ACTRESS SIGOURNEY WEAVER!
Sigourney Weaver is one of the most unique actresses we've had the pleasure of watching. She really is. It starts with her name, carries over to her singular beauty, with her talent transcending through celluloid over a nearly 40-year career...including three Oscar nods. And while she's parlayed her immense talent in ever genre under the sun, one has to recognize her dedication to, and her impact on, the horror/sci-fi realm. Think about it. Sigourney has not only time and time again come back to our beloved brand of cinema, she's had as profound effect on the female protagonist as anybody.
Outside of the vaunted ALIEN franchise, peep her work in stuff as varied as GHOSTBUSTERS, DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, COPYCAT, SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR, THE VILLAGE, AVATAR, and even most recently in flicks like RED LIGHTS, CABIN IN THE WOODS, VAMPS, etc. This isn't a shrinking violet we're talking about, or someone simply meant to play second-fiddle to a male costar, quite the opposite actually. Sigourney has helped fashion the female lead as being just as tough, gritty, competent and viable as any of her male counterparts...yet still sexy as hell! And for that we bow down! Bow down to Dissect the lovely lady that is!
Sheeeeeee-it, we all know Weaver's work as Ripley - the androgynous heroine in the entire ALIEN franchise - is a mold-breaking, career-making turn. Hell, ALIEN and ALIENS alone would entail such an iconic description, but when you get a chance to do long-form character work over a number of decades (through ALIEN 3 and RESURRECTION), well, the character's legacy is firmly cemented. Point blank, we can thank Sigourney for reshaping the way we view female protagonists. Not only is Ripley sensible and pragmatic, she's as tough physically as she is mentally. She's tough, resourceful, independent and more often than not, in complete control of whatever harrowing situation she finds herself in. And on the flipside, in my opinion at least, she's still sexy as hell. In those first two films at least, she perfectly tows the line between masculinity and femininity, serving as a badass role model for both genders in that regard.
In fact, early drafts of the original ALIEN script called for a male Ripley...a trend Sigourney Weaver has overcome more than once. In the movies VANTAGE POINT and THE TV SET Weaver also ended up playing parts initially designed for men (the latter of which Weaver really shines in comically). That's not to say Sigourney is butch or anything...it's that she possesses rare qualities that allow her to encompass any kind of role...soft, strong, masculine, feminine, vulnerable, steely, etc. Even more interesting is how, in the original clause for screenwriters Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, every character name was to remain unisex, so that they could be cast as either male or female. Well, Walter Hill David Giler came in to polish the script and changed all the character names, save for Ripley, whom O'Bannon and Shusett never considered casting as female. When Weaver did finally win the part (over Veronica Cartwright mind you), it didn't matter one iota. Ripley was found!
Morphing from feminine-but-capable final girl of ALIEN, to full-fledged action heroine in ALIENS, Sigourney would push the envelope of masculinity even further in ALIEN 3 and ALIEN RESURRECTION. Obviously, in Fincher's film she went full on Sinead O'Connor with the shaved dome-piece, reinforcing her military-like demeanor. Of course, in that film her fate is one of a heroic soldier killed in battle. But then, in RESURRECTION, she's brought back to life through scientific cloning, and in a way comes full circle to a softer, more matronly role (long hair again). A full evolutionary circle if you will.
Let's be honest, it's pretty difficult to single out an actor's worst performance...simply because of the other factors involved (directing, editing, writing, etc). That said, I do wholeheartedly wonder what the hell Ms. Weaver was thinking after reading the script and accepting the role of Alice Hunt in the woeful M. Night flick THE VILLAGE. Yikes!
On second thought, M. Night was coming off three bona fide hits: THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE and SIGNS. Considering this, I suppose you cannot fault Weaver for wanting to work with the guy. Unfortunately, it's pretty clear THE VILLAGE marked the first in a string of increasingly bad Shyamalan films (followed by LADY IN THE WATER, THE HAPPENING, THE LAST AIRBENDER and finally AFTER EARTH). Not to say that Weaver is bad in the film, because I've honestly never seen her give a bad performance...but nothing she could do in the film could save it from mediocrity bordering on laughable absurdity.
Not to clobber a dead horse here, but Sigourney's trademark has to be the kinds of characters she plays in and out of genre. Fierce, formidable, independent, statuesque. Whenever you need a go-to tough-as-nails female character, Sigourney will always be high on the list. The difference though being she isn't a one-note tough gal. She's not Michelle Rodriguez. It's the vulnerability and the innate femininity that Weaver time and time demonstrates that so believably balances the stronger traits her characters have. I mean, did you see how sexy she was in HEARTBREAKERS? Or GALAXY QUEST? HALF MOON STREET or DEATH AND THE MAIDEN? Good heavens! Stack those turns up against her roles in ALIENS, AVATAR, THE TV SET, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, etc...and it becomes quite clear that Sigourney can do anything!
Since she's mounted nearly 70 screen credits dating back to 1976, I have a couple of hidden Sigourney gems to for you to unearth. The first is Roman Polanski's slick 1994 hostage-revenge thriller DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, and the other is a little known horror flicks from 1997 called SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR.
Teaming with one of the great directors of our time, Polanski's DEATH AND THE MAIDEN offered a plum role for Weaver to sink her teeth into. You see, Weaver plays a political activist with a horrific past. One stormy night, while accepting a ride home from her neighbor, Weaver realizes this neighbor is actually a man who once captured, tortured and raped her while blindfolded. Or at least, she believes he was involved. So what does she do? She gets spiteful revenge on that sumbitch! But here's the best part about the film, we never really know for sure (either does Weaver) if this neighbor truly was to blame for the way she was violated. The moral shadings that arise highly compelling. Is the neighbor guilty? Should Weaver exact revenge? Does she have just cause? Will her husband support her decision one way or the other? Will the neighbor get out of captivity and fight back? Aside from these fascinating complications, look how goddamn sexy Sigourney is in the film. Zaftig, statuesque, assertive, yet also vulnerable and emotionally scarred. Seriously, find this film if you want to see Sigourney firing on all cylinders!
Also worth a look for us horror heads, albeit a lesser overall product, is a flick called SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR...which features Sigourney as an evildoing villain we actually come to root for more than the protagonist. Based on the all-familiar Grimm fairytale, Sam Neill and Monica Keena also star in the Michael Cohn directed flick. Thing is, it never actually enjoyed a theatrical release, instead it premiered on Showtime here in the U.S. Even so, Sigourney gives an inspired turn as the wicked mother to Keena's character. Don't get me wrong, this is far from a great film, but it does stand out as a Sigourney horror flick very little people know about. It's also an R-rated fairytale mash-up...done a decade before the likes of HANSEL & GRETEL, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, MALEFICENT, etc.
As per usual, Ms. Weaver currently has a number of projects in the pipeline. In addition to starring in Ridley Scott's biblical epic EXODUS, slated for Christmas of this year, Sigourney is also poised to reprise her oleaginous role in AVATAR 2, which would mark her third collaboration with visionary director James Cameron. And as exciting as both of those projects are, I'm personally looking forward most to how she works with DISTRICT 9 and ELYSIUM director Neill Blomkamp in his new sci-fi flick CHAPPIE. Peep it...
Also starring Hugh Jackman, Sharlto Copley and Dev Patel - CHAPPIE kicks up:
After being kidnapped by two criminals during birth, Chappie becomes the adopted son in a strange and dysfunctional family. Chappie is preternaturally gifted, one of a kind, a prodigy. He also happens to be a robot.
Sounds like a darker version of A.I. I'm sold! CHAPPIE is currently filming for a March 27, 2015 release.
It isn't hard to see what kind of impact Sigourney Weaver has had...not just on us lifelong horror/sci-fi fans...but on her fellow actresses as well. In many regards, she paved the way for the kinds of tough, take no shite female heroines we've become so accustomed to these days...big-screen or small. But again, that's not the full scope of her talent. Far from it. Sigourney can play super-sexy just as capably as she can play ultra-aggressive...and it's effortless slalom between the soft and tough...the masculine and feminine...that has contributed to her uniqueness. Whether it's starring roles or supporting turns in shite like the entire ALIEN franchise (save for the AVP garbage), GHOSTBUSTERS 1 & 2, DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, COPYCAT, SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR, THE VILLAGE, AVATAR, RED LIGHTS, CABIN IN THE WOODS, VAMPS...not to mention great non-genre performances like in THE ICE STORM, TADPOLE (true MILF!), WORKING GIRL, THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY and HALF MOON STREET - Sigourney has a rare talent of diversity we should all applaud. Plus she looks smokin' with a gun in tow!