Thursday, 14 July 2011

In focus: Sigourney Weaver

Susan Alexandra Weaver was born on October 8th 1949 in New York City. At school she was always much taller than her classmates (she reached 5’ 10’’ by the age of 13!) so was picked on and in order to gain their acceptance, she became the class clown.

She changed her name to Sigourney and later she trained at the Yale School of Drama in New Haven, where one of her classmates was Meryl Streep. She made her theatrical debut in 1973 in Watergate Classics. After finishing her studies, Sigourney pursued a stage career for a while before breaking into films in 1977 with Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. A couple of years later she starred in the film that would make her a star: Alien. Her character, Ellen Ripley, was tough and intelligent, and Ridley Scott’s film was a big hit.

Following this success, she appeared with William Hurt in Eyewitness and with Mel Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously and became married to Jim Simpson in 1984. Then came another popular film, comedy fantasy Ghost Busters, with Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd. She reprised her role as Ellen Ripley in Aliens, which was a huge success, and was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

A very productive period followed, with Weaver starring in Gorillas in the Mist, Working Girl, Ghostbusters II, Dave and Alien 3. She also gave birth to a daughter, Charlotte Simpson, on April 13th 1980. Sigourney played Ellen Ripley one more time in Alien: Resurrection and won a BAFTA and received a Golden Globe nomination for Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm.

She then took on a few comedy films; the sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen and Alan Rickman, 60s spy comedy Company Man, and Heartbreakers with Gene Hackman, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Ray Liotta, about mother and daughter con artists who seduce wealthy men.

In 2003, Sigourney was ranked #20 on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time. She was one of only two woman to make it into the Top 20, the other being Audrey Hepburn. Weaver reunited with Alan Rickman in the 2006 independent film Snow Cake, in which she played a high-functioning autistic woman whose daughter is killed in a car crash. Her well-researched performance was very believable and touching and the film was screened at a number of international film festivals.

At the age of 60, she reunited with her Aliens director James Cameron for his massive blockbuster hit Avatar, which became the top box-office success of all time. She still continues to surprise and entertain both her fans and the people she works with and has earned great respect in the industry. She played the baddie in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s Paul and has many projects in the works, included a rumoured appearance in the forthcoming Ghostbusters III movie.

5 Recommended Films:
  • Aliens 
  • Alien 
  • Ghost Busters 
  • Galaxy Quest 
  • Gorillas in the Mist

Other films to watch: Avatar, The Ice Storm, Alien3, Alien: Resurrection, The Village, Snow Cake, Dave, Heartbreakers, Ghostbusters II, Working Girl, Paul, Vantage Point, Infamous, Holes, Imaginary Heroes, Death and the Maiden, The Year of Living Dangerously.

5 Movie Quotes:
  • “Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.” – Ellen Ripley in Alien
  • “You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.” – Ellen Ripley in Aliens 
  • "You like this ring? You want to keep the hand this ring is on? If I see or hear or smell you anywhere near my gorillas, you'll be writing with your other hand and I'll have a new ashtray.” – Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist 
  • “Fred, you had a part people loved. I mean, my TV Guide interview was six paragraphs about my *boobs* and how they fit into my suit. No one bothered to ask me what I do on the show.” – Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest 
  • “Look, this wasn't here! There was *nothing* here! There was this... space! And there was a building or something with flames coming out of it, and there were creatures writhing around, and they were growling and snarling. And there were flames, and I heard a voice say ‘Zuul’! It was right here.” – Dana Barrett in Ghost Busters

5 Pieces of Trivia:
  • Her salary for Alien: Resurrection (1997) was more than the entire cost of the original Alien (1979) movie. 
  • She changed her name from Susan to Sigourney after reading The Great Gatsby. 
  • She made her movie debut in Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977), where she was on-screen for just 6 seconds. 
  • In the film Alien: Resurrection (1997) she actually managed to sink the basketball into the hoop backwards on the first take, even though she wasn't supposed to or intended to. The shot was almost ruined because Ron Perlman broke character because he was so amazed. 
  • She is one of the very few actors who have been nominated for both a Supporting (Working Girl) and Lead Acting (Gorillas in the Mist) Academy Award in the same year for their achievements in two different films.


  1. Very interesting. I wasn't aware that she had appeared in Annie Hall. Keep writing these "In focus" articles, I learn a lot from them. Anyway, great job.

  2. Thanks for your lovely comment! Glad you like my "In focus" feature, I enjoy researching them and putting them together :)


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