Sigourney Weaver (born Susan Alexandra Weaver on October 8, 1949) is an American actress. She best known for her critically acclaimed role of Ellen Ripley in the four Alien films: ‘Alien’ (1979), ‘Aliens’ (1986), ‘Alien 3’ (1992) and ‘Alien Resurrection’ (1997), for which she has received worldwide recognition (she was also co-producer in the latter two films). Other notable roles include ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’, ‘Ghosbusters’ and its sequel ‘Ghostbusters II’, ‘Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey’, ‘Working Girl’ and ‘Avatar’.
Weaver’s first role was in Woody Allen’s 1977 comedy ‘Annie Hall’ playing a minor role opposite Allen; followed by a small role in Israeli film ‘Madman’. Weaver then appeared two years later as Warrant Officer/Lieutenant Ellen Ripley in Ridley Scott’s 1979 blockbuster, ‘Alien’. The decision to make the lead character a woman was made by Producers David Giler and Walter Hill, who felt this would help Alien stand out in the otherwise male-dominated genre of science fiction. Weaver, who had Broadway experience but was relatively unknown in film, impressed Scott, Giler, and Hill with her audition. She was the last actor to be cast for the film, and performed most of her scree-tests in-studio as the sets were being built. The role of Ripley was Weaver’s first leading role in a motion picture, and is the role for which she will always be remembered first and foremost.
Although Alien was massively successful, Fox did not consider a sequel until 1983, when James Cameron expressed his interest to producer David Giler in continuing the Alienstory. After Cameron’s ‘The Terminator’ became a box office hit, Cameron and partner Gale Anne Hurd were given approval to direct and produce the sequel to Alien, scheduled for a 1986 release. Cameron wrote the screenplay from a story he developed with Giler and Walter Hill. Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, the only survivor of the Nostromo, awakens from hypersleep 57 years later, aboard a new space station. She discovers that the planetoid from the first movie (now known as LV-426) is home to a terraforming colony. When contact with the colony is lost, Ripley accompanies a squad of marines there… Aliens was a massive success.
Weaver followed the success of Alien appearing opposite Mel Gibson in ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ (1982), which was released to critical acclaim and as Dana Barrett in ‘Ghostbusters’ (1984) and ‘Ghostbusters II’ (1989). By the end of the decade Weaver appeared in two of her most memorable and critically acclaimed performances in 1988 as Dian Fossey in ‘Gorillas in the Mist’. The same year she appeared opposite Harrison Ford in a supporting role as Katharine Parker in the film ‘Working Girl’ .
Weaver returned to the Alien franchise for the critically less successful ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien Resurrection’. Although both movies made money at the box office, they are less regarded than the first two installments in the franchise. Notable mainly for being the directorial debut of superstar director David Fincher, Alien 3 is the better of the two only due to some effective set-pieces. Alien Resurrection was directed by Jean- Pierre Jeunet who after a difficult Hollywood experience, returned to france to make Amelie.
She has remained busy throughout the last 20 years with a varied CV, however she returned to box office domination in James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ (2009) and comic-con cool with ‘Paul’ (2011). She has Amy Heckerling’s ‘Vamps’ in post-production and has signed on for the Avatar sequel which is due in 2014.
Weaver has received three Academy Award nominations and six Golden Globe Award nominations, winning two in 1988 (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress) for Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl. Her 1986 Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Aliens are considered as landmarks in the recognition of science fiction, action and horror genres, as well as a major step in challenging the gender role in cinema.