October 8, 1949
New York, New York
Sigourney Weaver was born into wealth and priviledge as Susan Alexandra Weaver to former NBC president Sylvester "Pat" Weaver (creator of the Tonight Show and the Today Show) and Elizabeth Inglis, a British stage actress. Despite her
parents' status as jet-setting New Yorkers in the entertainment business, Weaver says she was an awkward child who never felt like she fit in, often playing make believe and reading books. When she was 14 she changed her name to Sigourney after one of the characters mentioned in The Great Gatsby, fed up with being called "Sue" and "Susie" by her friends and family. She comes from a long line of unusual names: her younger brother is named Trajan, thanks to her father's interest in ancient Roman history, and she has an uncle named Doodles.
Her quirky nature earned Weaver a controversial reputation when she attended university at Stanford and Yale. She went to her first classes dressed as an elf and eventually camped in a tree on campus with friend and playwright, Christopher Durang. Often cast as the clown or comic relief in school productions, thanks to her imposing six-foot frame, she was told by the faculty that she had no talent as a serious actress and that she should pursue other goals.
But soon after graduation, she found herself on stage, working with the great Sir John Gielgood who told Weaver she had a lot of promise. She worked off-Broadway for a few years and appeared on a daytime soap opera called Somerset. Her first film role amounted to 20 seconds of screen time in Annie Hall, playing Woody Allen's date, with her back to the camera. But success and fame came in 1979 when she palyed a ground-breaking role in the science-fiction thriller Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. It was a role originally written for a man but Weaver's commanding on-screen performance
demonstrated the power of her physical presence and her obvious talent as an actress.
More film roles soon followed, such as the box-office misfire Eyewitness, in which she played an aggressive young reporter opposite John Hurt. The depth of her talent was further explored by director Peter Weir in The Year of Living Dangerously, co-starring Mel Gibson and Linda Hunt in her Oscar-winning performance. A fresh and exciting new role in the blockbuster Ghostbusters broadened Weaver's fan base and appeal, proving she could move easily from genre to genre.
In the late 80s Weaver rode an enormous wave of critical and commercial success with sequencial blockbuster performances in high-profile films. In Aliens she reprised her role as Lieutenant Ellen Ripley and gave a tour-de-force performance, bringing Weaver iconic status as a female role model and action heroine. She also garnered a nod from the Academy with a
Best Actress nomination for the role. In 1988 she gave more stunning performances in films like Gorillas in the Mist, playing real-life activist Dian Fossey, for which she was nominated a second time for Best Actress. A Best Supporting Actress nomination came that smae year after her performace as the devious executive in Working Girl, starring opposite Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford.
The 90s brought Weaver more success with films such as Dave, playing the First Lady opposite Kevin Kline. She shaved her head for the third installment of the Alien series (Alien 3) and also gave a compelling performance in Death And The Maiden as a tormented woman who reeks havoc on a man she believes tortured her decades earlier. She starred with Holly Hunter in the psychological thriller Copycat and brought Ripley back to life one more time in Alien Resurrection, the fourth film in the series, which earned Weaver a $12 million paycheck.
At age 49, Golden Globe nominations came for her acclaimed performances in The Ice Storm and Map of the World, proving that women of a certain age could still get good roles in Hollywood.
Lately Weaver has endeavored to get back to her comedic roots, playing a buxom blond in the hilarious spoof Galaxy Quest and a sultry seductress in Heartbreakers, co-starring Gene Hackman and Jennifer Love Hewitt. The actress has also appeared in numerous off-Broadway stage productions which have won rave reviews, including Christopher Durang's Sex and Longing and most recently, Anne Nelson's The Guys - a post-September-11th play about a
reporter who agrees to help a fire chief write eulogies for five fire fighters who were killed in the attack on the World Trade Centre. She also stars in the film version.
Sigourney is married to a theatre director Jim Simpson. They have a daughter, Charlotte, and live in New York City.
Photo © Premiere - Bio by Andrew Ritchie © 2002
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