In the comedy You Again, actress Sigourney Weaver plays Ramona, the highly successful, career-driven aunt of Joanna (Odette Yustman), who has flown in from Europe to attend her niece’s wedding festivities. When she arrives at the home of Joanna’s soon-to-be in-laws, Ramona quickly realizes that she and Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), the mother of the groom, attended the same high school 30 years ago. And, while Joanna is the high school arch nemesis of Marni (Kristen Bell), the groom’s sister, Ramona and Gail share a rivalry from their own high school years.
During a press conference at the film’s press day, Sigourney Weaver talked about working with Jamie Lee Curtis, rehearsing for the dance sequence in the film, and how the things that happen in high school really do affect you later on in your life. She also gave an update on her upcoming projects Abduction, Vamps, The Cold Light of Day, Avatar 2 and Ghostbusters 3. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Sigourney: Oh, without question. That’s so true, for men and women. We’re still trying to recover from whatever happened in high school, whether it was good or bad. It’s either a great base, or it’s still something we’re trying to overcome. I actually think the reason I am interested in certain parts is because I was such a dweeb in high school. When you are such a loser, it’s a helpful way in to a lot of characters because even very powerful people are not all that powerful really. They all had a high school. That vulnerability is completely permanent and, as an actor, it’s a good thing.
Did you have a nemesis in high school?
Sigourney: I was at an all girls school, so there were a lot of us who were really awkward. I was this tall when I was 11, so I was really awkward and self-conscious. No one would really have wanted to be mean to me. I was too unimportant. I still am in touch with several friends from high school. I don’t go to reunions much. I’m afraid that if I go back to the school, they’ll suddenly go, “You know what? We’ve checked the records and you still have one more French class. Get back in here.” It was a boarding school.
Do you have any crazy high school experiences that influenced your performance?
Sigourney: What happened to me in high school was not crazy, but it was funny. Because I was so tall, in the theater, I played all the men’s parts. I would also write the shows. In one show, I remember that I played Rudolph Valentino, and I came in on a motorcycle and did a whole Elvis thing, and I was chased by a girl. I kept saying, “I’m a girl! I’m a girl! Look, I’m a girl!” It was just funny. We had no boys to be in classes with, so it’s a funny story about how obsessed girls can get. I had to shake her and say, “It’s just me! It’s Weaver!,” and she went, “Oh, you’re right.”
Did you have to do much preparation for the dance scene in the film?
Sigourney: I actually rehearsed with Kyle [Bornheimer] a lot because we had that duet and neither of us knew anything about the samba. We really worked hard on it, and I hope that some of it is still in the film. We had so much fun doing it. That was a whole awesome sequence. Only in an Andy Fickman movie would you get that. We had to stand like A Chorus Line for two hours. He loves the theater and he loves musicals, so he’s really a showman, and we tried to up our game for him.
How long were you in the pool with Jamie Lee Curtis?
Sigourney: It actually went pretty quickly because we shot it at the very end. It was such a delight to work with her. She’s such an amazing woman. It was really fun to hate her because I really love her.
Had you known each other before?
Sigourney: We’d only met, and we’ve worked with a lot of the same people, in a lot of the same genres. It took a movie like You Again to put both of us in the same movie because we wouldn’t normally be. It would be one or the other.
Do you think this story could exist, if it were about men?
Sigourney: Yeah, I do, but I think it’s especially fun for women. Sorry men, but I think boys are a little more oblivious in high school. Girls are just more sensitive. We’re so concerned about how we look and how we’re doing. In my daughter’s school, I feel like boys find their niche and just go along, whereas girls try to move niches and attract boys. All of our nerve endings are much more on high. No one feels normal – girls or boys – but I think it’s particularly hard for girls. I just think that it’s more complicated for girls. I watched Freaks and Geeks and I think it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.
Sigourney: I had to fight for that. I think the scarves she wore were fun. She wants to look so breezy, but she’s not. All the jewelry and accessories were fun. I am a person who goes out without a purse. I put things in my coat pockets, so I don’t have any accessories, and she’s nothing but accessories, and I just loved having all that stuff.
There’s a lot in this story about integrity and self-sacrifice. Why do you think that’s so important?
Sigourney: I think that’s what gives the movie its very sincere base. Ultimately, for us to carry on, we have to take a cold, hard look at where we are and what lies we tell ourselves about who we are, what we were and where we’re going. Every person in the story, instead of trying to come across a certain way, just needs to take the blindfold off and really look at themselves and ask, “Are you who you want to be? Is this true? Is this real?” One of the things that was cool about the way we shot the movie was that, by the end, Jamie Lee’s character and mine realize that what we really miss and what we’re really given up is the friendship we had. We get to reinvent that as women, and it’s very meaningful to us.
What was it like to work with Kristen Bell and Odette Yustman? Did you take them in and show them the ropes?
Sigourney: I don’t think we needed to show those girls anything. Kristen is such a consummate performer. She’s got incredible timing. I think she’s just one of our great young stars. She’s such a terrific person to act with. She and Odette worked so beautifully together. Kristen went out of her way to make Odette feel completely at home. It was an amazing ensemble. To work with Betty White was amazing. She was 87, and I just had so much respect for her professionalism, her joy in life and her generosity. Her chops are serious.
What do you think it is that’s made everyone love Betty White so much?
Sigourney: I think it probably started with The Proposal, but I think she’s just been Betty this whole time and we’ve finally woken up to how precious she is. She’s an American treasure. She represents decades of the business, from when my father was working in live television. She hasn’t missed a step. She’s a great icon to me.
Was there anything in this film that was particularly challenging for you?
Sigourney: No. What was fun was that Andy really encouraged us to go forward and improvise. I had great fun with Ramona being just awful enough and being pleased with herself. Also, I got to work with Victor Garber again. Our first jobs on camera for PBS were The Best of Families, which was produced by Ethel Winant, who was an amazing producer. There were a lot of people who have since become quite well known, but Victor and I hadn’t worked together since then, and we just glommed onto each other. We’re both New York actors, and I missed him.
Sigourney: What’s next is that I do Vamps with Amy Heckerling, where I play this awful, wonderful vampire in a comedy. And then, I’m going to do this action film over in Spain, called The Cold Light of Day. Then, I hope I’m going to do this comedy with Kate Beckinsale. That’s a wonderful part for me.
Is there an Avatar 2 in your future?
Sigourney: Well, I’m not at liberty to talk about it, but anything can happen in science fiction.
What about Ghostbusters 3?
Sigourney: Apparently, that’s happening. I got a call from Ivan [Reitman] and they’re working on the script. If it’s not a great script, we’re not going to do it, but we hope it will be a great script.
How was Taylor Lautner to work with in Abduction?
Sigourney: He was awesome. He was great. He’s doing a wonderful job.
With so many different types of films, is the approach always the same for you, or is it a different frame of mind for each?
Sigourney: It’s not the same, but every film teaches you how to do it. It’s like Top Chef. Every film puts certain ingredients bubbling inside of you that are unique to that film, but you still cook them. That’s the same, but the ingredients are always unique.
What do you think about Ridley Scott doing an Alien prequel?
Sigourney: Actually, when I talked to Ridley awhile ago – and he probably had the idea too – I said, “You’ve got to go back to where that space jockey came from.” To go there is really the movie. I’m glad he’s doing it.
Would you want to be a part of it?
Sigourney: No, I don’t think so. I think my Alien days are over. My Avatar days are beginning.
What do you look for, when you’re looking for roles now?
Sigourney: I don’t know. My daughter is now at college, so I have more time. I have to say that I love going from a drama to a comedy. I love mixing it up, genre wise. And, I love coming in for a small part. It’s very interesting for me. I think small parts are harder than the leading parts. You’ve got to really dial it in. I’m also part of a theater in New York called The Flea, where we have a lot of actors come through who are awesome and who are equals with us. We don’t say, “Oh, we’re training you now.” We’re all part of the same company. I had so many wonderful mentors when I came into the business – people like Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy – and I feel like we older actors now are in that position to hand that baton over. It’s a worthwhile thing. As you get older, mentoring is where it’s at. Not that Taylor Lautner needed me to mentor him, but your presence on the set sends the message that this career is a long-term thing, and work is progressive and you can build on it. It’s part of the great tradition of the theater, to me.
So often, you take a role for a man and turn it into something to suit you. Haven’t people figured out that they should just write roles for you?
Sigourney: It’s so true! I don’t mind that. In the Spanish movie I’m doing, I’m in a man’s suit and I’m wearing what look like men’s shoes. It’s interesting.