Sigourney Weaver had been in movies before 1979, most memorably in a wordless role as Woody Allen’s much-taller date in the final scenes of Annie Hall. But it was in the role of resourceful, imperiled space-traveler Ripley in Alien that Weaver made her first impression for most moviegoers. The impression stuck: Through three sequels (and the Alien: Isolation videogame, released yesterday), Weaver has played Ripley as a woman only made tougher by adversity. In the process, she provided science fiction with a much-needed strong heroine at a time when such characters were in even shorter supply than they are now.
While Weaver’s career has long been tied to the genre—thanks to the Alien films but also Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, and Avatar—science fiction hasn’t defined her. She’s had memorable roles in comedies and dramas alike, from Gorillas In The Mist to Dave to The Ice Storm to The Cabin In The Woods, bringing an instant presence and authority to whatever part she plays, and rarely going for the same sort of role more than once. If she’s learned any lesson from playing Ripley, it might be that getting caught in a dead end is never a good idea.
Here’s a relaxed Weaver talking to Craig Ferguson in 2009: