“I don’t want them to think: ‘She’s too old to do that’”: Sigourney Weaver’s tenacity after five decades on screen | icon



When Sigourney Weaver (Manhattan, 73 years old) began to study theater at Yale, her teachers told her that she did not have enough talent to be a professional. A rejection that he still stings after five decades of success. “Life will tell you quickly enough in this business whether or not you can do it, without getting discouraged by your teachers. It took me years to rebuild my confidence, ”she declared years later. Shortly after that rudeness, she starred in alien (1979) and began an idyll with critics and the public that continues more than 40 years later. She hasn’t stopped working since then and at an age when, according to the canons, she should be invisible, his schedule is full. This week premieres The master gardener written and directed by Paul Schrader and a few months ago she was one of the protagonists of the blockbuster Avatar: The Sense of Water, in which she plays a peculiar role: a 14-year-old teenager.

That was about how old Susan Alexandra Weaver was when she decided that “Susan” was “too small” a name for someone whose parents took her to the doctor “for fear she wouldn’t stop growing.” Reading The Great Gatsby he met Mrs Sigourney Howard, a name that is mentioned only once in the novel, but which suited him for the person he was beginning to be. The school protested. Not her parents, they themselves were known by names not on her birth certificate. Her father, Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, was president of NBC in the mid-1950s and created two shows legends that continue to be the backbone of the channel’s grid: Today and The Tonight Show. His mother, Elizabeth Inglis, was a British actress who worked with Hitchcock. In case Sigourney was just a phase of her, they decided to call her “S”. She herself thought it was temporary, she didn’t imagine that a few years later that name of hers would no longer refer to Fitzgerald, only to her.

Thinking more of being a writer than an actress, she enrolled at Yale, the university with the best theater department. There she met a promising student: Meryl Streep. They couldn’t be more opposite: Streep was already Streep before stepping on stage, blonde, resplendent, tenacious and perfectly integrated into the environment, she fit every role she considered. Sigourney, for her part, was atypical and quirky, she lived in a tree house, dressed in elf clothes and played the flute with her boyfriend. “It was the seventies, you know,flower power!”. He liked the theater, but the cinema raised doubts. Her height of 182 centimeters was a ridiculous handicap, but a real one. “The producers are short, I am tall, I am not the sexual fantasy of the average producer,” he recounted in Guardian.

Portrait of Sigourney Weaver, in 1981 in New York.
Portrait of Sigourney Weaver, in 1981 in New York. Allan Tannenbaum (Getty Images)

When he became a star years later, locating his debut in Annie Hall (1977) became something of a gymkhana for moviegoers (hint: he appears for just six seconds outside a movie theater next to Woody Allen). The spectators discovered it in a big way in alien, but it was not easy to get there. Although the role of Ripley has changed her life, she initially turned it down. “I did not want to do it. It was science fiction and I was a total snob, I wanted to do works by Mike Nichols, Woody Allen and Shakespeare. The role was a gem, one of those rare cases where the script had been written without defining genders, which led the producers to wonder why she couldn’t be a woman. A twist that offered an added advantage: no one would expect a woman and stranger to survive to the end. She accepted the role after seeing the impressive designs of the xenomorph. To motivate herself, she imagined herself as one of the works that she interpreted in the off Broadway. “I decided that I would act like I was playing Henry V on Mars.”

It worked. The critics and the public agreed and that little film broke the box office and gave rise to a million-dollar saga. if by alien He charged $30,000 for the fourth, Alien: Resurrection (1997), the check reached 11 million dollars, which was equivalent to the entire budget of the first part. That Ripley could be played by a man or a woman does not seem relevant but logical. “I always tell writers that the secret to writing any female character is simply to write the character with a male in mind and, without changing a word, have her play a female character without adding any kind of scene afterwards where she suddenly break down and cry,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Sigourney Weaver, with the other great creature of 'Alien': the cat.
Sigourney Weaver, with the other great creature of ‘Alien’: the cat. Sunset Boulevard (Corbis via Getty Images)

If you hesitated before the first alien, He was not clear about his participation in the second installment either. The entire team doubted a shy young Canadian named James Cameron. no one had seen Terminator and there was a long way to go before he proclaimed himself “king of the world”. But aliens: the return it once again reconciled box office and critics and brought him his first Oscar nomination, something unusual for a genre film. Ripley was already a symbol and since Hollywood had forgotten the pioneers who had popularized action movies, the women holding a gun were residual (their presence was reduced to some western and the blaxploitation). So Weaver opened the door through which Lara Croft, Katniss Everdeen or Imperator Furiosa later slipped through.

In any case, he did not enjoy working in cinema until he shot The year we live dangerously (1982) with Peter Weir, a true story set in the political unrest in Indonesia in the 1960s, alongside Linda Hunt and Mel Gibson, with whom he had a torrid on-screen romance. Like most actors, Gibson is shorter than she is, so “when we went to the Los Angeles premiere, she encouraged me to wear the highest heels I could” (a detail she appreciates, accustomed to when she walks into a room many men sit so as not to see themselves standing next to them).

Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson, during the filming of 'The Year of Living Dangerously'.
Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson, during the filming of ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’. Jean-Louis URLI (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

1988 was the most important year of his career. She received two Oscar nominations. One as lead actress for Gorillas in the Mist, the story of primatologist Dian Fossey, murdered by poachers after an intense fight for gorilla rights. Her experience awakened her environmental consciousness and she has since been honorary president of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund organization and positioned her as a front-row star. Another, as a secondary, for giving life to the conceited Katharine Parker from woman arms, a classic of comedy, the field in which she feels most comfortable. She had the opportunity to once again demonstrate her talent for humor in a few movies. In Ghostbusters, the hieratic Dana Barrett was the perfect counterpoint to the anarchic characters of Bill Murray and Rick Moranis. She also wore her comic vision in projects that did not have as much impact as the hilarious Jeffrey (1995), the first gay AIDS comedy in which she played a relentless self-help guru, or the seductresses (2001), forming a dream trio with Anne Bancroft and Ray Liotta, and most notably in the cult classic heroes out of orbit (1999).

If something demonstrates his ductility, it is that the same year that he filmed the crazy heroes out of orbit also starred in the devastating my world map, the story of a woman under whose watch her best friend’s daughter dies. She says it’s the movie of her career that she wishes more people had seen. Under Polanski’s orders he was, in Death and the maiden (1994), a political prisoner who decades later meets the man who tortured and raped her during a fascist dictatorship in some unknown country in South America. “I didn’t feel safe as an actress until I did Death and the maiden“, it states. And he has no qualms about acknowledging that she would work with Polanski again. Weaver did not ride the wave of revisionism that hit directors like him or Allen. Although she is aware of the sexism of Hollywood, she is one of the few actresses who does not have a terrible history related to #metoo. She revealed it to The Hollywood Reporter. “That alien Being my first film helped me: they were too afraid that I would take out a flamethrower, and then I think I seemed too old to abuse me”.

They need no introduction, but here goes: Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver.  The movie was 'Arms of a Woman'.
They need no introduction, but here goes: Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver. The movie was ‘Arms of a Woman’. 20th Century Fox (Corbis via Getty Images)

His private life is not very interesting for the society press. She has been married to writer-director Jim Simpson for 40 years and has a daughter. Contrary to that unwritten rule according to which interesting characters for women stop being written after a certain age—films are made, but the public doesn’t see them—she has never had a problem finding roles. There are no career breaks for her and no Weaver resurgence because she has never disappeared. She has been present in theater, television or cinema for almost five decades, something that has to do with how she has focused her career. “I don’t want to sit in an ivory tower, waiting for my big movie to come out once every five years. That’s very boring. I want to be out there, working with different generations.” On her role in the saga Avatarwhich required her to spend hours submerged in tanks to learn to keep her eyes and mouth open underwater, explained: “I didn’t want anyone to think, ‘She’s too old to do this.’

Weaver knows that there are not many characters over the age of 70 in the cinema. “I’m often the oldest person on the set,” she has quipped. But he has no problem with his age showing on his face. “I like getting old, it’s interesting. I don’t think it’s attractive to have a tense face with the body of a 65 year old man. I find it scary. My mother was a great beauty and she never succumbed to plastic surgery. She thought it was better to grow old gracefully. I feel the same”.

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