Sigourney Weaver, her friendship with James Cameron it didn’t actually start on Aliens, the 1986 film was directed by Cameron. It started after that. “He was pretty serious most of the time. He rode it a lot. England was about Ridley Scott (director of the original) doing another one,” recalls Weaver. “Only when we got to the film festival in Venice, where aliens were part of some program. Then we were at dinner and I was listening to Jim and I said, “Wait a minute.” are you funny Where was this person all these difficult months?'”
That their first film—as prolific as the final product—wasn’t the smoothest experience may have been due in part to Cameron’s unconventional wooing of Weaver. When she hesitated to return as Ripley in the sequel, Cameron approached Arnold Schwarzenegger’s agent, who also represented Weaver, with the idea of having Schwarzenegger take over the film series. It was the way word had once filtered to her about how to talk Weaver into signing up. The gambit worked.
“The first few weeks on Aliens were a little rough, testing each other,” says Cameron. “After that we were fast friends forever.
This long-standing friendship and collaboration will reach an unlikely peak Avatar: The Way of the Water, Cameron’s long-awaited ocean opus. Although Weaver starred in Cameron’s original 2009 Avatar, her character, Dr. Grace Augustine, was shot and killed at the end of the film. In 2010, as Cameron drew up plans for four more Avatar films, he met with Weaver to pitch a new idea for her to be reborn on Pandora.
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Weaver will return in an entirely new role: Kiri, the 14-year-old biological daughter of Grace’s avatar. In the film, which opens in theaters on December 16, Weaver plays a Na’vi character adopted by Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). It’s not easy to break down the logic. What exactly are the reproductive powers of avatars?
“I had to jump through a few hoops to get her in this movie. Not that she was reluctant, but in terms of narrative logic,” says Cameron. “Okay, she’s the daughter of Grace Augustine’s avatar, you know what I mean?” So of course she looks like Grace. Makes sense, right? By the way, you must be 14.”
But the bottom line of Cameron’s narrative logic is simple enough: Sigourney Weaver is back in the Avatar fold. Not only that, but thanks to performance capture, she plays a wide-eyed teenage Na’vi who looks a bit like the alien Winona Ryder. As Weaver likes to say, in science fiction, “Anything is possible.”
“I know no one but Jim would have cast me as a 14-year-old. Like he said, people think I’m serious and strong and all that stuff. He knows it’s just malaria,” Weaver says with a smile. “He said, ‘This will be easy for you.’
It took a little more work than Cameron anticipated. Like the rest of the cast, Weaver trained for the underwater capture by learning how to hold her breath underwater for six minutes while filming the extensive underwater scenes. “Six and a half,” Weaver corrects. Getting back into a teenager’s headspace also required some immersion. She spent time in high schools, she says. “I needed time to reveal my 14-year-old self.
“I was this tall when I was 11, which was unbearable,” says the 5ft Weaver, daughter of pioneering TV executive Pat Weaver and British actress Elizabeth Inglis. “I still spent half the time at 14 wanting to disappear. I think Kiri has some issues that are difficult for her. She is an adopted daughter. She’s a big part of the family, but also things happen to her that she doesn’t quite understand.”
It is not a one-time performance either. Cameron envisions big things for Kiri in future Avatar installments. He has already shot a third film, started filming a fourth and developed a fifth. Fans of Weaver from Ghostbusters, Working Girl and Galaxy Quest will get another chance to age again with the 73-year-old actress.
“He’s a very, very important character,” says Cameron. “If we’re lucky enough in terms of the film being a big enough financial success to break even and make it the right business case going forward, and we get to 3′′, Sigourney and I have already captured everything for “3” — and then ‘4’ and ‘5.’ Her character is increasingly important in the larger saga. We are both looking forward to the survey.’