In this interview from Disney, Sigourney Weaver talks about appearing as the voice of the space ship computer in WALL?E and about strong roles for women and flying a plane:
QUESTION: Is it because you are so crazy about Wall?E that you have done press promotion for the film?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: It is! I admire how Pixar have done the film and how detailed it is. I have seen it twice so far. Very few places are like Pixar where the story is still king and no detail is spared to make it as rich as possible. I am thrilled for all of us Earthlings that we get to have a movie like Wall?E because I think we need it. And it is so entertaining and touching.
QUESTION: So since you are such a Pixar fan, you would presumably have done this for no money?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I was absolutely delighted, I was a stalwart fan, very enthusiastic of Pixar. I was delighted, even when I found out why I was cast, which was not for my talent but because I was in Alien. (jokes) It’s funny because I was sent a little film of WALL•E, who’s so endearing, and the script. The ship’s computer has a limited number of lines, but then I met Andrew and I said all of the robot entities, all of the electronic entities in this movie have so much character and so much heart. Being a computer I also think that I start as the voice of this rather evil corporation that’s gotten us into this mess, but by the end I too want to go back to Earth and find out what a hoe down is. So it was a wonderful world to enter, even as a computer, and I really, thoroughly enjoyed it. They also really let you play around, and I told Andrew I wanted to have an arc as my character, levels etc, he was very indulgent and we had a very good time.
QUESTION: What do you think about the film?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I think it’s a perfect movie, actually. To me a movie that succeeds, at its best is a movie that’s about much more than just the characters in it, which this certainly is, from the first second. What I admire so much is that it has this totally endearing, captivating story, adventure and romance. But within such a striking context, to show Earth as it might be if we don’t take care of it, and to not pull their punches. That’s how the movie starts, I just have so much admiration for the way they’ve taken this on, and how they’ve gone for it. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to talk about, there’s nothing negative you can say about this picture.
QUESTION: At what point did you realize that Wall?E was something special?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: They came to me last inter when they sent me the script, so I think I was like the after-thought. I think it was one of the fantasies of Andrew Stanton (director/writer) to have Ripley’s voice doing the space ship’s computer. Like a little whim. So they sent it to me and of course they did not realize what a huge Pixar fan I was. I would read the phone book for them. Andrew is very sweet; when I met him we had dinner and I said that I knew it was the ship’s computer but I felt that my character really had an arc…I begin as the voice of the company and by the end I am talking about Earth and I want to go back there too. So he was very indulgent to me and the actual taping, by letting me try all these different things. It was really fun, I really enjoyed working with him.
QUESTION: Are you able to watch this movie as a fan because having a smaller role means there’s no pressure on your shoulders?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Yes, I’m this really happy hitchhiker. That’s why it’s easy for me to talk about the movie, I don’t have any stake in it, I can just objectively say as someone who’s seen it twice and who fell in love with every element as I saw it that it’s just such a wonderful, wonderful story presented to me.
QUESTION: Is the computer like a mixture of Mother and HAL?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Mother was sort of an electronic voice. I thought that one of the things that they have done in Wall?E is transform the way we think about robots. And it makes sense, because if humans are programming robots then wouldn’t they become more and more human? You don’t even notice that they are not having dialogue in the movie. Someone had to tell me that here was no actual dialogue between the robots and I insisted that they were communicating constantly. What did I miss! I had to see it again to realize that the communication is all with robot sounds and the brilliant Ben Burtt making all of these eloquent noises. With the computer’s voice I was trying to be true to the story. I felt that all the electronic entities had a lot more soul in this picture. For instance Mother was programmed by an evil company so she was very unsatisfactory as a partner. You couldn’t affect her in any way, she was a good enemy and HAL – I really need to see 2001 again but I think we have come much closer to the Earth that I foresee where we will actually be able to program robots as people to hang out with. To create a robot my favorite would be like Peter Ustinov mixed with so and so.
QUESTION: What is your favorite moment in the film?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Gosh, what’s my favorite moment? There are so many. I guess I find that last shot where you pull back and the grass is growing over the next hill, really that’s what brings tears to my eyes. That the Earth is also trying to get back. I guess it’s, in a way, perfect that the film is coming out now, first of all we need something very loving to humankind and very entertaining. But I think my favorite moment is when you see EVE destroy that ship, she’s like my dream action woman figure because she’s so off handedly emotionally destructive. You don’t really understand EVE until she giggles and her eyes do that funny thing. But then you fall in love with EVE too. The fact that he’s not intimidated by this gorgeous, sleek destructive woman just gives us hope.
QUESTION: You have said that if you ever went into space you’d be hopeless with the technical side of things?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: That’s true! Of course I would do what I had to do but I am not very technically minded. But listen, I know how to keep a plane upright. But how to land it…that would be pretty frightening!
QUESTION: So you have flown a plane?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I have only flown it up in the air, I have never taken off or landed. It was only a little seaplane and it was not very hard to hold it steady.
QUESTION: Were you scared?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: There was a person right next to me – I was not by myself. He had pedals and he would have saved us if we had gone into a nose-dive.
QUESTION: Where did you do this flying?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: It was up in the Adirondacks, which is a beautiful park and range of mountains that are south of Montreal.
QUESTION: But don’t you get up-drafts and turbulence in mountain areas?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Yeah, I love turbulence, it’s like surfing. Turbulence is just waves in the air and I love to know I am in the air. What I hate is when the plane is just there, that is so boring. I’d rather feel like the captain is saying…wow! I have got to hold on to this baby!
QUESTION: Have you ever been in a scary situation in a plane?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I have and I was curiously calm because what can you do? The stewardesses were running up and down, going…how’s your water? They were such terrible actors. All the oxygen masks had dropped down and there had been a big sound at the back of the plane – something had popped open. We had to dive 10,000 feet where we could get down to somewhere where our brains wouldn’t pop. Then we had to fly round for a couple of hours like this in this broken plane. I was cool, I don’t know why. Maybe there is a tiny bit of Ripley that I was able to find in myself. But I was glad we were not flying over open water because that would have frightened me. I would have been looking for the fins. But because we were over an agricultural area I thought that if the worst came to the worst we could land this baby in one of those fields.
QUESTION: You seem to portray strong women on screen?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I don’t see people as weak or strong, I think we are all such a collection of things. I have very weak, vulnerable parts and then there are other things that we are good at. We are all such a grab bag. When you play a character you are playing someone usually who has to step up and grapple with something. There usually aren’t stories about people doing nothing. So I think the whole strong/weak thing is something that has lost its meaning. Is Bush a strong President because he doesn’t admit he has made a mistake? Some people would say yes, some people would say no. To me, strength is one of those words that needs constantly redefining. Women have always been very strong, even if they are women that have no position in society or have no position in the business world. They are strong because they keep everything else going without power and that takes a lot of strength and character. To me, character is what is interesting about men and women. The force of who they are and how they do things.
QUESTION: Which suggests that is why you chose to play Mary Griffith in Prayers For Bobby?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Yes and it is interesting because her greatest mistakes were made out of fear. She was this very religious woman whose son was gay and killed himself. She was so frightened of what might happen to him that she became very fierce about getting him to not be gay and, of course, lost him. Admitting you don’t know is so hard and she had to go through that and now she works for gay rights.
QUESTION: Merlyn Streep says there are lots of good roles for women. Do you agree?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Good stories always have good roles for women. There have always been fewer roles for women but our roles have always been more interesting than men’s roles. I do think it is a particularly good time and Meryl is a good example of that. There are all these baby boomers and we want to see stories we can relate to, do Juno had such good older characters as well as Ellen Paige herself.
QUESTION: What do you think of TV today?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: In our country the studios – except for Pixar, which is very story oriented – are looking for elements, like Marvel Comics and things like that. So all of the story oriented work has gone over to television. If you are interested in telling true stories then I think cable is the place to be.
QUESTION: You are celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary next year. Will there be a big party?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: We are trying to figure out what to do. But I think we may have a big square dance. We met sort of at a square dance and that kind of party means that no matter what age you are you have to participate in the dance.