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Sigourney Weaver Biography


Home > Actresses > W > Weaver, Sigourney > Biography


Birth Name: Sigourney Weaver
Born: 10/08/1949
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA


Born Susan Alexandra Weaver on Oct. 8, 1949, the stunning brunette began using the name "Sigourney" in the early 1960s, after a character mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. The daughter of former NBC president Sylvester 'Pat' Weaver and actress Elizabeth Inglis, Weaver graduated from the Yale Drama School in 1974, one year before her friend and future colleague Meryl Streep. Kicking off her career on the New York stage, Weaver appeared in several off-Broadway productions such as "Lone Star" and "Gemini." During this period, Weaver also teamed up with fellow Yale grad and playwright Christopher Durang to co-write "Das Lusitania Songspiel," a popular spoof in which she also starred. Weaver received her career start in soap operas. Making her debut in the "Another World" spin-off, "Somerset" (NBC, 1970-76), Weaver played Avis Ryan for one season before landing a bit role in the Academy Award-winning "Annie Hall" (1977). Cast in a bit role as Woody Allen's beautiful movie date, the role required little in the way of acting, but heralded bigger and better things to come for the talented actress.

Weaver's first major film role was in director Ridley Scott's groundbreaking sci-fi horror masterpiece, "Alien." In what would eventually become her signature film role, Weaver played Ellen Ripley, the stoic, by-the-book warrant officer assigned to the commercial space freighter, Nostromo. A virtual unknown when she landed the part, Weaver received an unremarkable fourth billing in a star-studded cast, which included Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt. As it turned out, Weaver's anonymity proved to be a major asset to the film; audiences were completely blindsided when all the film's bigger names were systematically killed off, leaving her the film's sole survivor. She also became the toast to future fanboys when, while in peril from the alien, she appeared memorably onscreen in a t-shirt and white panties.

Weaver established herself as an actress to watch during the early 1980s with her next performance in Peter Weir's "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1982), a political thriller starring Mel Gibson and co-starring Academy Award winner Linda Hunt. Two years later, Weaver proved herself equally adept at comedy with her portrayal of Dana Barrett, the romantic interest of Bill Murray's character who ends up turning into a hound of hell in the hugely successful "Ghostbusters" (1984). One of the most profitable comedy films ever made, "Ghostbusters" grossed a supernatural $239 million domestically. Not surprisingly, Weaver was called on to reprise her role for the less satisfying 1989 sequel, "Ghostbusters II." Soon after the breakout success of her first major comedy, Weaver returned to the stage, making her Broadway debut in the 1984 production of the David Rabe play, "Hurlyburly." Directed by film legend Mike Nichols, the three-hour production opened to rave reviews on Aug. 7, 1984 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it ran for 343 performances. Alongside the Tony-nominated Weaver, the play's stellar cast also included William Hurt, Ron Silver, Harvey Keitel, Jerry Stiller, Judith Ivey and Cynthia Nixon.

After a long, steady rise, Weaver finally ascended to Hollywood's A-list with her starring role in "Aliens" (1986), the long-awaited sequel to 1979's "Alien." Under the watchful eye of young director James Cameron, Weaver reprised her role as the indomitable Ripley to even greater effect, showing off a maternal side with her emotional adoption of the space orphan, Newt (Carrie Henn). Most memorably, Weaver delivered one of the film's catchier lines to the alien queen: "Get away from her, you bitch!" Much heavier on the action and character development than its predecessor, "Aliens" was a monster hit, grossing $82 million. The film also garnered seven Academy Award nominations, including one for Weaver for Best Actress - a virtually unheard of nod for a horror/sci-fi film.

Following her newly minted status as a box office draw, Weaver's artistic clout also exploded, thanks to two back-to-back Oscar nominated performances. The first of these two successful films was "Working Girl" (1988), a romantic dramedy which reteamed her with director Mike Nichols. Cast in the role of Melanie Griffith's mentor-turned-bitter rival, Weaver got a Best Supporting Actress nod for her portrayal of the deliciously self-centered WASPy business exec, Katharine Parker. That same year, Weaver also starred in the biopic "Gorillas in the Mist" (1988), based on the life and death of the controversial primatologist, Dian Fossey. For her bold and haunting portrayal of Fossey, Weaver received an additional Oscar nod for Best Actress. As unusual as it was for an actor to be cited by the Academy in two separate categories, Weaver would take it a step further by losing both. Bested by Jodie Foster and Geena Davis, respectively, for "The Accused" and "The Accidental Tourist," Weaver won the dubious honor of being the first dual-acting nominee to go home empty-handed.

In 1992, Weaver returned to familiar territory, reprising her Ripley character for "Alien 3" (1992), director David Fincher's disappointingly dark and moody sequel to Cameron's "Aliens." Visually remarkable, but sluggishly paced, "Alien 3" dispensed with the heavy action and pyrotechnics in favor of a slower, more claustrophobic tale set on a prison planet. In the film's most controversial twist, the character of the newly bald-headed Ripley was seemingly killed off at the end - a move which greatly upset audiences and worried studio execs at 20th Century Fox. Unwilling to let the franchise die without a fight, Fox lured Weaver back with a bigger paycheck and a new producer credit for one more installment. Released in 1997, the disappointing "Alien Resurrection" once again starred Weaver, this time as a clone of the original Ripley. Abetted by an android named Call (Winona Ryder), Ripley once again took up battle against the Monster Queen and her spawn, leaving the possibility open for yet another sequel.

Having clearly established herself a renaissance performer comfortable in any genre, Weaver spent much of the 1990s playing roles which traded on her status as a respected character actress. She offered an effective cameo as Queen Isabella in Ridley Scott's otherwise disastrous "1492: The Conquest of Paradise" (1992). The following year, Weaver returned to her light comedy roots in director Ivan Reitman's "Dave," in which she played a frosty First Lady who is duped by a presidential impostor (Kevin Kline). Roman Polanski's "Death and the Maiden" (1994) provided Weaver with the meaty role of a vengeful victim of political torture; although some quibbled over her casting as a Latina. The following year, she offered a fine turn as an agoraphobic psychologist and self-proclaimed "pin-up girl for serial killers" in the suspenseful "Copycat" (1995). Following a 1996 return to Broadway in Durang's "Sex and Longing," Weaver had one of her best screen roles to date as a disaffected suburbanite having an affair with her neighbor (Kevin Kline) in Ang Lee's excellent mood piece, "The Ice Storm" (1997). The busy actress also made her TV debut, earning an Emmy nomination for her performance as the wicked stepmother in "Snow White: A Tale of Terror" (Showtime, 1997). Two years later, Weaver returned to the screen offering a tour de force as a woman overwhelmed by guilt over the death of a child in her care in "A Map of the World" (1999), as well as a buxom blonde has-been actress from a sci-fi series in the hysterical comedy "Galaxy Quest" (1999).

Weaver returned to a more challenging role in 2002 with "Tadpole," an edgy comedic drama about a 16-year-old boy coming of age and his infatuation with his stepmother. While the movie received critical accolades all around, Weaver, in particular, was heralded for her deftly understated performance as the object of her stepson's affections. The following year, Weaver portrayed a New Yorker who helps a fire captain construct eulogies for his fallen men in the heart wrenching feature, "The Guys," a film inspired by the 9/11 tragedy. Weaver tackled another offbeat role playing The Warden, the mysterious overseer who orders her inmates to dig deep into the desert in the unexpected family-friendly hit, "Holes" (2003). She also acquitted herself well and added complexity to the part of village elder Alice Hunt, a community leader who nurses a crush on the community patriarch (William Hurt) in M. Night Shyamalan's otherwise contrived thriller, "The Village" (2004). Weaver then followed up with a sharply honed performance as a middle-aged wife and mother, disillusioned with her dysfunctional family and looking to transform her chilly existence in writer-director Dan Harris' "Imaginary Heroes" (2005).

Her next two films were a pair of limited release indies: Jake Kasdan's television industry send-up "The TV Set" (2006) and the family drama "Snow Cake" (2006). The same year she portrayed New York socialite Babe Paley in the lesser-seen of that year's Truman Capote biopics, "Infamous" (2006). Lending a sense of respect to an already classy affair, Weaver found time to voice the narration for the BBC-produced epic documentary, "Planet Earth (Discovery, 2007), replacing David Attenborough's voiceover in the American run of the impressive 11-episode production which detailed in high-def, different regions across the globe. After a starring role in David Auburn's "A Girl in the Park" (2007) as a woman traumatized by the death of her three-year-old daughter, Weaver enjoyed a pair of considerably wider releases. In 2008, she co-starred as a news producer in "Vantage Point," a Rashoman-style political thriller about witnesses of a presidential assassination, as well as appeared in the comedies "Be Kind, Rewind" and "Baby Mama." The following year, Weaver reunited with Cameron to co-star in his groundbreaking futuristic sci-fi epic, "Avatar" (2009), in which she was the head scientist of the Avatar Program and sympathetic mentor to a disabled veteran (Sam Worthington) sent to infiltrate an indigenous tribe of aliens living atop a valuable mineral. The film went on to become the high-grossing movie of all time and once again exposed the actress to another generations of fans.

Meanwhile, Weaver earned nominations at the Emmys, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards for her performance in "Prayers for Bobby" (Lifetime, 2009), a drama based on a true story about Mary Griffith, a devoutly religious woman who tried to pray for her son (Ryan Kelley) to be healed of his homosexuality, only to reverse course and advocate for gay and lesbian rights after he committed suicide. After co-starring in a pair of critically maligned comedies, "Crazy on the Outside" (2010) and "You Again" (2010), she appeared opposite Ed Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche in the more universally praised indie "Cedar Rapids" (2011). She went on to play the psychiatrist to a high school kid (Taylor Lautner) on the run from secret agents in "Abduction" (2011), and was a disturbed assistant district attorney trying to keep a leash on a destructive cop (Woody Harrelson) in "Rampart" (2011). After a small turn as a director in the horror flick "The Cabin in the Woods" (2012), she was a corrupted CIA operative trying to silence a Wall Street trader (Henry Cavill) trying to unearth his father's secrets in "The Cold Light of Day" (2012). On the small screen, Weaver starred as a Hilary Clinton-like Secretary of State recently divorced from a former U.S. president (CiarĂ¡n Hinds) on the well-received drama "Political Animals" (USA Network, 2012- ).