Sigourney Weaver playing the head of a television network in the new comedy
In her newest film, The TV Set, she plays the ruthless head of a television network at the time of pilot season. Her main draw on the net is a reality show called Slut Wars, but along comes David Duchovny's newest pilot, The Wexler Chronicles, which got changed and changed and changed, and eventually became Call Me Crazy.
Throughout the film, you really get to check out the hilarity that goes on between the network suits and the people putting these shows on the air, and getting them made. Movieweb had the chance to sit down with the legendary actress to talk about The TV Set and re-teaming with James Cameron on Avatar.
Here's what she had to say:
Did you base your character on anyone?
Sigourney Weaver: I couldn't base her on my father who ran NBC in the '50s because he believed that television could uplift people and expand our horizons, so he was really the polar opposite but you know ironically enough because I don't really know many executives in the business, I based her on someone I adore, a woman who runs a non-profit who's so energetic and believes so strongly in what she's doing, and you just can't say no to her, you know. So I just kept channeling this friend of mine because I thought even though it's so well-written, I didn't want to make Lenny someone you could dismiss. I wanted her to be smart enough and real enough, so you went, 'Hmm, this person's in charge for better or worse,' you know. So that's what I was after.
So would you pick up the TV show in the film, Call me Crazy?
Sigourney Weaver: Can you imagine? Now when I watch a show, I go is, 'That the one?' It's amazing that anything good survives that process. It's really scary; I had no idea.
Since Alien launched you into the whole movie career, you haven't done TV. Is it ever something you considered?
Sigourney Weaver: Yeah, I never felt I was good enough to do TV. You have to work so quickly and be so sort of facile you know. I did some stuff for PBS, but also I live in New York, so I always thought it would be fun - I have many friends who were like on Frasier or whatever, and I think it would be a wonderful thing to do but no one ever really approached me with something I wanted to do, and if they did approach me it was always for something terribly serious, and I did think if you're going to do something on TV, please let it be funny.
Are you in LA shooting the new James Cameron movie by any chance?
Sigourney Weaver: There's not much I can tell you.
Is your character live or animated?
Sigourney Weaver: I'm both.
Will it still be a strong heroine in the new Cameron film?
Sigourney Weaver: I think she is; it's a wonderful part, it really is.
It's been 20 years since Alien. How is it working with James now?
Sigourney Weaver: Well it isn't that different I suppose; it's wonderful to work with old friends again and he hasn't made a movie for 10 years, and he's so excited about doing this one. He's shooting every shot himself and he's surrounded himself with the most brilliant young technicians, pushing the edge of the performance capture envelope and by the time we finish this movie, the technology will be unrecognizable I'm sure, and the actors that we're with are wonderful people. It's funny, it's a huge movie; it's actually a very small family kind of experience.
Way different than the stuff he was doing in the old days with the puppets.
Sigourney Weaver: You know, I kind of miss the puppets; Tom Woodruff who's the special effects genius who was in the suit for a lot of Alien and Alien 3 for me, playing Ripley there was a mind in that suit. It wasn't a computer graphic image and I do think that makes a big difference in the scene so I think computer graphic imaging will get better, it will get more intelligent, but actually, Ghostbusters 2 we had a lot of puppeteers and they were awesome, and they funneled all their passion into these puppets, and they were real to us so it was cool. It wasn't like primitive or anything.
Is it challenging?
Sigourney Weaver: Coming from the theatre I'm at home on an empty stage using my imagination and he's really given us so many images of what these worlds really look like, so I think he's doing everything he can to make it work for us and I think it's going to be okay. It's not like he put a potted plant next to me, and said, 'Alright react to that.' He's trying to make it work for us, too; he knows that that has to happen.
What was your first reaction when you heard your character in this movie was pushing a show called Slut Wars?
Sigourney Weaver: I was captivated! You know, actually the part was written for a man and the wonderful actor who was playing it had to drop out and we have the same agent so it was my agent who said, 'What about Sigourney?' and I loved the script and I just said to Jake, 'Please just don't change one word of it because it's such a good part as written.' And thinking of it as a male executive who's obsessed with women's breasts - 'Are they real or not' - is funny; I think having a woman executive who probably has fake breasts being obsessed with whether women's breasts are real or not and talking about it, I think that's funnier. Whatever women have done to the workplace, it has certainly not humanized it. The expectation, it's not quite happened that way.
This isn't the first time you've taken on a role written for a male.
Sigourney Weaver: I know, I know, it's funny; if a role is well-written it will work for either sex I think, unless it's a love story or something, and I actually think there's so many women in these positions now that it really shouldn't make a difference. I did it in Vantage Point too which is coming out later.
When you first got the script, you sounded surprised by the process of TV. So you were really surprised?
Sigourney Weaver: I had no idea; I didn't even know about the upfronts. Of course I had to watch everyone's upfront from the year before and I knew nothing about this; I really didn't. I don't think they had that when my father was running the network. He'd just recently wrenched the creative control from the toothpaste people to creating a programmer so all of this has evolved in the last few years and it's like a big kind of pep rally for your shows and of course the big joke on our set was some of the shows sounded ludicrous, like Prison Break. It's like, 'What's that?' But it's a huge hit!
What was it like to work with David?
Sigourney Weaver: He was wonderful; the part, I guess it's supposed to be like Judd Apatow, you have to have someone who's very smart, and very warm and very funny, so I thought it was a wonderful performance. My favorite scene to watch was the audition scene which was hair-raising as an actor and we had some executives in the room who were real executives. Cold as ice. They kept saying, 'You're being too warm,' and so many of the actors had actually done auditions like this and been in a series of pilots and I just thought, 'They're so courageous.' The way they kind of pick you apart, and I'm sure that goes on, it's just you don't want to sit around as an actor and think about what they're saying about you, but that was wonderful, and he had to be our host for that whole afternoon and it was really a wonderful scene to watch.
Is there more pressure to step up when you don't have to audition?
Sigourney Weaver: With every job you're doing something you usually haven't done before and you always think, 'I don't know what I'm doing.' That's sort of part of the process, but I haven't had to audition or even have to have a resume for many, many years and just perusing these young men resumes I was like, 'My g-d, what would I put on my resume?' You know down at the bottom where all the extra things, seeing if they're really reading it - I think the key is probably not to take it seriously; whatever juncture you're at just try to ride with it.
How have you managed to have a successful career and family?
Sigourney Weaver: Well I don't live out here; I have a lovely husband, he has a lot of aloha because he's from Hawaii, and the family comes first. We've tried to always work it out. I don't think I get that many opportunities, and the ones that I get that I want to do he really tries hard to try to be free and vice versa. Our daughter for better or worse has always been plagued by having one parent there all the time. We don't travel together. We're sort of looking forward to her going away to college so we can actually see each other!
The TV Set also stars Ioan Gruffudd, Judy Greer and Justine Bateman; it's in select theaters April 6th.