Alien: Consulting women on Sigourney's screen test

leading from
May 1978

a) 13th May, 1978: Sigourney left England for home, Ridley ran the test footage for Laddy who saw it , remained silent and then said "Hmm" and then added " I'm going to run it again, choose half a dozen gals from the office". 
Laddy then picked up his telephone and asked his secretary to send in perhaps eight or maybe a dozen women who were handy in the office to just pop in, and perhaps what he got turned out to be perhaps PAs, secretaries, assistants, a couple of executives, and it was run again for them.

Laddy said "So, what do you think? Go on, don't be shy!".

As far as Sigourney knew, the women just said "well, we like her" but unbeknownst to her for two and a half decades, there was more to it than that.

One woman replied "I think she's like Jane Fonda," and then four or five more compliments came out with cross references to other stars including Faye Dunaway, turning into a big argument whether she looked like one or the other

Then Laddy added " What do you think of her as an actor?" and they were bowled over by her. It was clever that he asked the opinion's of women of a female actress. 

Laddy's response to Ridley in light of this was "okay, okay alright, good, you've got it, she's in!"  And so with that he just walked out.

Ridley had seen that Sigourney clearly had a nice sense of authority along with having all the other obvious advantages and attributes that she needed to have for the role and could give any guy as good as he could give back,  perhaps even she had been born to be Ripley.

b) Receiving the news
Sigourney arrived back to New York utterly exhausted, having written the experience off every step of the way and she had hardly arrived back when the producers phoned to say that she got the part.

Source Quotes

  1. Sigourney Weaver: What l didn't like about it that much was my performance, cos l think l was trying to be tough instead of just... What l discovered in the course of this, which was my first film basically was you don't try to... You just play each scene for what it is instead of trying to work on an arc. Erm, the people aren't consistent. They, they would be different in a love scene than they would be if they're fighting an alien. (Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
  2. Ron Shusett: They screen-tested many people, but she was dynamite. You saw it right there in the screen test as you saw later in the movie. This was her very first film. lt's all behind the eyes. (Alien Quadrilogy Documentary)
  3. (10:06 / 00:10:23) Ridley Scott: yuh, so then Laddy saw it, I put it together, even put a little bit of sound on it, I think, so, I ran it for Laddy in the.. wherever it was, and then he said, "hmm", and then he said, "I'm going to run it again, choose half a dozen gals from the office". He chose girls and er, half a dozen women, gals, came in and probably PAs, secretaries,  assistants, a couple of executives, we ran it again and er Laddy said, "So, what do you think?", and erm, and er, one girl suddenly said er, he said, "go on don't be shy!" (00:11:00), one girl said "well I think", excuse me, you don't mind, I'm going to say it over this

    (10:46 / 00:11:02) Sigourney Weaver: Oh of course

    (10:46 / 00:11:04) Ridley Scott: right

    (10:47 / 00:11:04) Sigourney Weaver: *burst of laughter*

    (10:47 / 00:11:04) Ridley Scott : one girl said (silly voice) "I think she's like Jane Fonda," right and another one said (silly voice) "I think she's like…" there's... there were four or five extremely complimentary things came out with cross references (00:11:00) to other stars and so he said "okay, okay alright, good, you've got it" and that was it

    (11:05 / 00:11:23) Sigourney Weaver: Oh that's great, I didn't really know the story, I thought he said "do you like this woman?" and they went "yes, she's okay" (chuckle)

    (11:11 / 00:11:30) Ridley: Yuh, but he's a...

    (11:12 / 00:11:32) Sigourney Weaver: Well that's... that's shrewd, I think...

    (11:14 / 00:11:34) Ridley: Very

    (11:14 / 00:11:35) Sigourney Weaver: ask women, you know, because

    (11:17 / 00:11:36) Ridley: Yeahh

    (11:17 / 00:11:36) Sigourney Weaver:'s become such an important...

    (11:18 / 00:11:37)
    Ridley: I think

    (11:18 / 00:11:37) Sigourney Weaver: ... film for women.

    (11:20 / 00:11:39) Ridley: yuh (
    Alien commentary from Alien Quadrilogy DVD and Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)
  4. In fact Laddy what he did when he saw the tests, was silent, and then, simply picked up the telephone and asked his secretary to send in about half a, eight, maybe a dozen women who were handy in the office, just to pop in, and he wanted them to watch the test, so we ran the test again and Laddy simply then said "what did you think?" and there were these, whatever it was, I don't know, maybe eight, twelve women, who immediately, jumped in, one said "I think she's like Jane Fonda" and the other one said I think she's like this, I think she's like that,  and er, and what do you think of her as an actor and they were all bowled over by her, so Laddie had cleverly also asked women's opinion of you know, female actress and right there, she said, he said, okay and he just walked out. She clearly has the authority that she needs to have and can give any guy as good as he can give back, so she has that very nice authority, apart from having all the other obvious you know, advantages, attributes, erm. Sigourney's very smart, and erm, erm, you know, she was aptfully written, she was born to be Ripley (Alien Legacy documentary)
  5. Geoff Boucher:  When you say, uh, when you're talking about Alien, and some people criticise it for lack of characterisation but it's interesting to see that Sigourney Weaver. Sigourney Weaver by the way, everybody, what an amazing... 
    (round of applause)

    But she was voted by many many many fans to be the greatest female character in the history of science fiction, and I don't that surprises a single person in the theatre, um could you talk a little bit about her performance and also, I mean, because that movie was so lean, what do you think it is that came through that really connected with people?
    Ridley Scott: Um, I met Sigourney who hadn't done a movie when she was, um, beginning to get known off broadway, and erm, we were casting. everyone else and I had heard of everyone but her,  in fact I didn't have sigourney cast until almost three weeks before principal photography, because I tested here, the test I could have cut into the movie, I tested on the sets that were being built. So that would put me, I don't know, that would put me a month or five weeks out, so Laddie was going crazy saying "you've gotta make your mind up". I said "yeah, I can't you know, I can't find it yet." And I heard about this wo-… woman… girl. I just dug up some fil- photographs out of the archives I drew up which are spectacular, about this big of her as  a , like a bathing suit, bathing, you know. She looks twenty three twenty four. And em, i went to meet her in New York, and er she had a very good, bio on her capabilities as an actress., very very smart, and her dad was Pat Weaver, you know, her dad was Pat Weaver. The star of CBS. Is that right? Any body know that? Is it Pat Weaver?
    Geoff Boucher:  I believe so
    Ridley Scott: So, erm, I met her and erm immediately, just her sheer physique , because she's , she came in her high heels, I mean, um, I'm a , I'm a, like not a midget, I’m a 5’8”, and Jesus Christ I was always looking up at her! And erm,  I walked into a restaurant with her and I felt like, she hold my hand, I felt like "Mummy, Daddy"

    (audience roars of laughter)

    Geoff Boucher: Did you like that?

    (audience roars of laughter)

    Ridley Scott: And erm, I said we're going to have to test, so she tested, and that was certainly a great test, you could have cut it into the movie, and um, it must have been hard for her, but because, the, there was so little dialogue, but the dialogue that existed was I think was pretty damned good, but it was austere, I call it austere, and er, it doesn't give you a long… a lot to get into, there's no five minute scenes, right, and the last thing for her will be...  (Ridley Scott at Hero Complex festival on Youtube)
  6. She researched her part by finding out what sort of women were working on American space missions and discovered that apart from having an amazing string of accomplishments to their names, they were all completely  down to earth - no pun intended. (Photoplay, December 1979, p42)
  7.  Sigourney Weaver: We went through what seemed to be the entire film, scene by scene, from 5pm to 2am, and then I flew back to New York, utterly exhausted. I'd hardly arrived back when the producers phoned to say I'd got the part. (Photoplay, December 1979, p42)
  8. David Giler: Alan Ladd watched the screen test and had all the secretaries in the building come down and watch it and then he really asked them, they got into a big argument that she looked more like Jane Fonda or Fay Dunaway, I mean and all the rest of the stuff, and he just said, "You can have her. She's in!" (Alien Saga)

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