How Sigourney Weaver brings out her inner teen “Avatar.”

In the films, Sigourney Weaver is in charge: she is Ripley, who kicks ass xenomorphs (“Alien” films); heralding the apocalypse through possession (“Ghostbusters”) or making abortions possible for women in the 1960s (“Call Jane”). She’s the character that just gets things done. And that was the case in 2009’s “Avatar,” where she played an exobiologist who started the Avatar program.

But for Avatar: The Way of Water, things are a bit reversed: While Weaver briefly plays Dr. Augustine, she’s mostly a Na’vi human named Kiri, who has special abilities – but being a teenager is all that comes with it. The Envelope spoke to Weaver from her home in New York about her legacy of memorable roles, (not) her pal Jamie Lee Curtis’ horror films and director James Cameron the Mischief Maker.

You return in Avatar 2, playing both a scientist and her teenage daughter. How did you get Kiri’s accent and voice exactly?

I was fortunate that LaGuardia High School allowed me to sit in on a few classes of drama students, like 12-15. It’s such an amazing age because there’s all kinds of voices — ones that sound very young, and those that sound mature. It was hard for me [to be an adolescent] because i was so big People always expected me to be the adult in the room, which unfortunately never was. But all of that gave me permission to let Kiri come out.

Avatar is both science fiction and fantasy, and genre roles really anchored your career – Alien, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest. Are you a genre fan?

I don’t see the small, mutually exclusive genre spaces. I just see great stories. I don’t care where they come from. This movie is like Jim [Cameron] says, “What does it mean to be human?” I think these are good yarns. I’m in the business of good yarns.

A blue teenage Na'vi human in a scene from "Avatar: The Way of Water."

Sigourney Weaver plays 14-year-old Kiri in Avatar: The Way of Water.

(20th Century Studios)

Her friend Jamie Lee Curtis also broke into genre films – for her it was horror and Halloween, and I asked her a similar question.

When I look at Jamie Lee’s work, she is the heroine of this incredible series [“Halloween”] – which I was honestly too scared to look at – it’s included in this horror box. I’m not sure if these genre labels are helpful when it comes to movies these days. it’s adventure you know

What is stopping you from watching your film? Alien is pretty scary too.

These movies are so real to me. I don’t want to see [Jamie] in this. Like I said to my friend [“The Walking Dead” producer] Gale Anne Hurd: I’d love to see The Walking Dead. Is there a version where you remove all the spooky bits? I’m just not ready to pay the price. I’m a terrible coward.

Has breaking out as Ripley changed the roles you’ve been offered? For example, did you ever have to back down to say, “I’m more than a great alien killer?”

After Alien, I got sent a lot of humorless characters saying, “All right, guys, let’s do this.” Ripley never was anyway. If you send me something reminiscent of something I just did, I’ll go in the opposite direction.

She and James Cameron have worked together on several films, from Aliens to the Avatar films. What’s up with you two?

He’s a lot smarter than me. He would be the prodigy in any class. I admire his storytelling – it’s always about much more than the people in it. He’s very daring. And underneath it all, we’re pretty mischievous.

Like, on-set pranks kinda mischievous?

That would certainly be a possibility! He has a very lighthearted side. He’s a much more relaxed guy now. He is very playful. We’re having a good time.

You come from a show business family – your mother was an actress, your father was a television executive and your uncle sang funny songs. Was it inevitable that you would get into the business?

Not at all. I was very, very shy. I don’t think they had any idea what I was going to do; Me neither. The one time I called my dad’s friend who had a show on NBC … and the guy said, “Do yourself a favor, kid, get a job at Bloomingdale’s.” But then I went to [Yale University School of Drama] and that made my dad happy because I took acting seriously. In the early days I had the freedom to do so much off-Broadway work without an exam and be very free. I have to give credit to this early work, playing several schizophrenics and God knows what else, for giving me the freedom to understand how to develop Kiri.

How do you decide these days what script or story you want to tackle next?

When your heart immediately beats differently. It is a physical experience for me to read a story. I always try to read it from start to finish in one sitting. I learned that from reading an interview with James Earl Jones. It’s a good idea – because then the story happens to you.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2023-01-04/sigourney-weaver-avatar-way-of-water How Sigourney Weaver brings out her inner teen “Avatar.”

Sarah Ridley

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