Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 1999
U.Va. to host public forum with alumni about the future of the Internet age
Former dean Raymond J. Nelson receives U.Va.'s Thomas Jefferson Award
U.Va.'s foster families fill the breach for children in need

Conference explores ways to internationalize universities

Winston, Weaver 'rapt' up Film Festival
Sigourney Weaver on motherhood and other roles
Sharing digital resources to help teachers use technology in class
Hot Links - President's Office
Film, panelists explore 'digital divide' in computer access
After Hours - arborist Jerry Brown
U.Va. well on its way to ringing in the Year 2000 without a systems glitch
Off the Shelf - recently published books
Digital prints on display Nov. 1-29
CEO of Pew Trusts to give talk Nov. 3

Sigourney WeaverSigourney Weaver on motherhood and other roles

By Anne Bromley

Amid the special effects extravaganzas and technological wonders of this year's film festival, "TechnoVisions," was a down-to-earth story of a mother, played by Sigourney Weaver, struggling with a series of unexpected tragedies. Weaver, one of the festival's big stars -- there to honor U.Va. alumnus and artist Stan Winston, who created the monsters she battled in "Aliens" -- introduced the East Coast premier of her upcoming film, "A Map of the World."

After the screening, Weaver answered questions about the wide variety of roles she has played, from the tough and surprising science-fiction heroine of the "Alien" movies, to the groundbreaking primatologist, Dian Fossey, living in Africa with "Gorillas in the Mist," to a Chilean survivor of torture in "Death and the Maiden," to this latest character, Alice. She's an ex-hippie mother raising two girls and working part-time as a public school nurse while her husband runs their small dairy farm in Wisconsin, until an unexpected turn of events changes their lives forever.

"I am a mother and almost never get asked to play a mother," she said about accepting the lead in "A Map of the World," based on the novel by Jane Hamilton. "It was easy, because it's how I spend most of my time. It was very satisfying.

To prepare for the role, Weaver visited Racine, where much of the story takes place, talking to people at the public school and the local jail -- Alice lands in jail (for reasons that won't be divulged in order to keep from spoiling the plot). Weaver also met with the author, who actually lives on a small apple farm in Wisconsin. And she returned to the book time and time again, she said.

Directed by newcomer Scott Elliott and due out this winter, the film follows the book pretty closely, according to Weaver, who praised the script. "We had to bring it to life, but didn't need to mess with the lines," she said. She does several voice-overs, which are taken right from the novel, including the opening paragraph.

Weaver also read Dian Fossey's books on her studies of living with gorillas when preparing for the role of Fossey in the 1988 film, "Gorillas in the Mist." To make sure that she didn't "run screaming from the forest," the producers and director Michael Apted took Weaver to Rwanda ahead of time. "I sat down very still and put my head down a little, like her books say." Before long, one gorilla, a female, did come over and put its hand on her arm. "It filled me with this warmth spreading up my arm -- Rwanda is a cold place -- and it gave me a joy I felt often working with them," she said.

Weaver was also asked about what she looks for in a director.

"Well, I wouldn't work with someone who orders me around," she asserted, getting hearty laughs from the audience who filled Culbreth Theatre. "It's important to feel relaxed. The director dictates the spirit of the shoot. I've always tried not to work with someone who's abusive or shouting all the time.

"Working on a film is such hard work, you need a leader with not only stamina, but courtesy. Maybe I'm old-fashioned about that. But you want someone appreciative of everyone's efforts."


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