On Tuesday, April 26th, more than 1,000 film fans came out to The Town Hall theater in NYC to celebrate Alien Day with a screening of James Cameron’s Aliens and a Q&A conversation with Sigourney Weaver. The audience erupted in applause when the slimy Burke was devoured by the titular creature, they laughed together when Private Vasquez made a jab at Hudson’s sexuality, and they cheered “Ripley!” when Weaver’s character emerged in the Caterpillar P-5000 Power Loader and made her iconic exclamation: “Get away from her, you bitch!”
The love shown for the film nearly 30 years after it hit theaters in July of 1986 proves that it’s one of the great works of science-fiction — and cinema.
By Weaver’s own admission, it’s been “quite a while” since she’s seen Aliens, but she rectified that on Tuesday when she watched along with the fans. “It’s so much fun seeing it in a proper theater instead of a TV screen, so I’m glad I waited,” she said. “It was worth the wait.” However, there’s one film that shares the Alien name that she hasn’t seen at all and probably never will. During the Q&A, Weaver said she didn’t watch Alien vs. Predator because she “heard that the Alien doesn’t beat the Predator, and I was like, ‘Fuck that!’”
Looking back on the films, including the first Alien she did with director Ridley Scott, she said she has “more and more respect” for science-fiction. In addition to Ripley, Weaver played Dana Barrett in Ghostbusters I and 2, Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest, Dr. Grace Augustine in Avatar, Michelle Bradley in Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie, and even voiced the Planet Express ship in Futurama. “It’s one of the few spaces in the business where you can actually tell a really original story,” she said. “I don’t think it gets any respect in the business…I feel like critics don’t understand these movies.” Referring to what we’re seeing from the genre now, she called it “an exploration of what it means to be human” and “what happens when you don’t take care of climate change.”
After starring in Scott’s Alien, she felt shocked when the idea of a sequel was proposed. “The script was so amazing to read because I had no warning that there even was another movie,” she said, adding that “from the very first moment, the way it set up the characters, it’s just non-stop action and that’s in the script — minus the music and the sound effects. All of that adrenaline is in the script and it just blew me away.”
One of Weaver’s favorite scenes to shoot in the film was the face-off between Ripley and the Queen — or as she put it, a battle between “two mothers.” She said:
It was a little dizzying to shoot because I had so much responsibility because I had, like, three guns at that point, and real stuntmen hanging around and I had dummies hanging around. I had to make sure that I flamed the dummies, shot the blanks, the stunt guys, and then bazooka, or whatever it is. It was very cathartic for someone who had been working for gun control.
Weaver continued to express her gratitude “to have a role where I could get the job done without being in a skimpy little costume.” She later explained that Cameron “loves women, he loves women as they are. the whole gorgeous natural woman, and he has such a great record of creating these amazing parts. For me I would’ve never wanted to go there. I don’t want to horrify the audience. I’m sure I wore I little makeup. It has to be real and you wouldn’t be thinking about any of those things.” She added, “None of [the directors she’s worked with] would ever say, ‘That would be more attractive if you did it this way,’ or something. No one has ever said that to me, and I don’t think I’d take it well.”
It took a little longer for the crew of Aliens to warm up to Cameron. Weaver explained, they were loyal to Scott and his vision from the first film, and acted like, “What the fuck is this Canadian guy walking in the footsteps of the great Ridley Scott?” To the director’s disdain, she said one of the crewmen kept calling him “Governor.” Finally, Cameron set up a screening of Terminator to prove his might to his team, but “they never went,” Weaver said. “It took them 2-3 weeks for them to realize.”
The biggest difference between Cameron and Scott, for Weaver, was that the latter operated the camera himself with director of photography Derek Vanlint and offered a lot more opportunities for improv. “[Ridley] really looks for the truth,” she said. “He looks for something very visceral.” Cameron was sort of the opposite, perhaps because he also wrote the Aliens script, but Weaver said he “really likes working with actors.”
Now, Weaver is adding Blomkamp into the mix. The South African director behind District 9 and Elysium is working on an Alien sequel, and he released concept art featuring Ripley and a grown-up version of Newt. Whatever the project ends up being, we won’t see it until after Prometheus 2, “or whatever it’s being called now,” Weaver said. Though the actress couldn’t reveal too much about the project, she teased:
No one dared to do a sequel to Aliens. It’s so impossible to top, and yet this has a very different world to it, and it’s very compelling, and I’m very excited about it.
After calling actor Michael Biehn “such a great guy,” Weaver said, “In Neill Blomkamp’s sequel, you see a lot more of them together,” referring to Ripley and Corporal Hicks. If you’re also wondering what happened to Jonesy, the cat, she said, “I think I got him a good home. Maybe one of my cell mates on that nasty corridor.”