There’s no question that Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is one of the most iconic female characters in movie history, and a terrifying force whom the Aliens should have thought twice about messing with. When people are asked “who is the toughest female character in movies”, the response is usually Ellen Ripley, and for good reason.
Weaver made that character, and turned her into someone who is universally loved by film fans, and seeing her back in a new Alien film would be just brilliant.
The Hero Complex Film Festival honoured both Sigourney Weaver and her Ripley character this weekend, and after showing Alien and Aliens back to back, Weaver took to the stage to talk about the role which made her a household name.
Weaver talked about how she had reservations to play Ripley:
“I [had trepidations] because I hadn’t seen the designs. If you just read the script. It’s basically just ‘Ten Little Indians’ and the monster is just — some monster. I pictured this big blob of yellow gel rumbling around. At the first meeting with Ridley, he pulled out all these beautiful big drawings H.R. Giger had done. He’s one of the main reasons we’re still here talking about this film. Giger’s designs are so uniquely disturbing and Carlo Rambaldi’s vision of the Alien — I wanted to be part of whatever that was because I had never seen anything like that on the screen before. It took me awhile to warm up to the rest of it — the character and everything. I just had to get to know [Ripley] better”
She then talked about Ripley, the iconic character:
“[Everyone on the film] wanted to make Ripley a really strong character. They didn’t decide though to make a young woman the survivor because of any feminist philosophy. They thought nobody would ever think that this girl would end up as the survivor. So they basically did it as a plot twist.
…[Although] whenever I tap into Ripley — it’s hard to describe — but I feel like I’m a little human soul. When I tap into Ripley, because of the writers who have created her, there’s just so much story to tell and she holds that story for me. I’m the vessel and I can feel that people have a connection with her because of her moral compass and because somehow she’s so consistent. She can’t help but want to preserve humanity… I think that’s something that just reaches out to people. That she’s someone you could count on when you’re in a jam. She has some sort of steel thread running through her that’s not going to give up that I find, as an audience member, very interesting”
Every fan of Alien knows that the horrific dinner scene, where the chestburster makes his full appearance, was never explained to the cast, and the reactions we see in the film are genuine. Weaver talked about that moment:
“We all read the script. We knew something was going to come out of John Hurt’s chest. He had a line that said ‘Oh my GGGGGOOOODDDD’. It was pretty big on the page. We all knew what happened. We get down to set and everyone is wearing a poncho. [Writers] Dan O’ Bannon and Ronald Schusett, who were around the whole time, were over in the corner [giggling away] like it was Christmas morning. But none of that tipped it off to me. It wasn’t until we actually started. We didn’t rehearse. Ridley wasn’t in favor of rehearsing even when there were special effects involved. So we started to have that casual conversation about breakfast and what we’re going to do and what we’re going to eat when we get home and then John Hurt just started coughing and I completely forgot we were making a movie.
I thought he was choking and when his chest filled with blood, we were all just stunned. It was so real to us and he was so convincing. That was the first take and then without any time at all — the second take — they must have changed something in him quickly, some sort of piece but there was no big setup and then suddenly this thing burst out of his chest, stood on the table and flew off. There’s a master of everyone [looking stunned] — they’re using the master because that’s exactly how [we felt]. We couldn’t believe what we had just seen. I still to this day having been in movies where special effects play a crucial part, I can’t believe that a couple of guys got under the table with a few rubber tubes and made that happen”
Finally, Weaver spoke about the possibility of making Alien 5, a film which has long been in the minds of movie fans, but until now I think we had all but given up on the idea. Weaver expressed an interest in making Alien 5, saying she feels she owes it to the fans, and Ripley, and there are even directors she has in mind to make it:
“I feel after going to a couple of these Comic Cons and meeting so many fans who are so passionate about the series, passionate about Ripley — that there’s more story to tell; but I don’t know how to do that. I don’t think Alien belongs on Earth popping out of a haystack, which is where I was afraid it was going to go. I feel it should take place in the far reaches of the universe where no one in their right mind would go. There are very few filmmakers that I can think of that I would want to entrust this to. But I can think of a couple… I feel there’s a longing in certain groups of fans when I meet them for the story to be finished because we really left it up in the air and I feel a bit badly about that because I was part of that decision making process.
I didn’t want to make four and five in a bundle. I think it’s hard to make these films all in a big lump. You need time to sort of let things resonate so I can imagine a situation where we could at least finish telling her story. I think that would be very satisfying at least to me — although I haven’t done anything about it; but I can understand why that could happen and I certainly know young filmmakers who are interested in doing that. So we’ll just have to see what happens”
Don’t go getting too excited, but yeah Alien 5 would be awesome! You can read the full interview at Collider.