Veteran actress Sigourney Weaver has made a name for herself playing strong and determined characters going back to the original “Alien” film from 1979, where she essentially played a modified version of the “final girl” in Ridley Scott’s artsy sci-fi take on the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” However, her ambitions to get behind the camera as a director seemingly were dashed by “incredible sexism” in Hollywood that she experienced first-hand as an actress trying to lead rather large studio films over multiple decades.
While speaking with The New York Times to promote her upcoming film “Call Jane,” Weaver explains why she never pursued directing as a profession. Something that peers like Jodie Foster eventually took on and has become more commonplace in the modern era.
“Whenever I used to go to Hollywood and have to deal with these different studio heads, I was never comfortable,” Weaver explained to the Times. “I always felt incredible sexism there and a kind of resentment that they had to listen to me because I did have this power and I was smart enough to put several sentences together…I used to think, ‘Oh, it would be fun to direct, but I don’t want to have to deal with those people.’”
You can’t really blame her for wanting to avoid the headaches, and she’s probably alluding to problems she had in the past with male producers. Weaver’s run-in with sexism at the studio level is nothing really new if you know the history. During her tenure as Ellen Ripley in the aforementioned “Alien” franchise, the studio and producers attempted to have Ripley replaced in early versions of both “Alien 3” and “Alien Resurrection.” Michael Biehn’s Corporal Dwayne Hicks was once considered for the main lead of “Alien 3” (before being killed off in the opening), and in early drafts, for ‘Resurrection’ they wanted to follow a clone of Newt in the fourth installment. The two attempts were meant as a hardball tactic to avoid paying Weaver’s equitable contract demands to reprise the beloved role (“Aliens” earned the actress a Best Actress Oscar nomination) and very much a reflection of studio sexism. At that time, she was largely an outlier in action, and most female characters in big blockbuster films were relegated to stereotypical tropes of the genre, like damsels in distress, and weren’t often given agency.
There have been three attempts to bring Ripley back, with the first “Alien 5” incarnation in the late 90s/early 2000s, with Ridley Scott and James Cameron teaming up. Still, the pitch was rejected to instead focus on a PG-13 crossover with Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Alien Vs. Predator.” More recent versions include the nearly made version from “District 9” director Neill Blomkamp and spec-script from longtime franchise screenwriter/executive producer Walter Hill that Disney passed on. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to speculate that some of the reasoning behind the cold feet to bring back Ripley could be attributed to ageism and sexism, given that plenty of older male actors are getting their own legacy sequels.
When it comes to significant tentpole work, Weaver is still collaborating with Cameron and takes a second role in the “Avatar” sequel playing Jake and Neytiri’s adopted Na’vi daughter Kiri after previously portraying the brassy scientist Dr. Grace Augustine in the original. There is an expectation we’ll be introduced to Kiri in “Avatar: The Way of Water” on December 16.