By Samantha Highfill
March 04, 2021 at 09:00 AM EST

Sigourney Weaver thought she was going to be a writer. Or a journalist. As an English major in college, she fell in love with the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald. But as she puts it, "I kept being asked to act." Now she's returning to the world of books, if only for a new acting role.

In My Salinger Year (out March 5), Weaver plays Margaret, the literary agent of J.D. Salinger. The film is based on Joanna Rakoff's 2015 book, which detailed her time working as an assistant to literary agent Phyllis Westberg, the real-life inspiration for Weaver's character. In the film, Joanna is played by Margaret Qualley. "The story is such a love letter to books and to the New York literary world which I, having grown up in New York, had been exposed to on and off," Weaver tells EW. "I had met and been around women who were incredibly intimidating, very stylish, seemed to have it all, but I've never really played one. So the opportunity to play someone like Margaret, who's so flamboyant and also tough as nails and eccentric, I just had so many impressions of different women over the years who were like this."

In preparing for the role, Weaver visited the current literary agency that bought the one where Westberg worked. "They kept all the files and you can go to their office and see everything to do with the agency, the invitations they sent out for cocktail parties, you can touch F. Scott Fitzgerald's file and William Faulkner's file, and you can see pictures of all of these people," Weaver says. "I also went to the original offices which were being torn down, and I met with Phyllis's assistant who told me quite a bit about Phyllis, so I sort of merged them all into this character. It was really fun for me because it was a combination of the real-life Phyllis and my love of these women through the years."

My Salinger Year is a story about the literary world, about the impact an author can have, and about the beauty of the written word. It's one Weaver hopes will resonate today. "During COVID I feel like people have started writing letters again or reaching out to people that they haven't been in touch with with long emails," she says. "COVID has reminded us of how important books are, and how important writing is, and how important communication is."

Watch an exclusive clip of Weaver in My Salinger Year above.

(Video provided by IFC Films)

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