Valmont: Claude Berri-Ren/ Orion/ The Kobal Collection
EW Staff
February 18, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

Great role: Annette Bening in ”Valmont”

PREMISE Marquise de Merteuil (Bening, right) and her partner in sexual gamesmanship Valmont (Colin Firth, left) entangle others in their web of spite, betrayal, and revenge.

FUN FACT Director Milos Forman (Amadeus) said he cast Bening in the lead, despite her near-total obscurity, because he prefers to cast the actor who most fits the role, ”star or no star.” Once cast, Bening found that Forman knew how he wanted her to play the role, and he would only comment if she strayed from his vision. ”You don’t waste a lot of time with Milos,” she said. ”When you go in, you essentially try to fill in the sketch that he’s given you.”

WHY IT’S GREAT It’s the same story as Dangerous Liaisons, a movie that stole Valmont‘s thunder by racing into theaters a year earlier. But while Glenn Close’s version plays as black comic farce, this one is a sumptuous tragedy. At the center is Bening’s surprisingly hearty, cheerful portrayal of a woman with equal appetites for pleasure and treachery, prefiguring Bening’s work in films from The Grifters to Being Julia.

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