Sigourney Weaver says directors 'don’t direct you as much as they used to'
'[Directors] are your partners, and that’s a point of view that’s sadly not very evident anymore,' she says, 'because there’s such an emphasis on money and on how it’s going to do and all these other things'
Sigourney Weaver spoke with EW for a feature in this year’s Comic-Con issue. Previously: her thoughts on her Alien legacy, the Avatar sequels, the Ghostbusters reboot backlash, and her hints about her mysterious character on Marvel’s The Defenders (out on Netflix Aug. 18).
Here are some A-list directors Sigourney Weaver has worked with: Ridley Scott. James Cameron. Mike Nichols. Ang Lee. J.A. Bayona. John Singleton. Michel Gondry. David Fincher. Ivan Reitman. Neill Blomkamp.
And that’s just a list of some directors, a small sampling of everyone she’s partnered with over the course of her four decades in film. Thanks to that litany of bold-faced names on her resume, Weaver had no trouble reflecting on exactly how the art of directing has evolved over time. It’s changed, she tells EW, for the worse — at least when it comes to the actor-director partnership from her perspective.
“I think there are fewer conversations [between actors and directors] now,” she says. “I was never a big yakker, but at the same time, I feel like directors don’t direct you as much as they used to. I don’t know whether that’s because they don’t think I need direction — which of course is not true, actors always need direction — but I think either they don’t have the experience to know that they can be very helpful or they’re hoping you can just get along without them. The young directors now, it’s harder for them to get the experience they need with actors sometimes.”
Filmmaking, of course, has evolved since Weaver began her big-screen career. More and more untested directors are getting the chance to helm blockbuster franchises, and sometimes are dropped from said franchises when producers take the lead. This shift, Weaver says, may have something to do with why younger directors are less inclined to work closely with actors. “[Directors] are your partners, and that’s a point of view that’s sadly not very evident anymore, because there’s such an emphasis on money and on how it’s going to do and all these other things,” she explains, adding that James Cameron, who directed her in Aliens and Avatar, is an example of a director who did care about exploring different ways of tackling a scene with her. “[James] really wants all the actors to try as many different things as they want to, and he really turns it over to you, and it’s always a very generous thing for a director to do that. It’s a really good partnership for nourishing that kind of exploration, and it’s just getting more and more rare, I think.”
Weaver also cites Noah Baumbach as a director who prioritizes performance. While on the set of the indie film The Meyerowitz Stories, for which she filmed a cameo, Weaver recalls Baumbach working tirelessly to engage his performers. “Noah had everyone doing, like, 40 takes and trying so many different things,” she remembers. “I thought it was incredibly exciting…. And I found that just wonderful to be working with a director who wanted to take the time to explore the material. That’s what we’re there for.”
Still, Weaver admits she’s never stepped behind the camera herself. She almost did once — and adds that she’d be interested in directing one day if she finds the right story. “I was very interested in a project that was offered to me as a director a few years ago, but I had a daughter, and I could just tell that it was going to take so much time,” she explains. “As an actor-slash-mother or mother-slash-actor, you try to pick jobs where you don’t have to be separated from your family for too long, and it was going to be a little complicated. I was going to have to edit in Canada, I think it was, and I wasn’t willing to give up time, but it’d be interesting to try it at some point.” And it’s not just time she’s worried about: “I don’t know that I’d be technically [proficient],” she confesses. “I’ve worked with such amazing people like Neill Blomkamp [on Chappie and the short film Rakka], who knows everything about the business, about the designs, about the technology. If I can just concentrate on the actual story, I’ll be okay.”