After spending months on the moon Pandora, in the most successful movie ever made, Avatar, Sigourney Weaver has now turned her immense talent to a down-to-earth comedy, You Again, which spotlights the horrors of high school as experienced by two generations of the same family.
Weaver portrays Ramona a highly successful, career-driven women, who flies in from Europe to attend her niece Joanna’s (Odette Yustman) wedding, only to discover that the mother of the groom, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), was her big rival in high school thirty years before. If that’s not bad enough, the groom’s sister, Marni (Kristen Bell), was tortured mentally and pushed around physically by Joanna during their high school years.
Sigourney Weaver spoke with us about her new movie, and the painful memories of her own school days.
What drew you to this?
Like all of us, I had strange experiences in high school.
I was tall when I was 11, so when I got to high school the next year, I was just this horrible spidery, self-conscious, clumsy person, and thank goodness you have four years where you can kind of catch up to yourself a little bit.
I guess I feel there was a kind of universal story here about people trying to move on as if high school didn’t happen, and you can’t do that.
You have to go back and at least take a look at yourself, and go, ‘Alright, let’s join these two experiences up in some way.’
I think there were a lot of things that really touched me, I felt the script was very funny and I loved the idea of this cast, but I also found it was really about something important.
Did you have a nemesis in real life, and would you care to name her?
And throw some darts at her picture? I think I was so hapless that really I wasn’t worth being tormented. So I was lucky in that sense. There were a couple of girls who were mean to me, but most people were nice to me because they felt sorry for me. I’m sure that’s why, because really I was always homesick, I was at boarding school.
I needed those high school years because I needed to hibernate in a little nest, and luckily I was at a girls’ school, so I didn’t have as much pressure as a regular high school person who’s in a coed environment. In some ways that’s better, but in my case, I think I just would have been mortified if I’d had to deal with boys too.
Do you remember how tall you were at 14?
Yeah, I was 5 10. It took me years to catch up to myself, and actually the way I figured it out was I did do a lot of dance, so it was fun for me to go back and dance around in this movie. I never get asked to dance in a movie, so this is great.
Would you ever be open to appearing on Dancing with the Stars?
No, but I would be open to Vegas. That would be fun. After Bette Midler leaves and I can take over!
What was this cast like to work with?
It was amazing. I knew all these actresses. It was just an ensemble made in heaven. I think what was so nice was we didn’t have anything going on that was like the movie. We all just loved each other. Kristen Bell went out of her way to make Odette feel so comfortable, even if she’s playing this terrible person.
Jamie Lee and I had such a great time, and of course we were constantly worshipping Betty White who’s the greatest of them all. I sat next to Betty and every day she’d be in makeup (chair) looking so pretty and she’d say, ‘You know, I wish they’d hurry up because I don’t want to be late when we get on the set.’ We would have waited for hours for her. It was like it was her first day at work. She’s so humble, so professional, and really everyone was like that. We just had a great, great cast.
Can you talk about the fight scene you have with Jamie in the swimming pool?
Yes, luckily we got to do that at the end of the shoot. We got to do a lot of the film chronologically. I loved (my first entrance) as Ramona with my ‘mask’ very much intact. I loved the line where the little boy, Billy, says, ‘You look computer-generated,’ and I ad-libbed, ‘Thank you,’ because that would be Ramona’s dream.
By the time we got to the pool scene, we had so much to play and to share, and I think we secretly brought our high school experiences into it, although she was much more well-adjusted than I was. I was so eccentric in high school, but I think it stood me in good stead. I think when you’re in the arts it’s very good not to fit in when you’re young.
Do you have any advice of how to deal with the issues from high school?
Schools need to have enough programs for kids to express themselves in things other than lording themselves over each other. It’s a problem. I think it’s more of a problem these days than it was. No one was mean to me when I was in high school, I was just kind of mean to myself.