TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (1)
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
One of Hollywood's most versatile and respected actresses, Sigourney Weaver, like many actors of her generation, had her career start on soap operas. After only a few years paying her dues, Weaver achieved overnight stardom as the tenacious heroine, Ellen Ripley, of Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller "Alien" (1979). The sole survivor of the original movie, Weaver returned to play Ripley for three more "Alien" sequels, setting the standard for big-screen heroines for generations to come. A statuesque beauty who became a kind of thinking man's sex symbol, Weaver lit up the screen throughout the 1980s and 1990s in a series of hit films which, genre-wise, ran the gamut; from comedy, with her hilarious turns in "Ghostbusters" (1984) and "Galaxy Quest" (1999), to critically lauded dramas and thrillers such as "The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), "Gorillas in the Mist" (1988), "Copycat" (1995) and "The Ice Storm" (1997). She even tapped into indie features like "A Map of the World" (1999), "Tadpole" (2002) and "Holes" (2003). Whether playing an autistic woman in "Snow Cake" (2007), a news reporter in "Vantage Point" (2009), or a compassionate scientist in the blockbuster "Avatar" (2008), the classically...
One of Hollywood's most versatile and respected actresses, Sigourney Weaver, like many actors of her generation, had her career start on soap operas. After only a few years paying her dues, Weaver achieved overnight stardom as the tenacious heroine, Ellen Ripley, of Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller "Alien" (1979). The sole survivor of the original movie, Weaver returned to play Ripley for three more "Alien" sequels, setting the standard for big-screen heroines for generations to come. A statuesque beauty who became a kind of thinking man's sex symbol, Weaver lit up the screen throughout the 1980s and 1990s in a series of hit films which, genre-wise, ran the gamut; from comedy, with her hilarious turns in "Ghostbusters" (1984) and "Galaxy Quest" (1999), to critically lauded dramas and thrillers such as "The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), "Gorillas in the Mist" (1988), "Copycat" (1995) and "The Ice Storm" (1997). She even tapped into indie features like "A Map of the World" (1999), "Tadpole" (2002) and "Holes" (2003). Whether playing an autistic woman in "Snow Cake" (2007), a news reporter in "Vantage Point" (2009), or a compassionate scientist in the blockbuster "Avatar" (2008), the classically trained Weaver proved that she was that rare actress capable of playing just about any role she chose with equal skill.
Born Susan Alexandra Weaver on Oct. 8, 1949, the stunning brunette began using the name "Sigourney" in the early 1960s, after a character mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. The daughter of former NBC president Sylvester 'Pat' Weaver and actress Elizabeth Inglis, Weaver graduated from the Yale Drama School in 1974, one year before her friend and future colleague Meryl Streep. Kicking off her career on the New York stage, Weaver appeared in several off-Broadway productions such as "Lone Star" and "Gemini." During this period, Weaver also teamed up with fellow Yale grad and playwright Christopher Durang to co-write "Das Lusitania Songspiel," a popular spoof in which she also starred. Weaver received her career start in soap operas. Making her debut in the "Another World" spin-off, "Somerset" (NBC, 1970-76), Weaver played Avis Ryan for one season before landing a bit role in the Academy Award-winning "Annie Hall" (1977). Cast in a bit role as Woody Allen's beautiful movie date, the role required little in the way of acting, but heralded bigger and better things to come for the talented actress.
Weaver's first major film role was in director Ridley Scott's groundbreaking sci-fi horror masterpiece, "Alien." In what would eventually become her signature film role, Weaver played Ellen Ripley, the stoic, by-the-book warrant officer assigned to the commercial space freighter, Nostromo. A virtual unknown when she landed the part, Weaver received an unremarkable fourth billing in a star-studded cast, which included Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt. As it turned out, Weaver's anonymity proved to be a major asset to the film; audiences were completely blindsided when all the film's bigger names were systematically killed off, leaving her the film's sole survivor. She also became the toast to future fanboys when, while in peril from the alien, she appeared memorably onscreen in a t-shirt and white panties.
Weaver established herself as an actress to watch during the early 1980s with her next performance in Peter Weir's "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1982), a political thriller starring Mel Gibson and co-starring Academy Award winner Linda Hunt. Two years later, Weaver proved herself equally adept at comedy with her portrayal of Dana Barrett, the romantic interest of Bill Murray's character who ends up turning into a hound of hell in the hugely successful "Ghostbusters" (1984). One of the most profitable comedy films ever made, "Ghostbusters" grossed a supernatural $239 million domestically. Not surprisingly, Weaver was called on to reprise her role for the less satisfying 1989 sequel, "Ghostbusters II." Soon after the breakout success of her first major comedy, Weaver returned to the stage, making her Broadway debut in the 1984 production of the David Rabe play, "Hurlyburly." Directed by film legend Mike Nichols, the three-hour production opened to rave reviews on Aug. 7, 1984 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it ran for 343 performances. Alongside the Tony-nominated Weaver, the play's stellar cast also included William Hurt, Ron Silver, Harvey Keitel, Jerry Stiller, Judith Ivey and Cynthia Nixon.
After a long, steady rise, Weaver finally ascended to Hollywood's A-list with her starring role in "Aliens" (1986), the long-awaited sequel to 1979's "Alien." Under the watchful eye of young director James Cameron, Weaver reprised her role as the indomitable Ripley to even greater effect, showing off a maternal side with her emotional adoption of the space orphan, Newt (Carrie Henn). Most memorably, Weaver delivered one of the film's catchier lines to the alien queen: "Get away from her, you bitch!" Much heavier on the action and character development than its predecessor, "Aliens" was a monster hit, grossing $82 million. The film also garnered seven Academy Award nominations, including one for Weaver for Best Actress - a virtually unheard of nod for a horror/sci-fi film.
Following her newly minted status as a box office draw, Weaver's artistic clout also exploded, thanks to two back-to-back Oscar nominated performances. The first of these two successful films was "Working Girl" (1988), a romantic dramedy which reteamed her with director Mike Nichols. Cast in the role of Melanie Griffith's mentor-turned-bitter rival, Weaver got a Best Supporting Actress nod for her portrayal of the deliciously self-centered WASPy business exec, Katharine Parker. That same year, Weaver also starred in the biopic "Gorillas in the Mist" (1988), based on the life and death of the controversial primatologist, Dian Fossey. For her bold and haunting portrayal of Fossey, Weaver received an additional Oscar nod for Best Actress. As unusual as it was for an actor to be cited by the Academy in two separate categories, Weaver would take it a step further by losing both. Bested by Jodie Foster and Geena Davis, respectively, for "The Accused" and "The Accidental Tourist," Weaver won the dubious honor of being the first dual-acting nominee to go home empty-handed.
In 1992, Weaver returned to familiar territory, reprising her Ripley character for "Alien 3" (1992), director David Fincher's disappointingly dark and moody sequel to Cameron's "Aliens." Visually remarkable, but sluggishly paced, "Alien 3" dispensed with the heavy action and pyrotechnics in favor of a slower, more claustrophobic tale set on a prison planet. In the film's most controversial twist, the character of the newly bald-headed Ripley was seemingly killed off at the end - a move which greatly upset audiences and worried studio execs at 20th Century Fox. Unwilling to let the franchise die without a fight, Fox lured Weaver back with a bigger paycheck and a new producer credit for one more installment. Released in 1997, the disappointing "Alien Resurrection" once again starred Weaver, this time as a clone of the original Ripley. Abetted by an android named Call (Winona Ryder), Ripley once again took up battle against the Monster Queen and her spawn, leaving the possibility open for yet another sequel.
Having clearly established herself a renaissance performer comfortable in any genre, Weaver spent much of the 1990s playing roles which traded on her status as a respected character actress. She offered an effective cameo as Queen Isabella in Ridley Scott's otherwise disastrous "1492: The Conquest of Paradise" (1992). The following year, Weaver returned to her light comedy roots in director Ivan Reitman's "Dave," in which she played a frosty First Lady who is duped by a presidential impostor (Kevin Kline). Roman Polanski's "Death and the Maiden" (1994) provided Weaver with the meaty role of a vengeful victim of political torture; although some quibbled over her casting as a Latina. The following year, she offered a fine turn as an agoraphobic psychologist and self-proclaimed "pin-up girl for serial killers" in the suspenseful "Copycat" (1995). Following a 1996 return to Broadway in Durang's "Sex and Longing," Weaver had one of her best screen roles to date as a disaffected suburbanite having an affair with her neighbor (Kevin Kline) in Ang Lee's excellent mood piece, "The Ice Storm" (1997). The busy actress also made her TV debut, earning an Emmy nomination for her performance as the wicked stepmother in "Snow White: A Tale of Terror" (Showtime, 1997). Two years later, Weaver returned to the screen offering a tour de force as a woman overwhelmed by guilt over the death of a child in her care in "A Map of the World" (1999), as well as a buxom blonde has-been actress from a sci-fi series in the hysterical comedy "Galaxy Quest" (1999).
Weaver returned to a more challenging role in 2002 with "Tadpole," an edgy comedic drama about a 16-year-old boy coming of age and his infatuation with his stepmother. While the movie received critical accolades all around, Weaver, in particular, was heralded for her deftly understated performance as the object of her stepson's affections. The following year, Weaver portrayed a New Yorker who helps a fire captain construct eulogies for his fallen men in the heart wrenching feature, "The Guys," a film inspired by the 9/11 tragedy. Weaver tackled another offbeat role playing The Warden, the mysterious overseer who orders her inmates to dig deep into the desert in the unexpected family-friendly hit, "Holes" (2003). She also acquitted herself well and added complexity to the part of village elder Alice Hunt, a community leader who nurses a crush on the community patriarch (William Hurt) in M. Night Shyamalan's otherwise contrived thriller, "The Village" (2004). Weaver then followed up with a sharply honed performance as a middle-aged wife and mother, disillusioned with her dysfunctional family and looking to transform her chilly existence in writer-director Dan Harris' "Imaginary Heroes" (2005).
Her next two films were a pair of limited release indies: Jake Kasdan's television industry send-up "The TV Set" (2006) and the family drama "Snow Cake" (2006). The same year she portrayed New York socialite Babe Paley in the lesser-seen of that year's Truman Capote biopics, "Infamous" (2006). Lending a sense of respect to an already classy affair, Weaver found time to voice the narration for the BBC-produced epic documentary, "Planet Earth (Discovery, 2007), replacing David Attenborough's voiceover in the American run of the impressive 11-episode production which detailed in high-def, different regions across the globe. After a starring role in David Auburn's "A Girl in the Park" (2007) as a woman traumatized by the death of her three-year-old daughter, Weaver enjoyed a pair of considerably wider releases. In 2008, she co-starred as a news producer in "Vantage Point," a Rashoman-style political thriller about witnesses of a presidential assassination, as well as appeared in the comedies "Be Kind, Rewind" and "Baby Mama." The following year, Weaver reunited with Cameron to co-star in his groundbreaking futuristic sci-fi epic, "Avatar" (2009), in which she was the head scientist of the Avatar Program and sympathetic mentor to a disabled veteran (Sam Worthington) sent to infiltrate an indigenous tribe of aliens living atop a valuable mineral. The film went on to become the high-grossing movie of all time and once again exposed the actress to another generations of fans.
Meanwhile, Weaver earned nominations at the Emmys, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards for her performance in "Prayers for Bobby" (Lifetime, 2009), a drama based on a true story about Mary Griffith, a devoutly religious woman who tried to pray for her son (Ryan Kelley) to be healed of his homosexuality, only to reverse course and advocate for gay and lesbian rights after he committed suicide. After co-starring in a pair of critically maligned comedies, "Crazy on the Outside" (2010) and "You Again" (2010), she appeared opposite Ed Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche in the more universally praised indie "Cedar Rapids" (2011). She went on to play the psychiatrist to a high school kid (Taylor Lautner) on the run from secret agents in "Abduction" (2011), and was a disturbed assistant district attorney trying to keep a leash on a destructive cop (Woody Harrelson) in "Rampart" (2011). After a small turn as a director in the horror flick "The Cabin in the Woods" (2012), she was a corrupted CIA operative trying to silence a Wall Street trader (Henry Cavill) trying to unearth his father's secrets in "The Cold Light of Day" (2012). On the small screen, Weaver starred as a Hilary Clinton-like Secretary of State recently divorced from a former U.S. president (Ciarán Hinds) on the well-received drama "Political Animals" (USA Network, 2012- ).
Filmographyclose complete filmography
CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
Weaver's father, who is something of a Roman history buff, reportedly wanted to name her Flavia, but her mother insisted on Susan.
In 1998, Weaver was named Woman of the Year by the Harvard Hasty Pudding Club.
"Being tall has its advantages. For me, it's a litmus test: if I enter a room and an actor stands up and then immediately gets self-conscious and sits back down, I hear myself saying, nope, this job isn't for me."---Sigourney Weaver quoted in Us, March 1995.
"I think when I see an actress performing in a film and it seems to be directed specifically at men then that strikes me as less inspiring than women who are acting for themselves or even for other women. That's why I admire great Europeans like Garbo and Dietrich who seem to combine their intelligence with their bodily allure so well, and not feel a problem, seem almost immune to the effect they're having."---Sigourney Weaver, quoted in "The Great Movie Stars". Vol. 3, by David Shipman.
"I prefer not have any image, or any one image. It's because I come from the theater originally. My dream, when I was a young actor, was to be in a repertory company, where you could play the maid in one piece and then play the leading lady in another, and go from comedy to drama and really hop all over the place. And I actually realized a long time ago that you can't expect anything to happen; you can't expect anyone else to know what you want, where you want to go next. So I guess what I'm always doing is trying to create this mini-rep company in my head."---Weaver to The New York Times, December 7, 1997.
"Sigourney is the one person who's shown us that you can do it all."---co-star Winona Ryder quoted by The New York Times, December 7, 1997.
"Comedy is the one thing I'm really good at. I don't know why I've had such a serious career. I've had the most serious career."---Sigourney Weaver to USA Today, November 26, 1997.
"It was never important to me to display my sexuality. I didn't feel I had to prove I was a babe to anyone. I always took parts based on the story and director, and very rarely on what the character was. [The roles] I get offered [are] isolated women... It's easier for them to see me as a woman on my own. I can have a token love story, but in the end, I'm gonna be this strong woman. Maybe it's harder for them to see me in a couples situation."---Weaver quoted in Daily News, November 23, 1997.
"Here's my theory, producers are short. I'm not the average producer's sexual fantasy. I am tall. When I come into a room wearing platforms, they go, 'She's not my type of woman,' because what they're looking for is the petite blonde who looks up to them. With me, directors either sit up in the middle of the night and go, Sigourney Weaver! or they don't... "---Weaver quoted to Stephen Rebello of Movieline, September 1997.
"I've just always been drawn to Off-Broadway. Maybe because that's where I worked most of the time when I first came to the city and worked with so many beginning playwrights. I have always been so grateful to have had three or four years Off-Broadway before I had to go and do anything that was more conventional because I feel like Off- and Off-Off-Broadway are where the really interesting stuff starts to bubble up. Also, I feel like the Off-Broadway audiences are very smart, very engaged, very sophisticated."---Weaver quoted to PLAYBILL, March 31, 2004.
Companions close complete companion listing
Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.Click here to contribute