Exclusive Interview: Abduction's Sigourney Weaver

By Eric Eisenberg 2011-09-22 23:40:38discussion comments
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Thanks to her portrayal of Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise, Sigourney Weaver ranks as one of the top female action stars of all time. She can truly kick ass and take names with the best of them and has proven it time and time again. While she sadly doesnít get to do too much action in the new John Singleton film Abduction, she plays an important role in the birth of a possible new action star: Taylor Lautner.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sigourney Weaver to not only talk about Abduction, but the new movie from director Oren Moverman called Rampart, as well as the long-rumored Ghostbusters III. Check out the interview below in which the actress talks about the challenges of playing a supporting role vs. a lead role, her preparation process, and how she watches her own films.

NOTE: There are some brief spoilers for Abduction in this article, but they are clearly marked.

What was it about this character that drew you in?

You know, I think I really liked the story. Itís a really interesting coming of age story and I love John Singletonís work and I did know, I had seen the Twilight movies, so I knew who Taylor was. I didnít know Lily, sheís amazing. So what appealed to me was that often Iím asked to carry a much bigger responsibility. In this case my responsibility was very specific and I wanted the challenge of doing what I called a ďJames MasonĒ part. You probably donít know who that is!

Of course I do!

[laughs] These wonderful sort of British actors who come in and they have to do something for the movie very well and in a very streamlined way. And I felt like that was my job, was to sort of set something up and make you absolutely believe it and then absolutely turn it on its end and make you believe something else. I enjoyed the challenge of that. Itís exciting.

Do you find it more of a challenge then when you are in a lead role?

I think it is more challenging. I mean, the challenges in playing a lead role are just different. Itís more about stamina and letting yourself go. I think you have to be much more like a surgeon when youíre playing a pivotal supporting role.

Whatís your process like when preparing for a role and a) does it change between large and small parts, b) has it changed over the course of your career and c) how did you prepare for this role specifically?

Well, every role is different. Every role sort of teaches you how to prepare for it. In this case, Iíve been in therapy for so many years [laughs] that I felt I could do that. And I thought that she was a real therapist. And then the other part, that sensation of suddenly having everything in jeopardy and having that training that training sort of re-establish itself was, I thought, an interesting thing and I havenít really done an action picture in a while, so I thought that it was aligned with what Geri goes through. I enjoyed all of that and I got to sort of work in order, luckily. I was glad we got to do that first scene that sets everything up. Of course, Iím not a very good shrink because Iím telling him to repress the bad dream [laughs].

Well do you think thatís more the professional side of Geri, because she knows what really happened to Nathan when he was younger or was it just a part of her process?

No, I think that in her case sheís being uniquely protective of Nathan because thereís no joy for him there of any sort and she needs to keep the genie in the bottle for as long as possible. But it means that there is a reckoning. They are all involved in a big lie and at some point it canít be healthy for him. So I think that there are many different kind of layers of her peace with what theyíre doing.
Spoiler Alert
To talk more about protecting Nathan, he has his biological mother and Mara, his adoptive mother played by Maria Bello, but do you see Geri as a third maternal figure in his life?

I think what will be interesting, if we do make another one, is that she is not a mother and is suddenly playing a mother. She has to become his mother. Thatís why I like the little momentÖI think for her not being a mother, when she says to the kids, ďYou can come home with me. You can come home. You can get clean, you can get fed, you can watch TV, you can be comfortable, you can be safe,Ē and theyíre not interested in that at all! Wake up! And so thereís that little moment where she has to understand what it is to be a parent of grown children right away, and I like that. I like that.

Being a parent yourself, was that something that you could draw on?

Yes, and itís such a humbling experience being a parent [laughs]. You know youíre always having to let go and itís one thing they donít tell you, because you spend so much time and energy hovering, and then you really have to back off. I donít think anything can prepare you for it.
End Of Spoilers
I find it kind of interesting when an actor plays a therapist, because in a way both professions try to find their way into the mind of someone else. Is that a connection you made?

No, you know my process is pretty organic and Iím not sure that I thought about it in that way. I think that Iím there to guide Nathan and itís a very acceptable, modern way of doing it. If it were a different time he would be doing odd jobs for me and Iíd be in the garden telling him what to do. Itís the convention of this particular time period. But itís an uneasy secret but I feel at the beginning itís a pretty safe secret. Of course I donít realize heís lying on top of cars going 75 miles per hour. Maybe Iíd work a little harder to find out why he has a death wish. But I hope kids donít copy that.

I read that youíre also playing a psychiatrist in Oren Movermanís Rampart, is that correct?

No, Iím not a therapist Iím a D.A.

But youíre working with Woody Harrelsonís character, right?

Yes, I have to deal with him, I have to negotiate with him.

Can you talk about that part a little bit?

Oh, yes. Well, I can talk about the experience. It was a wonderful experience because we neverÖ we just improvised and Oren would put the cameras, weíd do a scene out there [points into the middle distance] and the camera would be like 300 feet away with a long lens. So we were always having this wonderful private experience, the two of us, and the camera was kind a weird voyeur. And I never worked with Woody before and I adored him. Heís just wonderful. Heís so talented and it was very interesting. Itís a fascinating movie, great director. I havenít seen it, but I think itís really interesting material.

When youíre performing like that without the camera how does it change the experience? Is it more like theater?

I really canít compare it to anything Iíve done. We did another scene where Steve Buscemi, Woody and I are having a kind of heated discussion about whatís going to happen, and the camera was just swinging around like this [waves arms back and forth in the air]. And we werenít supposed to wait until it got to us. I donít know how he edited any of this stuff. I had a blast, I donít know if I would have been able to do it 25 years ago, but at this point weíre such old dogs, we know what weíre doing and weíre delighted to be able to do it differently.

You mention that you havenít seen the film. Are you interested to see how it came together?

Iíd love to see it. I think it was at Toronto and I was performing our 9/11 play last week, so I didnít get to go, but I heard it went very well.

Do you watch your own films? I know there are some actors that never watch their own movies.

Usually youíre invited to the opening, et cetera, and you go. Like last night was the first time I saw Abduction. So it was really fun. Iím not in so much of it, but I was really excited to see how all of the rest of it came together and it was really a wonderful vision of Pittsburgh even, which I think is a great city, and how they used the river and the stadium. Iím really glad we shot there. But I think I see everything once. There are a couple things I think Iíve done that werenít released so I never saw them [laughs]. Just as well.

I do also want to ask about Ghostbusters III, as Dan Aykroyd recently said that the production could move forward as soon as spring of next year. Are you excited to play Dana Barrett again?

Well I guess Peter Venkman is dead! Dana withoutÖ I guess his spectre always was with her, whether she liked it or not. I donít know. I hope it comes together. I havenít read the script, Iíve talked to Ivan about it and I think it would be wonderful if it all came together and weíll see. Fingers crossed.
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