Sigourney Weaver Talks the Longevity of the ALIEN Franchise, Her Initial Trepidations to Play Ripley, and Whether She Would Return for a New ALIEN Sequel

     June 2, 2014


The Alien film franchise stands out in stark contrast from the majority of horror series, which tend to extol their iconic villain over their more bland heroes.  For Friday the 13th, nobody cares for the anonymous teens, all sympathy and audience-support ultimately sides with mass-murderer Jason Voorhees.  The same is similarly true for Nightmare on Elm Street (Freddy Krueger), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Leatherface), Saw (Jigsaw) and Halloween (Mike Myers).  The Alien Quadrilogy is one of the rare exceptions – a horror franchise where the iconic character isn’t the villain but the hero.  Ellen Ripley, seemingly the doomed third-lead of Alien, emerges as the de-facto hero of that picture.  Over the course of the three following sequels, Ripley would become a potent female action icon, a doomed tragic heroine and ultimately an existential anti-hero.  In the capable hands of Sigourney Weaver, Ripley’s four-film arc though feels of one piece.  She quite simply is the glue that keeps the Alien franchise together.

Last night, The Hero Complex Film Festival honored Ellen Ripley and the actress who plays her with a double feature of Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens.  After the screening, Sigourney Weaver herself was on hand to discuss the enduring popularity of Alien, the iconography of Ripley and whether the character will ever grace the big screen again.  For highlights from the Q&A, hit the jump.

sigourney-weaver-alien-sequelWeaver on the enduring longevity of Alien:

I don’t think I could have imagined it.  I felt at the time that it was going to be visually very stunning and that I had never seen a world that looked like that.  I felt the atmosphere Ridley Scott was creating was incredibly real and unsettling; but I don’t think I could have predicted our little movie — and it felt like a little spooky movie — would have such legs.

One of the reasons it has lived on is that unfortunately we have a lot of corporations characterized by the same kind of greed [depicted in the film].  This whole idea of ‘crew expendable’ is unfortunately an idea that is very alive in our world.  So there are certain things culturally that I think have kept it relevant.  A lot of it is just Ridley Scott though.  The way he shot the movie, the way he created a space environment that was so real to us.  A working place, a place where people gripe about wages and shares — a place we could all relate to.  And just the way the story is told.  Reading the script — it was a decent script but I had no idea what it would become when I finally saw it on screen.

Weaver on her early trepidations to star in the film as Ripley:

I [had trepidations] because I hadn’t seen the designs.  If you just read the script.  It’s basically just ‘Ten Little Indians’ and the monster is just — some monster.  I pictured this big blob of yellow gel rumbling around.  At the first meeting with Ridley, he pulled out all these beautiful big drawings H.R. Giger had done.  He’s one of the main reasons we’re still here talking about this film.  Giger’s designs are so uniquely disturbing and Carlo Rambaldi’s vision of the Alien — I wanted to be part of whatever that was because I had never seen anything like that on the screen before.  It took me awhile to warm up to the rest of it — the character and everything. I just had to get to know [Ripley] better.

sigourney-weaver-aliensWeaver on the Iconography of Ripley as a feminist figure:

[Everyone on the film] wanted to make Ripley a really strong character.  They didn’t decide though to make a young woman the survivor because of any feminist philosophy.  They thought nobody would ever think that this girl would end up as the survivor.  So they basically did it as a plot twist.

…[Although] whenever I tap into Ripley — it’s hard to describe — but I feel like I’m a little human soul.  When I tap into Ripley, because of the writers who have created her, there’s just so much story to tell and she holds that story for me.  I’m the vessel and I can feel that people have a connection with her because of her moral compass and because somehow she’s so consistent.  She can’t help but want to preserve humanity…  I think that’s something that just reaches out to people.  That she’s someone you could count on when you’re in a jam.  She has some sort of steel thread running through her that’s not going to give up that I find, as an audience member, very interesting.

Weaver on shooting the ‘dinner’ scene with John Hurt:

We all read the script. We knew something was going to come out of John Hurt’s chest. He had a line that said ‘Oh my GGGGGOOOODDDD’. It was pretty big on the page. We all knew what happened. We get down to set and everyone is wearing a poncho. [Writers] Dan O’ Bannon and Ronald Schusett, who were around the whole time, were over in the corner [giggling away] like it was Christmas morning. But none of that tipped it off to me. It wasn’t until we actually started. We didn’t rehearse. Ridley wasn’t in favor of rehearsing even when there were special effects involved. So we started to have that casual conversation about breakfast and what we’re going to do and what we’re going to eat when we get home and then John Hurt just started coughing and I completely forgot we were making a movie. I thought he was choking and when his chest filled with blood, we were all just stunned. It was so real to us and he was so convincing. That was the first take and then without any time at all — the second take — they must have changed something in him quickly, some sort of piece but there was no big setup and then suddenly this thing burst out of his chest, stood on the table and flew off. There’s a master of everyone [looking stunned] — they’re using the master because that’s exactly how [we felt]. We couldn’t believe what we had just seen. I still to this day having been in movies where special effects play a crucial part, I can’t believe that a couple of guys got under the table with a few rubber tubes and made that happen.

sigourney-weaver-aliens-1Weaver on the origins of Aliens:

I don’t think anyone ever planned on making another [Alien]. I’ve never actually talked to Jim Cameron about this but I know that the producers David Giler and Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll said that they were actually interviewing Jim for something else and Jim [told them] I’ve written a script for [another] Alien. So they read it and flipped. I was in France making a movie with Gerard Depardieu and I received this incredible script with my character on every single page.

[Aliens] is an amazing piece of work. Whatever was nurtured in Alien becomes this huge canvas [for] these primal emotions and huge action sequences. The character of Ripley went from a girl who keeps her wits about her and survives to this very complex character –- sort of an ‘everyman’. You know as soon as the door opens in the beginning and you see [Ripley] lying there and and then these guys come in and they take one look at her and say ‘She’s alive. There goes our salvage.’ You kind of go ‘Oh shit. What kind of world is she going to be in now.’ It’s sets her up as an existential hero who has lived beyond her time, who’s an outcast. I found it remarkable that Jim was so inspired by the first one that he would write this very complex and rich character.

Weaver on her reaction to receiving an Oscar nomination for her work in Aliens:

I was thrilled. I was in prep for Gorillas in the Mist and I remember that day I was having a big meeting with the producers who wanted me to work with domesticated chimps in anticipation of my role as Dian Fossey. After the news of my nomination came through, I remember saying to them I don’t really want to work with domesticated chimpanzees. I don’t think that will help me at all with working with Dian’s real wild gorillas. After I got the nomination, they started to listen to me more carefully…

But I guess I was still surprised. I was very flattered. It’s a genre that doesn’t get enough respect and I feel these movies are not easy to do well. It’s taken awhile for this to happen but I think science fiction is becoming more and more popular because we are actually in a world more and more like the worlds in science fiction. Our glaciers are melting and people are talking about colonizing Mars — so I think that not only will it become a very popular and beloved genre but also increasingly significant.

alien-5-sigourney_weaverWeaver on what the future holds for Ripley and the Alien franchise:

I feel after going to a couple of these Comic Cons and meeting so many fans who are so passionate about the series, passionate about Ripley — that there’s more story to tell; but I don’t know how to do that. I don’t think Alien belongs on Earth popping out of a haystack, which is where I was afraid it was going to go. I feel it should take place in the far reaches of the universe where no one in their right mind would go. There are very few filmmakers that I can think of that I would want to entrust this to. But I can think of a couple… I feel there’s a longing in certain groups of fans when I meet them for the story to be finished because we really left it up in the air and I feel a bit badly about that because I was part of that decision making process. I didn’t want to make four and five in a bundle. I think it’s hard to make these films all in a big lump. You need time to sort of let things resonate so I can imagine a situation where we could at least finish telling her story. I think that would be very satisfying at least to me — although I haven’t done anything about it; but I can understand why that could happen and I certainly know young filmmakers who are interested in doing that. So we’ll just have to see what happens.


Around The Web
  • The Flobbit

    Cinema has never been so gripping as when Ellen Ripley taped a flamethrower to a machine gun and stalked an alien planet for a Xenomorph.

    Great actress, great character.

    • Today

      I want her back. I want her back for at least two more Alien films.
      And I am not alone.
      So Sigourney, please, do something about it!
      Plus, I can imagine a ‘clever’ movie where the characters of Alien and Prometheus meet. We know from the Colonial Marines game that Hicks does not die in the story – it is official from Fox. A good script would be able to collect Ripley, Hicks and Shaw in one movie after the events of Alien 4. Just use cryo sleep chambers… Jesus, it would be fantastic.

      • Norman Dostal

        The movie is considered canon (the games are not) and Hicks indeed died on film. Nothing is official from Fox.

      • Today

        You are wrong.

        Aliens: CM is canon, and it is not my dream.

        Ridley Scott himself took part in the story creation of the game.

        And it was announced by Fox that Colonial Marines is canon.

        And… you DON’t SEE Hicks’ death in the movies.

        Ripley is told in A3 that Hicks is dead and you see some flash images showing the pod inside with the dead bodies but Ripley can’t check Hicks’ body.

        And here is the explanation:

      • crystaltowers

        I really wish Prometheus had never been made, and same goes for Alien: Resurrection.

        The former has ruined the mystery and mystique behind the origin of the space jockey and the aliens, by delivering a “midichlorian” style explanation that it was all just bio-weapons chemistry by some pre-humans who sometimes wear exo-skeletons that make them look like other creatures. That is NOT what Giger was thinking when he created the first space jockey creature out of his own dark imagination.

        The latter was simply a French cartoon-gore farce that ruined Ripley’s character by making her unsympathetic. And which ended with the worst scene in any Alien franchise film to date – a half human potato-turd crying out for “mommy” while being sucked through a pinhole.

        If there’s to be another film with Ripley, it ought to dismiss everything except Alien, Aliens and Alien 3.

  • Daniel Ronczkowski

    I always felt she had an unfortunate looking face.

    • CJ

      You’re out of your mind.

      She’s always been stunning, a few unfortunate hairstyle aside…

    • aceshigh

      Yeah, okay, George Clooney.

    • Tritium3H

      WTF? One of the most classically beautiful actresses of all time. Did you see Ghostbusters? The Year of Living Dangerously? Galaxy Quest?
      I think you need your eyes examined…with all respect.

    • joeq

      You made the mistake of putting your picture next to your name. And if ANYONE has an unfortunate looking face, its you, just ask your mother.
      I’m telling you — your mirror is telling you lies. A refection like yours would not beg to be bragged about. And someone like you should NOT be talking about a classy, beautiful lady like Ms. Weaver.

      • Daniel Ronczkowski

        I have no idea what you are talking about…

  • Andrew Sanders

    I kinda wish they finished it with Alien 3,…I know it’s a bleak way to end Ripleys story but Resurrection was really,really bad!

    • Johnson

      That’s your oppinion.

      • ThisGuy01

        Resurrection is a fun black comedy.
        (If you can’t tell from my avatar I rather like the film)

    • Lovecraftlives

      The first half of Resurrection was ok, but yea, the second part was pretty bad. People come down on Prometheus, but that is light years better than Resurrection.

      • Suchet B

        No way is Resurrection worse than Prometheus – Jean Pier is a very stylish director and there was humour in it – but compare the climax of Resurrection to lame ending of Prometheus and you realise that Prometheus was PG13ed to death. Even the basketball scene in Resurrection is more exciting than anything in Prometheus which was not terrible but full of logic errors and zero thrills. Resurrection at least had the balls to know it’s a B-Movie science fiction with a lot of fun elements to it. PROMETHEUS was fun for all the wrong reasons.

    • lord jim

      it was bad in a very creative way and a lot more entertaining than prometheus.

      • Lovecraftlives

        Bullshit. Alien 4 sucks big time. The best thing about Alien Resurrection is the making of segments that are way better than the film itself on the Alien Anthology blu ray set. It makes it seem that you’re getting a better film than you actually get. You guys are way off base. Prometheus is 1,000 times better than Resurrection!

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  • Grendal Sven

    Taking bets now.

    They will find some way to write her Ripley character into the next Prometheus.

    • Farrell

      I dont think there’s a way to do that without it seeming forced and silly. Prometheus takes place 30 years before Alien. Ripley would either be a very small baby or not even born.

      • yrulaughing418

        How about time dilation or something.

        Maybe Shaw and David enter cryo-sleep when they leave the planet at the end of Prometheus and it takes decades for them to reach their destination

      • Farrell

        You’d have to create a new timeline since we’ve seen everything thats hapened to non-cloned Ripley already. But that would render her old struggles with the alien meaningless. But I guess anything for a buck.

      • yrulaughing418

        They could easily do that. Plenty of Aliens expanded universe stories just disregard Alien 3 and Resurrection and continue where Aliens left off, in their own way

      • Farrell

        That’s fine for print stories because there are so many of them and they don’t make hundreds of millions like movies do. But for movies they have to remain consistent. What if Fox releases a new box set of all the Alien movies and the new alien suddenly acts as if Alien 3 and Resurrection don’t exist? It might confuse and turn off potential customers. There is too much money at stake for them act as if they never happened. You can get away with that stuff in print because it’s a different medium…but from film to film, it has to have some consistency. The only way I see this being possible is them making an Alien sequel to Resurrection with clone Ripley separate from the Prometheus flicks.

  • Jack le Critic

    Need some time manipulating / wormhole story so we can take off from Aliens and give the series the conclusion t deserves – a final battle…not against the Xeno’s… but Weyland!! :)

    • Farrell

      How would you explain Ripley looking much older?

      • Jack le Critic

        are you a screenwriter fishing for ideas? lol

  • ThisGuy01

    Give us one last story of Ripley in Alien 5 & I’d be a happy camper.

    • Lovecraftlives

      Tie that in with Prometheus 2?

      • Today

        I think they should make and ‘independent’ Prometheus 2 where the origins of the ship from Alien is revealed.
        And after it they should write a good story in which Shaw (and David)has/have to escape in a pod spending 200 years in outer space finally meeting and helping Ripley in some good action scenes.

      • Lovecraftlives

        Sounds good! Who knows, but that could be the direction that might be going with the second Prometheus film.

      • Today

        It would be awesome.
        I have just realized that 200 years wuldn’t be enough. :)
        Prometheus – 2094 January 1st (at the end of the movie)
        Alien is around 2122
        Aliens happens in 2179 (and Alien 3)
        Alien 4 – plus 200 years (around 2380)
        So Shaw should sleep 300 years. :)

      • Batt Damon

        The plot of Prometheus 2 will take place simultaneous to Aliens as Shaw stops David from acquiring the space almanac to correct the timeline.

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  • aceshigh

    Alien is still, for me, the scariest film I’ve ever seen. It’s seared into my subconscious to the point where I still have intense Alien-related nightmare once or twice a year.

  • God’s Diamond

    I love the Sigourney Weaver skit in snl when she is very naive and acts so offended at all the Internet comments about avatar.

    • Old Soldier

      Or how about the Aliens skit when she hosted back in the ’80s where they shoot E.T. and she starts stripping then someone says: “Stop, we already saw you in your underwear.”
      “Oh, sorry.”

  • Old Soldier

    This is one of the few franchises I wish they would reboot after Aliens and make it so those POS sequels Alien3 and Resurrection never happened.

    “Whaaaa….but it’s Fincher!”

    • Strong Enough

      “Whaaaa….but it’s Fincher!”

  • Colin Christian

    A supremely class act.She is the definition of female empowering cinema,a badass without losing her female qualities,Sigourney will forever,rock.

  • Ted

    What if David and the girl with the dragon tattoo find an old Ripley who traveled back in time to destroy all the xenomorphs?

    • Batt Damon

      In a delorean?

  • Gorewhoreaust

    WOW!. Sigourney is so amazingly respectful of her fans and the fans of her work. Many other stars could take a lesson from the wonderful Ms. Weaver on being gracious and humble.

  • NotePad

    It would be kinda cool to see her back in a new Alien sequel, but I really like where things are going with Prometheus. Prometheus is fresh and exciting, whereas a new Alien sequel centered around Ripley sounds stale. With Alien3 they should have used one of the scripts that wasn`t about Ripley. There`s so much you can do in that universe if it`s not bogged down by being The Tales of Ripley vs. The Alien!

    So a new Alien film taking place after Resurrection isn`t a bad idea, but it would have to be very fresh and not involve Ripley. But right now I`m waiting for Prometheus 2.

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  • Geoff Trowbridge

    Ugh… I loathe the word “quadrilogy.” It’s a fabricated mashup of a Latin prefix and a Greek suffix. The correct term is “tetralogy.”

  • brett

    I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Sigoney Weaver’s work — not only in Alien/Aliens (I disregard everything that came after Aliens) but in every single role she tackles. Incredibly powerful, moving actress — COPYCAT, GORILLAS IN THE MIST,WORKING GIRL-PRAYERS FOR BOBBY(WOW!!!!). She just rocks every movie she’s in. Except Avatar, with no disrepect to Ms. Weaver, I just didn’t like the flick.
    In fact, this past weekend, I had a marathon — Prometheius, Alien and Aliens back to back and her work in Alien/Aliens is still powerful after all this time.
    Would ONLY see another Alien movie if Ms. Weaver was in it and it disregarded all the other crappy Alien sequels that came after Cameron’s work of brilliance.

  • Matt Hardwick

    People seem to be forgetting that she’s 64 years old! She’s far too old to play Ripley anymore.

    • Ant

      She could make cameos like not fighting!

    • Batt Damon

      No way, she can still do it. I can’t wait for Alien 5 where she teems up with Indiana Jones to fight aliens and hide in refrigerators.

  • Ant

    No more!

    • Batt Damon

      C’mon, it can’t be as bad as Resurrection or Prometheus

      • Ant

        You forgot AvP series. :P

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  • tarek

    My suggestion is to erase Alien three and start again from the scratch. Even though I liked it for its dark approach. But it didn’t left much of a story to tell.
    This or stop bugging us with a sequel. I don’t need to watch a new zombie like Ripley adventure.

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