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Abduction – Sigourney Weaver on her male role and return to Avatar

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Abduction - Taylor Lautner and Sigourney Weaver
Nathan (Taylor Lautner) and Dr Bennett (Sigourney Weaver) © 2011 Lionsgate

Sigourney Weaver has starred in some of the biggest blockbusters of the last 35 years including Alien, Ghostbusters II, and the most successful movie of all time, Jim Cameron’s Avatar.

She plays a supporting role in her new movie Abduction, which stars Taylor Lautner of Twilight fame. When Nathan Harper (Lautner) stumbles on an image of himself as a little boy on a missing persons’ website, he discovers his whole life has been a lie. With his neighbor Karen (Lily Collins), he finds himself on the run from assassins, looking for his biological father, who is a CIA agent. Sigourney Weaver portrays Nathan’s psychologist, Dr Geri Bennett, but is she more than that?

Was this a bigger role when you took it, did they cut a lot of scenes?

Abduction - Poster, Taylor Lautner
Poster with Taylor Lautner © 2011 Lionsgate

No, they added. Actually that was part of the challenge to me, that it was not a big role. I had to come in like James Mason and do a very specific thing, set it up, change it, send it on its way, and I’d never done that. So that was a big part of it.

Another part was to work with John Singleton, who is a filmmaker I really admired, and the chance to work with Taylor and Lily, because we have a theatre in New York, and we have a lot of young actors working with us. We have a company of about fifty young people every year.

I love the intergenerational thing about our industry.

Did you know who Taylor was before the movie, had you seen Twilight?

I had because I played a vampire for Amy Heckerling in Vamps, so I decided to devote myself to learning the whole vampire genre. So I watched the Twlight movies, which I enjoyed very much and I thought he was very good in those.

Yet this was a completely different set of challenges for him, playing a real kid, no superpowers, just himself and I thought he did a really good job.

Does it feel different to be on a movie in a cameo role, than starring in it?

I have been fortunate enough to be in a lot of films that I carry. And that’s a certain skill and a certain way of approaching things.

To try to do what you need to do in not much time is actually a very different skill set, which I really like. That’s the whole James Mason thing. I adored and worshiped him and saw him on stage a couple of times, and to me when I get parts like this, and this was a man’s part originally, I thought, ‘They’re offering me the James Mason role. Yes!’ I was so excited.

Do you get offered men’s roles a lot?

Abduction - Taylor Lautner and Sigourney Weaver
Nathan (Taylor Lautner) and Dr Bennett (Sigourney Weaver) © 2011 Lionsgate

All the time. A young journalist just asked me, ‘Do you get insulted by that?’ I said, ‘No, our world has changed and women are now in fields that used to be male.’ I think a lot of writers, writing for Hollywood films, still make them too much testosterone, and then the smart people casting the movie go, ‘You know what would help this is if we made it a woman’s part.’

As long as they don’t change the part, I like the play the part exactly as it’s written for a man, because I can bring my own womanliness to it. So I love the idea of playing the part and not worrying about that.

Taylor said the first time he met you he was in awe. Are you aware that you have to make the first move to make these young actors more comfortable?

I want them to know that I’m just another actor. I think I do need to reach out and show them that I’m a goon, because some of these kids have Alien posters on their walls. I’m just the actor, so I do want to meet them on an actor-to-actor level.

When you were Taylor’s age, who was on your wall?

Steve McQueen. And I saw his granddaughter last night, she came to the premiere, Molly Flattery, she’s an actress and a wonderful person. We worked together on You Again. He was on my wall.

Have you talked to James Cameron about resurrecting your character in Avatar?

Avatar - Director James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore and Sam Worthington
On the set writer-director James Cameron reviews a scene with actors Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore and Sam Worthington © 20th Century Fox

Don’t worry, I’ll be back. As Jim says, ‘No one ever dies in science fiction.’ I have to say he has told me the stories for the next two movies and they’re absolutely wonderful. So I think the world really has a treat in store, we just have to make them.

Was that the first time you’d done that much green screen?

It wasn’t green screen, it was performance capture, which is what Jim invented. It’s very actor centric, in fact if you watch the DVD he has 45 minutes just showing half the screen what it looks like in the end, and half what the actors were doing.

I want to say to actors especially, they need us more than ever to infuse this new technology with what we do. And good directors know that, and so do smart producers. So I think it’s so far superior for the acting experience than green screen, which is you’re placed here, then they add the monster which is much too close than it would ever be.

This is much more organic. I love it. I think it’s fantastic, it means there is no end to what I get to do.

Did your stage experience help you work on movies like Avatar where there’s nothing there?

I think that’s true, but with Jim there was nothing that was not there. He would say, ‘This is going to be a very exotic [animal],’ and if you looked in his camera you could see a roughed-out version of whatever creature it was.

He did everything he could to make it as accessible as possible.