Despite raising a daughter to adulthood, Sigourney Weaver has never stopped working in Hollywood. No matter what role she chooses to take on, she blows her audiences away and makes them fall in love with her again and again. Now she playing Taylor Lautner's therapist in Lionsgate's new action mystery drama, Abduction. She sat down with Buzzine to talk about her astounding career, what she thinks of Taylor Lautner's potential, and all the things she loves about her job...
Izumi Hasegawa: So, it's 'you again'...
Sigourney Weaver: Ah! [Laughs] You Again. Here I am. What happened to that movie?
IH: Why is it that people seem to continue to think of you for roles that are originally written for men?
SW: I think it's awesome! The one thing I say is, "Please don't change a word." I don't want them to put in some snivelling scene. So I love that. Actually, there was a reporter who said, "Aren't you insulted by that?" I said, "Why would I be insulted? I think it means that I play people with authority and that I can be strong and direct and all these things we think as male, which they're not." But no, I love that. And it shows also, I think, culturally, that we now expect to see a lot of women in what used to be, many years ago now, traditional male fields.
IH: How did it feel for you to step into a role that you get some bite in and that harkens back to Ripley a little bit, which we haven't seen of you in so long?
SW: It was an interesting part because I think she probably is a therapist -- although why he's riding on car hoods, which she obviously doesn't know, or she should talk to him about it... But the idea of having settled into this life where, I think she has other patients, and then having to turn on a dime and find that old training, it's sort of like what I had to do. I used to be that Ripley person. So I enjoy all that. I felt a little rusty. It's good to play an action part every now and then. I actually have another one in the movie The Cold Light of Day that's coming out in April with Henry Cavill. I play another active person. Another role written for a man. I think they just thought too much testosterone.
IH: When you read the script, and those roles are male-driven, do you get the script with it written for the man?
SW: Sometimes, which I find, again, very helpful because I don't want them to change it into a woman. I will do that because I am a woman. I don't want them to moneky with it. I'd rather them let me try first.
IH: Is this some secret strategy your agents are doing and not telling you? Like they're going out to all the studios looking for parts that could go either way?
SW: I think it's just something that's happening in the zeitgeist, actually. I'm sure I'm not the only actress. I think they're casting a film, and there are usually more men's parts than women's parts in any story, traditionally, even in the theatre, and I think they're going, "Eh, it's too weighted with men." So it's great. I love it!
IH: It's true. This one, you bring in a lot of things to a part played by a woman...
SW: You can't imagine it played by a man!
IH: Exactly. And you're so good at it! Screenwriter Marti Noxon said the problem in Hollywood is that the studios don't trust. Lik, say there's one bad movie where the leading action hero is a female, and they turn around and say, "Now that doesn't work." Do you find that to be true?
SW: I don't know. I think that's one of many scenarios I can imagine. I think there is a lot of attention now paid to the first weekend, and they don't want to make any mistakes. They don't make enough movies to just get used to making mistakes. If you are really doing it right, you are gonna make mistakes. And that's fine. I think that's good. You can't blame a woman if the script isn't right. It takes a lot of different elements to make a good movie work and hit. It's very complicated these days, and it's never for one reason, and certainly not because it's a woman. That's the worst reason. That's just silly.
IH: A lot of your scenes are with Taylor [Lautner]. You've had such a successful career. Looking at Taylor, do you think he has what it takes to be a big movie star like you?
SW: Whatever that is! I think what he brought to it, he worked so hard. He was really open to a lot of challenges that Nathan has as a person. He tells that story so well. He works beautifully with this wonderful ensemble. So I think it's a wonderful movie for him. To me, a career like mine, I look back and realize how incredibly lucky I was as well. And I also feel so much of it is about the choices you make and the directors you work with. That's something that you have to do. You have to constantly figure out. So I think that he has so much -- a huge following, and a lot of talent and a lot of drive -- and I think he should have whatever he wants.
IH: John (Singleton) mentioned that there would be girls, little girls, and so many onlookers when you guys were filming, which was different than any of his films...
SW: I was so blessed because I think by the time I got there, they had solved that problem. I just thought, "Isn't this great? We're on the street and no one's around." I didn't realize they had barricades, police, and everyone keeping the girls away. I think they had to deal with all that in the beginning. So I just thought what a lovely, intimate experience for all of us on this movie.
IH: Most of your scenes are with Taylor or Rooney (Mara), or with them together. Do you think you are a role model to them, like a mentor in some way?
SW: No, I don't think so. I work with a lot of young actors at our theatre in New York, The Flea. We have a young company of about 50 actors -- a very diverse group. And what I find that's wonderful is that we're all equals and we all go out with our own passion, our own drive, whatever our experience is. And I feel like we're all exactly the same. I don't come on set and go, "Well, I've done 50 films." I just come on and go, "Gheesh. I don't know if I can do this." In my head, I'm going, "I've never done this before." I'm doing my thing, they're all doing their thing, and we all put it together, so I don't feel there's that much of a difference between us, except I've just been doing it longer.
IH: Can you talk about navigating that early career frenzy and what that experience was like for you, and then seeing Taylor kind of going through that right now?
SW: I couldn't have done what Taylor does. I could not have dealt with that. He's so incredibly famous so young. I was mortified by being famous. I thought it was awful. I look back and I was on the cover of Newsweek and this and that, and I was just like, "Yech." I just wanted to be an obscure young actor. I wanted opportunity, but I didn't want fame. So I don't know how he does it, to be this famous this young. It's such a distraction from the work. And more power to him that he can handle it so brilliantly and know how to use it to get himself more challenges like this. I didn't have that.
IH: Does your daughter have any interest in acting?
SW: Not at all! Not in the slightest. She's investigating different things, and I don't feel I should talk about her now that she's 21. It's her life. It's her career. But she's interested in the creative area.
IH: Working with John Singleton... Earlier he was dropping like 50 film references. What's it like working with him on set? He flung out Hitchcock and then...
SW: I know. He talked a lot about all that. I've never taken a film course in my life. He really knows the genre and he loves film so much, and he loves to direct and he's really in there directing, it's such a pleasure because often you're left on your own with what you're doing, which was never a case anyway, and I love having someone push back at me. He's just in there, and we had a great time working. It was one of the reasons I wanted to do the movie -- to work with John. I'm a big admirer of his movies. He's solid. He really knows his job. He really knows what he's doing.
IH: You have a real perspective on the vagaries of the business at this point. Do you feel like that has been hard won, or are you lucky enough to maybe experience it vicariously by seeing people like Taylor or throughout your career?
SW: I guess I don't really pay a lot of attention to that because I'm happy being in this industry, and I consider theatre part of the industry. I feel like I'm part of a great tradition and, as I said in the past, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy were my great mentors, and Ingrid Bergman. You have too many offers, then you have none, and na, na. So just enjoy whatever it is. If you're not working, get out and enjoy life, because two months later, you may not have a moment for yourself. So, I love the cyclical part of it. But I was in therapy for many years, so I think it is hard. Then I gave up. Once I got offered the job of a therapist, I said, "I don't need therapy."
IH: Then the dream stopped?
SW: Exactly. Then the dream stopped. [Laughs]
IH: You said you've never taken a film class. You could probably teach one, with the people that you've worked with...
SW: That's true.
IH: Do you ever stop and think how central to really important cinema history you've been? You've been right there as things have been happening...
SW: I haven't had a chance to think about that, but I can see, when I meet young filmmakers, bless them -- they are so... You know, the movies we made, they were movies ... and you don't know that when you're making a movie. But no, it's very gratifying. I love the inter-generational quality of our business. I love working with these young directors or people who had Ghostbusters posters all over the wall growing up and things like that. It's hard for me to believe I've been around that long, but I guess that's the case.
IH: Speaking of Ghostbusters, any traction on the sequel?
SW: I thought you could tell me! [Laughs] I only know what the press tells me.
IH: On making a film such as Aliens, and now the technology has advanced so far, especially with action films where they use Steadicam, do you find that behind-the-scenes it's a lot easier as an actor because there's not these cumbersome mechanics in it? Or do you ignore all that?
SW: I never found the mechanics very cumbersome, even when we were doing Alien, which had a lot of very innovative camera work, a lot of hand-held stuff. Sure, Steadicam is very effective for certain things, but what I love is seeing people figure it out on the run. That's one of the reasons Avatar was so exciting. I think I love the technology. I love the new technology. I actually think everything is an improvement on the green screen, where you didn't know your relationship to whatever they were going to put in later and you were always too close to whatever it is. So I'm grateful for CGI. I think it's much more actor-centric if you do it the Jim Cameron way. The actors absolutely inform the work and the soul of the picture. They're gonna need actors more than ever to make that stuff work. Without it, it just won't work. So actors should relax. It's gonna be okay.
IH: You said you have done 50 films, even you still feel nervous. What makes you keeps you going?
SW: I don't know! I love it! I really love all the things I'm being offered now. I have a vampire comedy coming out that Amy Heckerling directed. I just worked with Oren Moverman and Woody Harrelson. Especially now that my daughter is in college and I get to do as much work as I want, I'm very grateful that I have all this work to do because I might miss her if I was at home too much. One of the reasons I wanted to be in the business was to be able to work...not that anyone will ever be as wonderful as Betty White, but I just worked with Betty White on You Again and there she is sitting in the chair next to me going, "Make sure that I'm ready because I have to be on set with everybody else." I admire that so much. She doesn't take anything for granted. She gets out there and she's brilliant. I just love all of that. Sometimes I think I should garden more. I like gardening too. Maybe gardening is harder. But I really like the variety of things I'm offered to do -- big parts and small parts. They all ask for different things from me, so I get to keep learning and trying something different.
IH: Your dad (Sylvester L. Weaver, Jr.) is one of the icons in the media. What's the greatest thing you learned from him about surviving in the various media?
SW: That's a good question, thank you. I think what I learned from my father, which I still think about, is that he loved what he did. I now understand how hard it was, what he did, what he was up against politically and in other ways. He always had a great time and he fought for his people, and he was always a gentleman. He didn't turn into someone else in order to fight for what he believed was good for the audience. He always stayed who he was, which was a very low-key, affable, funny, charming, brilliant man. And when I see people screaming and carrying on, as you sometimes do in this business but thankfully not very much, I always think of my father and I go, "Thank you, Dad. Because I never saw you become something less than who you could be." And there are a lot of wonderful people in this business, and I think that's why I continue to find it engaging. It really brings out the best in people. That's not what the public reads about, but that's the truth.
Lionsgate's 'Abduction' is released on September 23, 2011.