Weaver on motherhood and other roles
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."
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
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.²
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,
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.
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.
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.
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."