The original Alien, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, and John Hurt, hit theaters in 1979 and stands the test of time as one of the best sci-fi films ever released. Made for just $11 million, Alien was so successful it spawned a series of sequels - Aliens (1986), Alien3 (1992), and Alien: Resurrection (1997) - and now Scott's planning on returning to the franchise with an Alien prequel.
In conjunction with Alien Anthology's release, Sigourney Weaver ('Ellen Ripley') sat down with journalists to talk about the franchise, her love of the genre, and a couple of her other upcoming projects (Avatar 2, Vamps, and possibly Ghostbusters 3).
Sigourney Weaver Shares Her Thoughts on the Fourth Alien Film:
Sigourney Weaver: "Well, I really enjoyed a lot of Alien Resurrection. I thought that the scientists were really wonderful and the company was more detestable than ever. As we become more and more of a corporate planet, I think that the lessons from Alien have not really been paid attention to. But I loved the evolution of the character of Ripley. I wasn’t too keen to come to earth. I always feel that science-fiction when it comes to earth, it’s a little [yawns]. I wanted to go back to the original planet that the space jockey brought the eggs from and go back into the alien world, rather than have the alien arrive in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. So I think I was part of what put the kibosh on that. I think, actually, after four different interpretations, I wanted to take more time to take stock of what the opportunities were. I think it’s great that Ridley is the person who’s going to make the prequel because I think there are other opportunities there. It’s wonderful to reinvigorate that world with a fresh perspective."
Asked if she gets to be involved, Weaver replied, "I don't think so because it’s a prequel. Certainly not as an actor but if they needed help with the story, I could probably help them because I have a good sense of what people appreciate in the series and what they don’t care about. So I hope they’ll ask me."
Sigourney Weaver: "I don't know. I think it’s a tricky thing because you want to get a good young actress in there but she should be very different from Ripley. But I would trust Ridley. I mean, he found me. I think that it’s an important decision. As with all of these Alien films it’s an ensemble film, so it’s very important who you pick for all the parts I think."
Would She Be Interested in Doing Another Alien Film?
Sigourney Weaver: "You know, it would be interesting for me to go back now and revisit the character, an older Ripley, but I can’t really see how to do that. I think it’s probably a better idea to do the prequel and start afresh with only whatever the alien community might be."
"In terms of the character, it would be awesome to be able to play a woman like Ripley at my age. I certainly think the audience would be fine with it. To show how capable an older person is in something difficult, in a situation that’s difficult. So, I don't know. Life is a strange thing. Maybe something will pop up where I can maybe combine some of the elements that made Ripley so special."
"We were thinking about doing this fifth one and I didn’t really want to go ahead and do it and do it on earth, so we kind of left the sentence unfinished. There’s something slightly unfinished to me about it. Again, it’s not something I really sit around… I would have liked to see Ripley try to have a normal life, try to find happiness, at least for a little while. I feel we owe her that."
On Keeping the Next Alien Film R-Rated:
Sigourney Weaver: "I think, unfortunately, because movies have changed so much and gotten so much gorier, that nowadays probably Alien would be PG-13 because there wasn’t much blood in it - except for the swearing. I don't know. It’s tricky. That’s a good question."
On Her Screen Test Being Included in the Extra Features:
Sigourney Weaver: "I know, how embarrassing! I had to okay it. I work with a lot of young actors at our theater in New York, The Flea. It’s good for them to see these embarrassing screen tests. I guess I can sort of see maybe what Ridley liked in it, but it was hard to let it go because obviously the film is a much more finished performance. But it’s good for people to see that we actually got better in the movie."
On Her Personal Favorite Alien Movie:
Sigourney Weaver: "That would be really hard for me because each one had at the helm such an original visionary. Ridley transformed the idea of space from this sterile, cerebral place to a place where people actually got up and had breakfast and swore and griped and carried on like regular people. Then Jim took it to a whole other scale of story and emotional resonance. Each director has put his own particular stamp on it and I think they are all legit. It was kind of dizzying to go from one to another even though there were some years between. I think it was really challenging and fun for me to come back every few years knowing a little bit more about what I do and having more confidence and having had more experience in life. I felt that that was an extraordinary opportunity for me."
On Alien3Director David Fincher and Alien: Resurrection Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet:
Sigourney Weaver: "You know, I think that with Social Network, everybody now is going to be able to recognize Fincher for being one of the great directors of our day. Certainly that was true after Fight Club, etc. I think that what I love about each of these directors is they’re really unsentimental."
"I think it got harder for Jean-Pierre. The story is much more about the science and about the corporations. I think it’s difficult for us to watch the fourth one because it seems like yesterday or tomorrow. It’s not happening far away. It seems like something we read about in the papers, cloning or BP and all this stuff. So I think it makes people more uncomfortable, but I think they all really stand up. I’ve heard people arguing over their favorites and three and four have a lot of fans."
On Her Recollection of the Contentious Environment Fincher Faced on Alien3:
Sigourney Weaver: "Oh yes, oh yes. Every day we’d shoot all day and then at midnight David would have to get on the phone and defend shooting the next day’s work. You shouldn’t hire someone like Fincher unless you’re going to let them go. So I think it was very difficult for him, really difficult for everybody. Yet I think the film is really good, what he did. It was a very specific vision that Fox wanted him to do. It was not his take on it, which I think made it more complicated for him. But it made a difficult film that much more difficult, certainly."
"I thought Fincher was amazing. I think it’s one of the reasons we shot the fourth one in California. Certainly whatever issues were there were complicated by the distance and the time change. It was hard to have a coherent conversation in those circumstances."
Working with James Cameron Over the Years:
Sigourney Weaver: "He’s so awesome as a person, I think, and he’s actually really funny and really kind and really he’s an amazing person, and we’ve become good friends in this sort of second installation of our lives. I love how passionate he is about our planet and about filmmaking and storytelling. So I guess if anything, it’s just being thrown together with him more has enhanced my life. The bar is always so high with Jim, in every aspect of his life, and it really makes you go, 'Gosh, am I bringing everything I can to this? Should I step it up?' It’s great to have someone like that to inspire you."
Has James Cameron Shared Any Ideas for How Grace Could be Worked Into an Avatar Sequel?:
Sigourney Weaver: "He has a little bit, but I’m not at liberty to tell anything. He just said, 'You know, in science fiction, death is not really death.'"
On the Possibility of Working on Ghostbusters 3:
Sigourney Weaver: "Yes, I got a call from Ivan Reitman. I think everyone who’s involved would love to get together again. I think everyone’s working on really trying to create a wonderful original story. I just said, 'That would be fun and please make sure my little son Oscar grows up to be a ghostbuster.' And he said, 'Absolutely.' Then I think he directed this other film and is busy editing it so it kind of got put on hold, but I would be surprised if we didn’t do it."
On Working in the Sci-Fi Genre:
Sigourney Weaver: "I think I’m just lucky. I mean, I was an English major in college so I think I know how to read a good story and that’s really what was the focus for me. It was never the role. It was always is this a story I’d like to see? Is this story something bigger than just the people in it? The third thing would always be what kind of a filmmaker is this person? Because unlike the theater, you really needed someone who’s a fighter with a very strong vision because things can go wrong in shooting. Everything is out of chronology. There are a lot of things that can undermine a production but if you have sort of a force of nature leading you, as all the directors of the Alien movies were, then you have a really good chance of making something distinctive."
Her Theory on Why We Love Monsters:
Sigourney Weaver: "The good creatures always have something in them that’s human. I don't know about Freddy but Frankenstein, of course, is such a great example. I guess it’s probably part of our genetic makeup sitting around in the cave hoping our light won’t be seen by something bigger than all of us. In Japan in the summer they always show ghost stories because in the old days they didn’t have air conditioning and it would send a shiver down everyone’s spine and keep them cool. So I think we’ve integrated these monsters into our culture. They’re endlessly fascinating, especially the human ones because what is it that makes someone act monstrous? When I was shooting the vampire movie, they were doing Hostel III on the floor below us in this Masonic temple. You could hear the screams of the actors. That’s not the kind of movie I’m interested really in seeing, but a good monster movie with real depth. And maybe they are, I don't know, I haven’t seen them. I’m not really interested in gore, but I am interested in a good yarn with a great monster."
What's Keeping Her Busy Now:
Sigourney Weaver: "In Vamps I play this rather awful vampire in this Amy Heckerling comedy. She’s kind of a delicious throwback to the old-fashioned vampire who really does enjoy doing what she does. I’m doing a movie in Spain right now with Bruce Willis and a young cast where I play a CIA person. Then I’m going to be working with Woody Harrelson on a movie called Rampart in Los Angeles. Then next year I’ll be doing Red Light with De Niro. I think we shoot that in Barcelona where I play a paranormal expert."