"Imaginary Heroes" follows one year in the lives of the Travis family. After a terrible tragedy, the family pretty much falls to pieces. Teenage son Tim (Emile Hirsch) sleepwalks through life, mother Sandy (Sigourney Weaver) finds escape in smoking pot, and father Ben (Jeff Daniels) goes into shut-down mode, disconnecting from his family. The film closely examines different angles of family life with wit, humor, and compassion.
In this interview, Sigourney Weaver discusses "Imaginary Heroes," the future of "Alien," and her hope for a "Galaxy Quest" sequel:
INTERVIEW WITH SIGOURNEY WEAVER ('Sandy'):
How did you approach this sort of irreverent mom as opposed to past movies?
You guys always think that theres a system (laughing). Well, it was such a wonderful script, and I think very different from Ice Storm in the sense that it was from the kids point of view much more. It was much more irreverent
The music of Ice Storm is very like the movie and the music of our movie is very much like our movie. I listened to a lot of Jim Morrison. That helped. I just felt like here is a woman whod kept a lid on herself for years and years. Not in a good way, not even in a suburban proper way, but just had closed down and then this event that happens, this loss of her older son, and then, at that point, what the hell? Youve already blown it, so you just then have to do what you can do to go from one day to the next. And I just think, you know, I guess I found that very touching. Its every parents nightmare that that would happen, but their responses were not what we [think they should be]. You know, the Hallmark card responses. And I just thought that, in a way, that there was something so human and compassionate and yet unflinching about his view of these people. And yet I felt he always loved us, no matter how we screwed up. I always felt that Dan, the writer and director, wasnt judging us and I think that really was helpful.
I find it harder to talk about acting now then I used to, because its sort of a mysterious process. When I saw Jeff Daniels and he was my husband, my God, we did the first scene where we set the place at the table for the missing son and it just sort of told you everything you needed to know about that marriage.
Your character Sandy talks with Tim [Emile Hirsch] as if they are both adults. Did that openness leap out at you in the script?
Yeah. I mean, and sometimes, I think because she is so lonely, that she puts more on Tim than she should. It is probably a burden to him, but he is sort of her lifeline. I think they have a great relationship in a lot of ways, and I think that their senses of humor are very well matched. There are some parents who dont laugh with their kids very much. I cant imagine. My daughter is so funny and has been since she was about six months old. Even at three weeks old, I used to look at her face and she was making herself smile. Nothing was happening, she was just thinking things. I was like, Oh good, shes going to be like my Uncle Doodle. I had this crazy comedian uncle, Doodles Weaver, and I thought, Oh, shes got that Weaver gene. She can make herself laugh.
What is the process for getting that chemistry as actors playing a mother and a son?
I think its luck. I think its casting. I looked at Dan said, Emiles my first choice for this movie, and I didnt know, hadnt seen Altar Boys, which I ran out and rented. I saw that and Emperors Club and I just thought he was great. Tim is a very different part and we had so many scenes together, and I think I clung onto Emile as a lifeline just like Sandy does. I knew that that was what was gonna give us wings. If we could reach each other, the rest of the movie would make sense. In fact, that happened with all of us. Those first scenes with Jeff, because he brought so much more to Ben than I read in the script. Thats the one character which I thought was quite underwritten, but in a good way. But Jeff, God, hes just roiling inside, if thats that word. So much going on and he says so little, and its just like this huge undersea mammal that every now and again comes to the surface and comes back down again. Its really an amazing performance.
The actors give you so much. And that combined with the script But it is, to me, a mysterious process. Im not exactly sure why it works. But I think its fun to do it in an independent film situation, because theres no time. You totally have to fly on your instincts and you have to totally commit. You do a scene one angle and then you move on because thats all you have time to do, and I think thats great.