By Jessica Alexander
There is not a single word that can describe Sigourney Weaver. Even if you only focus on her persona, or the part of her that she is willing to bequeath to the rest of the world, you will still find yourself unable to isolate her characteristics. They play off each other, fanned out in differing shades, to be appreciated for the separateness and their unity all at once. She is enigmatic in the way that one could say Jodie Foster or Tilda Swinton is enigmatic. One cannot help but look past her obvious charms and beauties to that something — that special something that is uniquely palpable and lies beneath the visage that so many display to the public. She is a woman of multitudes, undefinable.
While she is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Ripley in the “Alien” series, Weaver has not allowed herself to be pigeonholed. She has embraced her role as a pioneer in feminist sci-fi while at the same time branching out into other genres, making her mark on everything from comedy to indie films to animation. She is both prolific and plucky — dipping her toes in many ponds where others may be wary to tread. That is probably why she is often found in unexpected places. For example, who would have expected Sigourney Weaver to be in “Baby Mama”? Or to turn up in the bowels of the Earth at the very end of “Cabin in the Woods”?
There is not a single word that can describe Sigourney Weaver. Even if you only focus on her persona, or the part of her that she is willing to bequeath to the rest of the world, you will still find yourself unable to isolate her characteristics.
Sigourney Weaver dives headfirst into roles that other actors of her caliber might foolishly deem themselves above, and that isn’t to her discredit. She has a knack for choosing films that have staying power. Who could imagine that the quirky and, at one time, potentially ill-advised “Galaxy Quest” would grow to achieve cult status? It is precisely the performances of actors like Weaver and Alan Rickman in such films that elevate them beyond a mere box office bonanza. The quality of those performances adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the final product, and it leaves a lasting impression on the audience.
It is no secret that Weaver is well-trained on paper, having studied alongside the likes of Meryl Streep at Yale University’s School of Drama in the seventies. However, she did not have the idolized experience that one might imagine. Rather, she was relegated to playing, in her own words, prostitutes and old women. Her talents at Yale were downplayed, wasted, and overlooked. Thankfully for us, Weaver didn’t let the bastards get her down for too long. She experienced a revival in off-Broadway theater. Free of the trappings of a professional drama school, she found herself getting back into the dirty, gritty, scrappy side of theater, reclaiming her roots. It was there, spinning along the edges of the fray, that she thrived.
It’s possible that had she flourished at Yale, she might have still had the same opportunities that she did. It’s possible that she would have become just as famous of an actress. But, it’s also possible that being passed over at Yale gave Weaver just enough of a chip on her shoulder to turn her into the tour de force that we see today — because if there’s one thing she has in spades now, it’s gumption, and gumption doesn’t come from having the road laid out easy for you. It comes from situations that require nerve and tenacity.
Thankfully for us, Sigourney Weaver never gave up, and her talents have more than proven themselves in the decades since her tenure at Yale. She has consistently been, and continues to be, a person who plays interesting people. When you see her name on the screen, you know, at the very least, that you will be seeing something of interest. Something that matters — that resonates — long after you leave the theater. That is the distinctive type of lasting impact that Weaver has on her audiences, which can be matched by no other. She is, at once, a figure of grace, beauty, and poise, as well as one of grit, determination, and nerve. She is, pardon my French, all that and a bag of chips.