It's said you should try to avoid meeting the people you admire, as they're bound to disappoint. Sigourney Weaver, however, put the lie on that entirely when we got to talk with her at the recent Marrakech International Film Festival, where she was serving as President of the short films jury. If her recent movie choices have been a bit mixed (for every "Rampart" there's an "Abduction") Weaver herself seems teflon-coated in that she can emerge from lesser films intact, and somehow any blame gets deflected onto the films themselves for not being able to capitalize properly on her particular brand of charisma. This erratic quality level has also, presumably, a lot to do with being an actress of a certain age who wants to work regularly, (and boy, does she work: 2011 saw her in 4 theatrical releases — the aforementioned films plus "Paul" and "Cedar Rapids"); it's hardly controversial to suggest that Hollywood isn't exactly programmed for the sixtysomething actress, even someone as iconic as Weaver.
And yet the Sigourney Weaver we meet shows no sign of renouncing her work ethic, and she continues to look ahead at what's next (though, before you ask, there’s no further move on “Ghostbusters 3”– “It’s all up to Bill Murray” she told us). Of course it doesn't hurt her future career prospects that she was the biggest-name star in the biggest movie of all time. And what's perhaps surprising about being part of the technological wizardry of "Avatar" is that "…unlike what most people think, it’s extremely actor-based — there are no green screens, there are no blue screens, it’s an empty room with the director and the actors, the cameras are all far away so you’re very unaware of them, so it’s all about the scene." In direct contrast to some of the other stories you may have heard, on James Cameron's sets, she asserts, "It’s more pro-actor than a lot of big movies…more like an early theater rehearsal. It’s more a champion of the actor than any other big movie I’ve ever made."
As a result, she's excited to start shooting the back-to-back "Avatar" sequels next fall, but first, she says with an affectionate eyeroll, "James Cameron has to take his submarine that he developed and designed down into the Mariana [trench] deeper than any human has gone and document that adventure." On the sequels themselves, she is sworn to secrecy except to say that Cameron "has a whole lot of things to say over the next two," and yes, they will share some of the preoccupations of the first film: "I think they will have an environmental theme, but it won’t necessarily be in the same area" she states carefully.
At this point, were it any other actor, we'd be moving on to smaller fry, as surely being in The Biggest Movie Of All Time would be the defining point of their career. But this is Sigourney "Get away from her you bitch!" Weaver, and for her, "Avatar" isn't even the defining epic sci-fi blockbuster movie series of her career. Nope, there is an elephant in the room, and by elephant, we mean a lethal black xenomorph with concentrated acid for blood. How does she feel about Ridley Scott revisiting the Alien universe without Ripley, for prequel "Prometheus"? "Ridley and I talked about the idea of 'Prometheus' and I always thought that was the only story to tell…So I think it’s great that Ridley is doing it," she said. "I will be as excited as anyone to see how he recreates this creature, re-energizes the Alien. I’m very proud of our four movies and I wish him all the best with it."
Those four movies would have been five, had Fox had its way. Joss Whedon, who wrote "Alien Resurrection," had a script written for the next installment, but for Weaver, it lacked the challenge of the previous films. "I wasn’t really interested in doing another Alien because Fox wanted us to come to Earth which I just thought was so boring," says Weaver. "I was like, oh my God, we’ll be running through a mall and the Alien will be in Bloomingdale’s or something." For the record, we'd be totally on board with a high-end-department-store-on-Black-Friday-set Alien sequel, as, whatever about prison planets and clone laboratories, that's a terror to which we can all relate. In any case, Weaver sends further good vibes to Charlize Theron who has the unenviable task of "following" Weaver's Ripley as the new female lead of an Alien movie.
"Well, you know [the iconic nature of Ripley] happened over four movies so let’s give [Theron] a break. I’m sure they’re not trying to create a blonde Ripley or anything. She’s a wonderful actress, she’ll want to do her own thing with it and not be in the shadow of the other one," she says. Indeed, Theron is playing the CEO of Weyland-Yutani, the shady company that sent Weaver and her crew into outer space in the first place, so she'll be adding a very different piece to the puzzle.
The "Alien" series also allowed Weaver the opportunity to work with some interesting talents on each of the subsequent films, including the now-stratospheric David Fincher on what was his feature debut in the notorious "Alien 3." The stories about that production are endless, but we had to ask Weaver about her reflections on that film.
"'Alien 3' was difficult in a sense," Weaver understates, "but I loved David Fincher, I loved the cast. What was hard was that we were under a lot of pressure to get the movie done and some movies are very hard to rush, so there was a lot of unnecessary tension." Smiling, she adds, "I think creativity thrives in an atmosphere of joy and love, but not everyone agrees with me…but I think we made a good movie. When I think of 'Alien 3,' I don’t remember the pain, I just remember what we were trying to do."
More to come from our interview with Weaver very soon.