- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Sigourney Weaver is in a good place. The three-time Oscar nominee, creator of such iconic cinema heroines as Ripley in the Aliens sci-fi franchise, Dian Fossey in the biopic Gorillas in the Mist and Dr. Grace Augustine in James Cameron’s Avatar movies, finds herself, at 71, in high demand.
In addition to the Avatar franchise — she’s wrapped shooting on Avatar 2 and the third installment, with Avatar 4 and 5 in the wings — Weaver has been taking on roles in independent film and on TV, playing a hard-edged publishing boss in 2019 Berlin Film Festival opener My Salinger Year, an all-powerful baddie in Netflix’s superhero series The Defenders and a comic version of herself in French film industry sitcom Call My Agent!
In The Good House, her new film, Weaver plays Hildy Good, a recovering alcoholic and onetime star real estate agent in a New England coastal town who finds her life spiraling out of her control. An adaptation of the novel by Ann Leary, The Good House reteams Weaver with her frequent onscreen love interest Kevin Kline (Dave, The Ice Storm).
Weaver spoke to The Hollywood Reporter‘s European bureau chief Scott Roxborough via Zoom from her home in New York ahead of the world premiere of The Good House at the Toronto Film Festival on Wednesday, Sept. 15.
I’m surprised you had time to do this film. I naively assumed you’d locked in doing the next six Avatars.
Well, we only made two. We made two and three, and now we’re on a break while Jim [Cameron] puts everything together. I think he has been shooting or editing a lot of CGI. But one of the glorious things was that after I finished Avatar 2 and 3, which took about 18 months, I got to do so many great projects that were small and intimate, especially The Good House, where I fell in love with [my character] Hildegard, who is such a great sort of dame. She’s so unapologetic about where she is in life, and she’s such good company. It was really a dream job to work with Kevin and to work in Nova Scotia, where I’d never been, I mean, honestly, I’m just pinching myself the entire time. I was so excited.
How did you relate to Hildy as a character?
Well, first of all, she’s a woman in her 60s speaking out. We don’t have films about women in the 60s who are telling you what’s going on in their lives. That’s a voice in film we don’t often hear from. Also, she’ll be so funny, and she takes us, the audience, into her confidence. It’s true she has sort of alienated her husband, who’s left her. Her daughters have put her into an intervention. Really, her only friends are her dogs and the occasional bottle of wine. And us.
I loved the device of talking directly to the camera. Here’s this woman that I like so much, that I rooted for: flaws and all. And you, the audience, you’re her confidant. What I loved about the film was: She does have a drinking problem, but she does not admit to that. Like so many of us. Even when I was playing Hildy, I was like: “People just back off and give this woman a break, let her have a glass of wine at the end of her hard day!” So I think the movie takes you by surprise when you realize that you’re going to have to take her drinking a little more seriously. I was very reluctant to give up my view of her drinking [as harmless]. I finally had to, obviously, but I felt it was very relevant. I felt her voice was very relevant and also, I have to say, very enjoyable.
Plus, it was a love story with Kevin Kline, who is irresistible to me. And the character of the town, populated by so many interesting characters. A town that’s changing who it is. So I felt that there were so many things going on in the film that made it relevant and very timely to people.
Tell me about your onscreen relationship with Kevin Kline. This is the third film in which you play a couple.
Do you really want to hear about our off-screen “relationship”? We’ve been great friends for a long time. We went to rival drama schools, so that’s part of our daily banter, we have a mildly competitive and very affectionate relationship. It was just a joy to act with him again. I trust him so much and I think he trusts me. It was just like we were on wheels and let go.
You shot the film in Nova Scotia. Were you able to do the movie before COVID?
We shot in the town of Chester, Nova Scotia, in 2019. It was, I think, a 30-day shoot. We finished by mid-November just when it was snowing, we literally drove out in a snowstorm. Chester just welcomed us with open arms. I think Nova Scotia is so proud of the film work. Like The Lighthouse, which is such an amazing film. We had such a great crew, with many Canadian actors. It’s a place I long to go back to.
Given the affection you say you had for Hildy, how do you relate to her stubborn strain of independence that leads her to refuse to ask for help, to refuse to even acknowledge that she has a drinking problem?
I think she had a tough childhood. She’s a self-made woman who’s been the top Realtor on the North Shore for five years. She’s the person you want to go and have a few drinks with, go out on the town with. There are all these wonderful attributes of Hildy. All these things that have worked for her suddenly aren’t working for her anymore. Her husband left her for a guy. Her daughters, who she supported, have done an intervention on her. Her weaselly assistant is taking over her territory.
We meet her sort of at her wit’s end. She’s basically looking at the audience saying: “This shit show is my life right now.” It’s just such a breath of fresh air. She’s so unapologetic about her feelings and what she feels she deserves. It’s a voice, again a voice of a woman in her 60s speaking out about what she deserves. It’s very rare in film, let alone in life, you know?
So I found her such good company and I really love her voice. I love her dark angry way. The film really makes the audience feel like her confidant. And then, at a certain point, you start to feel kind of complicit with her behavior. I thought as a device that was very successful. It’s a traditional device in theater, the asides to the audience, where the character just assumes the audience is on your side, whether you’re Hamlet or whoever. But in the film, I found it particularly delicious to speak to the audience.
Was it particularly challenging to do that, to break the fourth wall and speak directly to the camera?
I remember my first week on Alien, Ridley Scott kept saying: “Don’t look in the camera!” and I finally said: “Well, you keep putting it right in front of me!” So to suddenly be able to speak directly to the camera was incredibly liberating to me. It was quite a surprise. It felt like I was depending on the affection of the camera and really needing the camera to laugh at my jokes. The camera was good company for me.
My only worry before I started this film was I was working with husband and wife directors [Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky], and I didn’t know what I’d do if one told me to act one way and the other said the opposite. Luckily, that never happened.
You seem to be in a good place right now. You’ve got the Avatar films coming up, you are doing all these interesting independent movies. How do you feel about this stage of your career and the opportunities for a woman of your age?
I feel so fortunate because suddenly all these jobs are coming at me and they are all so different. I finished Avatar 2 and 3 and I’ve gotten to so many small and intimate projects, like The Good House. I’m about to go to Australia to play a farmer, a flower farmer. Then I play this very wealthy woman for Paul Schrader in a movie [Master Gardener] with Joel Edgerton. Then I’m supposed to go to England to play another wonderful character. I’m just so grateful for all this work and each role. It’s almost like the world has realized that older women have something to say and that if you are a person at this age, you’re going to be that character, warts and all, and that’s fun to watch. I think I’m reaping the rewards of being on that beach for so long. Now I feel like a soul surfer in this industry and I’m just enjoying the hell out of every wave.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day