Aliens: Signing up Weaver

leading from
Making Aliens

a) Entertaining possibilities with Sigourney
The producers of Alien, David Giler, Gordon Carroll and Walter Hill were friends with Sigourney since Alien and they would from time to time get together over dinner and laugh about a possible Alien sequel, coming up with strange ideas about what would become of Ripley, such as opening up the Narcissus and suddenly she would dissolve into dust and they would get someone else to star in the movie instead.

b) The Studio's first attack
However, despite the fact that Cameron had been asked to write a story based on Ripley, later it turned out that everybody else thought that it could be made without Sigourney Weaver.

Cameron found this mind blowing and completely out of the question for his story.

They were starting with Ripley from the end of the last film and it was her story.

Fortunately they were able to overcome these obstacles in the minds of the other people involved, but they would have to fight very hard for Sigourney to be in the picture, which virtually drove Cameron crazy.

c) Gaining Sigourney's interest
Sigourney had no real interest in returning for a second Alien movie, she was quite sure that it couldn't be done

However she was at the time filming Half Moon Street and they were running behind schedule.

Production designer Patrick Lamont believed that there was a four weeks gap between the finish of "Half Moon Street" and the beginning of Aliens and they were falling more and more behind, and they would give Sigourney two weeks off in between the films, although Sigourney would recall that she finished Half Moon Street and was on the set of Aliens three days later

d) Presenting Sigourney with the story
Jim Cameron presented her with a story about how she comes back with the expansion to her character's background, she's lost in space, her family is gone and no one believes her story, and so in a sense she is an outcast in the society and it's the isolation of that and her memories, and this is what drives her back to the aliens.

Rather than being heroic or unselfish, she returns because she needs something to keep her busy, and then when she comes by the little girl Newt on the planet, she regains her desire to really live and so is reignited, becoming like the old Ripley, very practical and methodical.

e) Gun control
Sigourney liked the Aliens script, it put her fears at rest, perhaps because she was so busy at the time she might have skipped all the stage directions which went on and on and on about guns, she didn't realise that they would be the star of the film until she got there, and then they brought out this amazing hardware.

Personally she detested guns and was a member of a gun control lobby called Handgun Control, and she was amazed about the warlike aspect of this picture, which she was never comfortable with. She thought that it would be much more interesting to outwit the Alien rather than have to shoot it.

f) Ignorance of emphasis of guns
She also perhaps didn't really take into account the scripts emphasis on guns because she read in the script references to such things as Pulse-guns and Smart-Guns and she had no real idea what these were assuming that one short a pulse and the other was smarter than the average gun, and then she came to realise that these were traditional guns in new designs

Sigourney said to Jim, "I don't want to shoot a gun."

He responded "No you have to shoot a gun."

Her response was "Oh. Well, can  I get killed?"

"No" he replied.

Then he added "No, no, you hate the Aliens, you've got to machine gun the shit out of them! Because that's what the film is!"

Sigourney was having these very specific ideas and she tried to influence the Aliens production with them but it didn't work.

So Jim took Sigourney onto the Pinewood backlot, and he gave her a Thompson machine gun and let her loose with it.

Her response was "Oh, what fun."

Source Quotes
  1. Sigourney Weaver: The producers are friends of mine anyway, and we would get together over dinner and laugh about a sequel.The other idea was that they would open Ripley's little Narcissus tomb . . . and she would dissolve into dust. And then they would get someone else to star in the movie.  (Starlog, August 1986,p37)
  2. Sigourney Weaver: But when I read Jim's script, it was almost all Ripley, and I was surprised that no one had talked to me about it before. They could have handled ALIENS with no Ripley, but Jim wasn't willing to do it without me. " (Starlog, August 1986,p37)
  3. Sigourney Weaver: My most uncomfortable moments in the film are when I have to fire the gun, because, to me, it's more interesting to outwit the Alien than to shoot it down. I don't think I really took into account the script's emphasis on guns because in reading the script, it says a 'Pulse-gun' and a 'Smart -gun '—and I thought those guns would be smarter than whatever we have now and that the others would shoot pulses. I didn't realize that they would be traditional guns in new designs.(Starlog, August 1986,p37)
  4. Sigourney Weaver: I guess that's one aspect of the film I really didn't understand until we got into it. Personally, I detest guns, and I'm a member of a gun control lobby. So, I'm afraid that I completely underestimated that aspect of  ALIENS. But I've used that; I've used my feelings as Ripley's feelings. I know the poster will probably picture me as some sort of Rambolina, but it's not at all important to me to project that kind of image. I don't care whether or not people think I'm 'tough.' (Starlog, August 1986,p37)
  5. Bobbie Wygant: Towards the end of the movie, Sigourney, I really, I, I was sitting there and you were doing your number with the gun and all, and I though Sylvester Stallone is going to be so jealous
    Sigourney Weaver: Well, I used to call myself Rambolina when I had to do those scenes, because her, i felt so, well, I think the Yale school of drama certainly didn't prepare me for this you know, but erm, it was interesting

    Bobbie Wygant: Were they difficult for you

    Sigourney Weaver: Actually I felt that the actual use of the guns was very difficult for me, I, I had a, I had a sort of anticipated very un, very uncomfortable reaction to shooting and killing things, er,  I think would, I'm so glad they were monsters and not people because I think that would have been much much harder, um, but er, I think that's good, I, I mean I sort of try to use that because I don't think Ripley is a violent person, especially after everything that's happened to her, so I think that the decision she finally makes to wreak havoc on the aliens is erm, erm, is sort of a, a, a tiny explosion of madness for a second, you know.

    Bobbie Wygant: How practical is the gun, I mean, what does the gun actually do

    Sigourney Weaver: Well, there are three guns, one of them is your basic flamethrower which you'd just squeeze the trigger and a huge dragon like flame jumps out, and erm, taped to it I had a submachine gun, er, which, er, er, would fire off about seventeen rounds, and blanks would come out like little casements. You actually had to be careful, er, that you wouldn't be hit by er, other people's gun blanks coming out from the side, jum, they were always very hot. And the other thing was a grenade launcher, which was erm, in the front. That was sort of the most fun thing actually because it had a big explosion when you, when you used it, and then I would have gun practice at sunset, you know, and you would see this person out there shooting away, you know and all these different positions and er, the only hard part really was the guns were extremely heavy and that, in all the, in all the sort of choreography, they had to really realize that you knew enough about what you were doing to turn and fire the right gun, always alternating the guns just to be sure you didn't pull the wrong trigger and ignite the stuntman by mistake, you know, so even the play guns are very dangerous, and er, I have a very healthy respect for them.

    Bobbie Wygant: Were there any untoward incidents

    Sigourney Weaver: Nope, none, er, which is lucky, knock on wood er, erm, I think er, Jim was, er, everyone connected with the guns was adamant about how you carry them, how you hand them to each other, sometimes the guns would er, sometimes the guns would lock, and er that's dangerous 'cause when you pass it, it can sometimes go off. I mean basically we treated them like real guns, and so no one got hurt
    Bobbie Wygant: Did they have to twist your arm to get you to do this one?
    Sigourney Weaver: Not really, maybe, you know, slightly. Er, my first reaction was I wasn't crazy to do another one because the first one was, I thought, stood up very well and was very innovative, but the, the story that Jim Cameron had erm created, and he's committed to the character Ripley and the, the set of circumstances that she's presented with at the beginning of the picture which was that she, she comes back and she's lost in space, and her family is gone, no one believes her story, she's in a sense an outcast in the society and it's the isolation of that and er, and her memories, er that that I think drive her back. I don't think she decides to go back to this planet to be heroic or for unselfish reasons, i think she basically goes because she needs something to keep her busy, and erm, I don't think it's really until she meets this little girl on the planet that her, her a desire to really live, and , and er, that she's reignited somehow, erm, and she becomes, sort of like the old Ripley who was very er, rational, very practical and methodical. (1986/1987)
  6. Weaver liked the script (for most part, but more on that for the moment), but didn't commit to making it. "I didn't want to do Aliens just to make money for 20th Century Fox," she said. (Hotdog magazine)
  7. Cameron was starting to run out of time. Fox had set the date of shooting to begin in September of 1985 - it was now well into spring and by the time Cameron and Hurd returned from their Maui honeymoon. Weaver still hadn't signed up. Proving that he was already starting to get the handle on the hard-noses way of Hollywood, Cameron came up with a devious ploy to encourage her to sign on the dotted line; he let it be known to her agent, who worked for the same company) that he was already working on a rewritten version of Aliens that omitted Ripley entirely, concentrating on the story of Newt and the Marines. In reality he had no intention of doing so, but the plan worked - Weaver signed for Aliens the same day, for a fee of $1 million. (Hotdog magazine)
  8. While Weaver had liked the Aliens script, she had a few ideas. A few very specific ideas. "She tried to have an influence on Aliens, but it didn't work!' laughs Cameron. "She said "I don't want to shoot a gun." I said "No, you have to shoot a gun." 'Oh. Well, can I get killed?' 'No?' This familiar with the next film in the Alien series will no doubt notice that by 1991, Weaver's suggestions had been turned into demands. "When I saw the third film I cracked up, " Cameron chuckles, " because it was all the things she asked for in the second film. I mean,  I had never met this woman before and I was in completely awe of her, and had written the script for her, and when I finally met her she had all these ideas that were just so anathema to me - I mean, I think I was probably born in Texas in a past life! But I said "No, no, you hate the Aliens, you've got to machine gun the shit out of them! Because that's what the film is!' So I took her out on the backlot at Pinewood and I gave her a Thompson machine gun and let her loose with it. And she went, "adopting a sensual voice to mimic Weaver, "Ohhh, what fun..." But then her liberal guilt slammed back in between the end of Aliens and when she made the third film."(Hotdog magazine)
  9. Q: You knew you had Sigourney Weaver?

    Gale Ann Hurd: We knew it would be about the character. At the same time, Sigourney Weaver was not signed.

    Q: So, you would conceivably, have put another actress in the part?

    Cameron: No. Never, never, never! I was asked to write a story based on Ripley. later on it turned out that everybody but us thought that the film could be made without Sigourney Weaver, which completely blew my mind, and was absolutely out of the question for us. So, as far as we were concerned, we started with Ripley from the end of the last film, and it was her story. We fortunately were able to overcome these obstacles in the minds of the other people involved. We had to fight very hard for Sigourney to be in the picture, which to me was crazy

    Hurd: Then it's not a sequel, it's something else.

    Cameron: It's another movie, and why bother (L'Ecran Fantastique/ Science Fiction Film Making In the 1980s)
  10. Sigourney Weaver: Maybe it was a good thing that I wasn't there because all the soldiers were, were bonding and erm, you know, figuring out, experimenting with who they were, and erm, what their armour looked like and all that stuff and it's good I think that Ripley isn't one of them, erm and there's sort of distrust on both sides, erm, but it was weird to come in that late, I , I , I literally finished one movie and started the other three days later. (Making of Aliens: Preparing for battle)
  11. Patrick Lamont (Production designer): Sigourney at that time was on Half Moon Street and they were running behind schedule and er, the whole problem was, I think there was four weeks gap between the finish of one and the start of the other and they were falling more and more behind and they had to "appoint" (?) Sigourney two weeks off. (Making of Aliens: Preparing for battle)
  12. James Cameron: She liked the script a lot. Sigourney was concerned about the idea of a sequel because she wasn't sure it could be done. But when she read the script, that put her fears at rest. She just threw herself into it wholeheartedly. (Official Aliens Movie Book)
  13. Sigourney Weaver:  When I read the Aliens script, I was working very hard on something else, I think I must have skipped over all the stage directions which went on and on and on about guns. I didn't realise that they were a star of the film until I got there, and this amazing hardware kept coming out. I was a member of Handgun Control, so I was amazed at this warlike picture, I was never comfortable with that aspect. (recorded in October 2009, Filmstar)

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