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Star Watch: Sigourney Weaver

February 9, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sigourney Weaver can laugh about it now and break into a silly song of survival: ``I’m ... still ... HERRRRE!″

But for a long time it was no laughing _ or singing _ matter. The ditty’s directed at her Yale Drama School instructors who told her she had no talent, and decimated her self-esteem.

So even though she’s 50 and enjoyed a career that spans two decades-plus, Weaver doesn’t talk in retrospective terms of meeting or exceeding any goals she may have had as an actress, as some people might at that stage in life.

``I had zero expectations,″ she says, recalling how her graduate school experiences put her confidence left of zero.

Since she was shy anyway, their opinions were like a punch to the solar plexus. And she suspects that her early roles might have been more varied if she weren’t so doubled over with doubt.

``It took me a long time to get over it. I think I’m finally over it this year,″ she says with a laugh.

So there you have it: A nominee for 2000′s Gotten-Over-It Woman of the Year.

She’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as a wife and mother whose life is nearly destroyed by the death of her best friend’s child and charges of child abuse in ``A Map of the World.″ And she may receive a matching Academy Award nomination on Feb. 15.

She’s also making movie audiences laugh as a buxom, blond bimbo in the box-office hit ``Galaxy Quest,″ a sendup of ``Star Trek″ and its fans.

``I said to my agent, `If anyone’s going to parody space movies, I’m a good person to choose.′ I’ve been there,″ says Weaver, who’s been so memorable as Ripley in the four ``Alien″ movies, including her screen debut in the 1979 original.

``And it was actually a relief to play someone who is afraid, and who’s a normal person in space and feels terribly out of place,″ she says, referring to how intrepid Ripley was.

In earlier interviews, Weaver caused a small stir by saying that when she put the blond wig on, she ``didn’t say an intelligent thing for months.″

``The reason I said that was that I felt when I got the whole costume on _ and my character keeps talking about not being taken seriously _ I found it hard to take myself seriously ... and I really do think other people found it hard to take me seriously, too,″ she says, explaining that, while it was a joke, it was also an expression of empathy.

She felt others were relating to her based on how she looked _ and she can see how that has an impact on self-esteem.

Her character in ``A Map of the World″ has no self-esteem problems, and Weaver was attracted to the role because she felt the woman was ``so uncompromisingly honest.″

``It was a very liberating experience because I was brought up to be terribly polite, and my mother’s English, so of course you never talk about your real feelings,″ says Weaver, the daughter of Sylvester ``Pat″ Weaver, the long-ago NBC president credited with creating the ``Today″ and ``Tonight″ shows, and Elizabeth Inglis, an actress who appeared in ``The 39 Steps.″

In between the two movies in theaters now, Weaver made a third movie last year, ``Company Men,″ playing a ’50s housewife named Daisy who inadvertently causes the Bay of Pigs.

Weaver, who has appeared on and off-Broadway, takes on a broad range of roles because she’s trying to recreate, as a movie actress, the experience of a theater actress in a repertory company.

``In rep you always have three plays going at once, and you have a big part in one _ you know, you get to play the leading lady, (for example) `Hedda Gabler’ in one _ and then you play the maid in the next one,″ says Weaver, a Tony nominee in 1985 for David Rabe’s ``Hurlyburly.″ ``It’s very good for the work to go from drama to farce, or from Ibsen to Shakespeare to some Restoration comedy ... or an old play to a new play.″

Weaver has displayed that range throughout much of her career.

In 1989, she received Oscar nominations for very different roles in very different movies: ``Gorillas in the Mist″ and ``Working Girl.″ Likewise, in 1995 she appeared in ``Copycat″ and ``Jeffrey″ and in 1997 in ``The Ice Storm″ and ``Alien Insurrection.″ And she’s built her varied career with the ``Ghostbusters″ comedies, ``The Year of Living Dangerously″ and Roman Polanski’s film adaptation of ``Death and the Maiden.″

Weaver doesn’t like to leave home for more than one movie a year because of her family life, with husband Jim Simpson, who’s a theater director, and 9-year-old daughter Charlotte. And she’d probably do more if more films were made in New York.

``It’s much more about location than anything ... It’s all about the school year _ and what can shoot close to home.″

Her husband has his own theater in downtown Manhattan, a small nonprofit enterprise where he does mostly new plays.

``Also, having only one child I don’t want to miss it because it goes so quickly. There will be plenty of time to take work, I always feel,″ she says.

Come fall she may get back to her theater roots by appearing on Broadway, although she can’t offer details yet, and she doesn’t discount the possibility of a fifth ``Alien″ movie.

So in 20 years, you might see a white-haired Ripley hobbling around, she jokes.

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