He landed the role of a lifetime thanks to the secretaries of the studio head and became an action icon with The Alien

Ellen Ripley is a legend.

Even before Sarah Connor showed the “strong woman” in “Terminator 2”, the character of Sigourney Weaver in “Alien” (Alien, 1979) made a small revolution, being a female character with a central role in that production.

And indeed, the plan was very different: Ripley was a man in the original scenario, where people aboard a spaceship faced an unknown and deadly threat.

“But the writers decided that it would be very appropriate to choose a woman as the sole survivor. Nobody could have predicted her,” recalled Weaver decades later.

And really, hardly anyone expected Ripley to be that important, because the image is a 28-year-old stage actress, who for the first time gets a starring role on the big screen. “Miss Nobody”, as Weaver has called herself since the late 1970s.

But a successful role changes that and becomes the basis for a successful career. A career that blossomed with a role in a major science fiction film, and reached another in a new era for the genre, when Weaver again worked with his old acquaintance James Cameron on his Avatar series.

“I never thought I’d be an actress,” admits Sigourney. The reason for this is none other than her height.

Only at the age of 11 she was already 179 cm tall and towered over her mother and most of her acquaintances. “I felt like a giant spider. I was never sure I could play,” she explains.

His mother – British – even dreamed that one day her daughter would marry Prince Charles. “She will never choose me! I’m American”, retorted Sigourney … who didn’t even define herself that at the time. She actually she was born with the name Susan. She changed it to Sigourney when she was 13, inspired by the novel “The Great Gatsby”.

She graduated in English from university and is considering becoming a teacher or journalist. Later, however, she started acting and her friends began hiring her for their shows in New York. It took her two years to realize that she was an actress and that she could really make a living doing this, even to the surprise of her own parents.

However, when the offer for “The Alien” arrives, he doesn’t want to participate.

She showed up at a meeting with director Ridley Scott in the “highest heels” ever (Weaver’s maximum height is just over 180cm) and told him she didn’t like the script. However, when Scott shows her production plans – such as alien egg drawings, for example – she is struck that they have nothing in common with any other film she has seen.

Scott is so excited for her to play the role that he builds a set specifically for her camera test. According to her, he fought for her to get the role of her because the studio didn’t want an unknown actress. Eventually, some unfamiliar women turn out to be the deciding factor.

“The Fox boss was watching my tests on camera in his office, he turned to his secretaries and said, ‘What do you think? Do you like it?” And they said, “We like it, we think it’s great.” They made me win the role. Thanks, girls! ”Says Weaver.

And there is a reason. The role of Ripley not only opened the doors of Hollywood to the actress, but also influenced the entire film industry.

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Photo: Getty Images

James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver – a partnership that will deliver results 40 years after “Aliens”.

Seven years later, Weaver played Ripley again, this time in the sequel The Aliens (1986), written and directed by James Cameron, and the meeting between actress and director would bear fruit decades later. Weaver reminded The Associated Press how impressed she was with the script and how Cameron knew more about her character than she did.

“We’ve redefined what power is,” says the director of what he and Weaver have accomplished with “Aliens”. “It wasn’t just about kicking ass physically, it was about having emotional strength. It’s not about being strong and fearless, it’s about what you do in the face of fear. That’s what this movie is about.”

Weaver also received her first Oscar nomination for her performance in The Aliens.

She entered the role for two other sequels and to this day is mostly associated with her. And it can’t be otherwise – Ripley really changes the concept of a woman on screen. She is no longer helpless and in need of saving, but she has power and can be the main face of an expensive production.

Over the years, various actresses have claimed that this performance inspired them. Jennifer Lawrence said she based her character Katniss from The Hunger Games on Ripley, and Charlize Therons credits Weaver’s work with inspiration for her role in Atomic Blonde.

“I’m flattered when the actresses tell Ripley that she was important to them. I think it was a really new idea at the time to have a woman as a character,” she tells EW.

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Weaver in 2020

Photo: Getty Images

Weaver in 2020

Decades after becoming the face of that sci-fi franchise, Weaver has found a place in another. He landed a role in “Avatar” (2009), the ambitious project from “Aliens” director James Cameron.

The film, which looks at the relationship between humanity and aliens from a very different perspective, became the highest-grossing production in film history and is at the heart of the 3D revolution in Hollywood.

And while her character died in the original film, Cameron found work for Weaver in the planned sequels as well. After “Avatar” returns to theaters in the fall of 2022, the sequel, “Avatar 2: The Path of Water,” will arrive in December of that year and three more films are on the horizon.

Acting in such a film is a challenge for Weaver, who is now over 70. Together with his younger colleagues, he has to carry out numerous exercises to meet the demands of the demanding director.

With the help of instructor Kirk Crack, who also trains seals, he manages to reach an impressive figure for his age. Including holding your breath for six and a half minutes.

“I like working with young people because I learn a lot from them. And I like doing things my way. I’m always on time. It’s important that older actors always show that they’re prepared. And I get great roles,” says the actress. on the current stage of his career.

“I’ve never been the girl or the beautiful naive or the love interest [на главния герой], because I was too tall. So I’ve always played interesting people and this continues. It’s not like I suddenly have to realize who I am. “

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