) opposite Colin Firth.
Bening's next major feature, Stephen Frears's The Grifters (1990) starring Anjelica Huston and John Cusack, met with critical acclaim. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for The Grifters. She followed that with her appearance in Bugsy. Bening was offered the role as Catwoman in Batman Returns (1992), but after she