Our ALIENS screening is today, Wednesday December 8th. We have been counting down the 5 reasons we love James Cameron’s movie. And here it is – the the Number 1 reason we love ALIENS is …Sigourney Weaver.
Weaver was the last actor cast in Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (1979). She didn’t have the same level of screen experience as her co-stars. She was a theatre-trained actress with a handful of television credits and a fleeting appearance in Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL (1977) under her belt. In preparation for ALIEN Ridley Scott rehearsed extensively with Weaver to create the character of Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley.
Weaver was tall from age of 13. Eventually she grew to be 5 foot 11 inches (180cm) in height, which meant she was difficult to cast. Yet in ALIEN her unusual physical presence on screen was part of what made Ripley so compelling to watch. Not a damsel in distress or ingénue about to sprain her ankle, Ripley felt tough and capable, but Weaver’s thin frame also made you wonder whether Ripley could survive an attack from the mostly unseen alien who was feeding on her crewmates one by one.
The charcater of Ripley returned in the sequel. Weaver once again brought that combination of vulnerability and strength to the character and gave audiences a portrait of a haunted woman who needed to defeat her inner fears by destroying actual monsters.
Producer Gale Anne Hurd and director James Cameron had redefined her character with a feminist subtext for anyone who wanted to find it. Even in 1986 a female hero in an action film was uncommon in Western cinema. Women were mothers, wives, girlfriends, victims, nurses, prostitutes and occasionally the sidekick in Hollywood action films, but never the one who kicks ass and takes names. This territory belonged to Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis.
In ALIENS Ripley reluctantly revisits the planetoid from the original film to hunt and destroy the aliens who killed her fellow crewmembers from the Nostromo. So she has the same agenda as many a male action hero – take out the bad guys, but Cameron then reveals the long-dormant maternal side of Ripley. She becomes a mother fighting another mother, but the fight is played out in a science fictional world of armour, ammo and acid for blood. This brilliant blending of the new and the familiar made ALIENS a blockbuster.
Weaver returned for a further two sequels, ALIEN 3 and ALIEN RESURRECTION. Whatever one thinks of these – ALIEN 3 has a hardcore of supporters and almost no one likes the fourth film – Sigourney Weaver created an iconic movie character that audiences have found fascinating for the last thirty years.
See ALIENS at our special AccessReel Members’ Screening on Wednesday December 8th. Click here for details.