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Ridley Scott on casting Sigourney Weaver in Alien

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Watch the full interview with Ridley Scott interview here on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on Apple TV, Roku Players, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, iOS, and Android devices.

Ridley Scott has a tendency to have films that feature strong women — think Thelma & LouiseG.I. Jane, and Prometheus, among others. But perhaps none quite as iconic as Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the Alien franchise. When the powers-that-be came to him about changing the character from a male to a female, he was entirely unfazed. “I thought, fine. It wasn’t a big deal to me,” he says. “I never thought once about it. I never had a problem.” (He does laugh, “I thought they were taking the mickey out of me by calling [the character] ‘Ripley.'”)

When it came to casting, he thinks it might have been Warren Beatty who suggested he take a look at a young Sigourney Weaver, who at that time was doing mainly theater. “I went and met with her. She appeared — she had an afro, she had high hells on, [so] she was like, 7-foot-6. It felt like I was going out for dinner with Mummy.”

And speaking of “Mummy,” Scott also says his own mother was a good formative influence. “Mum was tough,” he recalls of his childhood in Northern England. He was one of three boys (his younger brother and Scott Free Production partner, the late Tony Scott, went on to his own acclaimed directing career with hits such as Top Gun and Crimson Tide) and his mother knew how to keep them in line. “She said she was 5 feet tall but I think she was 4’11”.” But scary? “Oh god yes,” he says, laughing.

Take a look at the video above for more. Scott’s latest entry in the Alien saga, Alien: Covenant, opens May 19.