There are a half-dozen actors who might be crowned as the “King of Sci-Fi Films,” but a few of them, like Harrison Ford of “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner” fame, might run screaming from the genre’s throne room. There is only one true and rightful queen, however, and on Sunday night she emerged from a giant steaming alien egg at the Greek Theatre to warmly greet thousands of her adoring subjects.
“I do love science fiction and the roles it presents for women,” Weaver said not long before walking out on stage at the Scream 2010 Awards, which air Tuesday on Spike TV and represent pop culture’s surging Comic-Con energy the same way the MTV Video Music Awards keyed to the shifting dynamics of the 1980s. The sold-out crowd at the Greek cheered through a long rainy night — zombie make-up and lingerie, by the way, produce unpredictable results when water is added — and stars and filmmakers such as James Cameron, Halle Berry, Mickey Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Bill Murray, Christopher Nolan, Kristen Stewart and Megan Fox paraded across the stage guarded by fire-breathing gargoyles.
No one got a bigger reception than Weaver, who starred in four “Alien” films, “Avatar,” two “Ghostbusters” movies and “Galaxy Quest” (and loaned her voice to “WALL-E” as the ship computer). “Avatar” is a history-making monster with $2.8 billion at theaters worldwide but Weaver is best known as Ripley, the wildly resilient human heart of the “Alien” films and a character she has brought to the screen in three separate decades. The original 1979 film, directed by Ridley Scott, was her first starring role and the 1986 sequel, directed by Cameron, earned Weaver the first of her three career Oscar nominations.
“Everything began for me with Ripley,” the 61-year-old said at her hotel a few hours before the awards show. “When people talk about her, a lot of them say, ‘It must be odd for you to have done so much work and have people always talk to you about Ripley.’ But she made it possible for me to do all of these other genres and yet I always got to come home to her. So, no, I never get tired of her.”
Hollywood hopes that fans feel the same way. Fox Home Video has been intensely promoting the $140 “Alien” Anthology Blu-Ray boxed set that hits stores on Oct. 26 and director Scott is now working on a prequel to his first film that delves into the back story of the so-called Space Jockey, the mysterious dead giant that is shown with ominous effect in the original 1979 movie. The project has hit some turbulence and its fate is uncertain, but Weaver is hopeful it will get made — even if by all appearances it will be the first “Alien” installment without her.
“I’m excited that they’re doing this,” Weaver said. “What we have with ‘Alien’ are so many of these exciting elements but they need to be reinvigorated in a very original way. Otherwise why bother? I wish Ridley all the best with it. If they go where all these eggs come from, that’s a very big story to tell and one I know I want to see.”
Weaver may miss out on the new iteration of “Alien,” but she’s not exactly hurting for work. The New York resident came to town early to spend time at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to prepare for her upcoming role in “Rampart” with Woody Harrelson. More interesting to the Scream Awards crowd, she’s just finished up a vampire role in a new Amy Heckerling film. There’s also the intrigue of the “Avatar” sequel (the circumstances of her character’s death scene in the first film don’t rule out some sort of screen life in the second) and she has some work lined up in Spain, too, for a film about shady CIA operatives and then asked with a wink, “Are there any other kind?”
Told that she seems to be on a roll, Weaver smiled, leaned back, put her palms at the nape of her neck and pushed her hair up — a gesture of contentment and reflection. “You know, a lot is going on. I feel like it’s a great business and there’s so much to be excited about.” Later that evening, wearing a snug black dress and sparkling earrings that would have looked great at the Golden Globes, Weaver found herself with the trick-or-treat crowd at the Greek. The actress has spent time on some pretty strange movie sets, so she serenely glided through the backstage like an affectionate mother stepping past the debris in her wild child’s dorm room.
There were some familiar faces, too, with Cameron on hand to pick up three trophies for “Avatar” and Murray gamely suiting up in his old “Ghostbusters” gear despite some of the eye-rolling he’s done at that franchise through the years. The two paused to chat with each other as “Iron Man 2” actor Don Cheadle stood in the wings of the stage, paying no notice as shock-rock star Marilyn Manson passed by, fresh from a stage appearance with a woman chained to a pole that was set afire. If that sounds a bit like torture, so does the term “awards show” when you happen to be the director of “Titanic” and “Avatar.” “I thought,” Cameron said backstage, “that I was off this treadmill.”
Cameron didn’t seem half-hearted while on stage, though, and he gave a stirring tribute to Weaver as a model of class and talent that helped science fiction and fantasy entertainments overcome the vintage view of women as victims and alien sex-objects and move into the era of Sarah Connor, Sookie Stackhouse, Hermione Granger, Buffy Summers, Dana Scully, Neytiri, Lara Croft and, of course, Ripley. If Cameron thinks Weaver brings out the best of women in sci-fi, the feeling is mutual. Earlier, at her hotel, Weaver said that “Aliens,” “T2: Judgment Day,” “The Abyss” and “Avatar” show the filmmaker’s affinity for presenting strong and nuanced female personas in fantastic settings. She said she suspects that can be traced back to the egg.
“During the rollout of ‘Avatar’ I got to meet Jim’s mother and there’s something about her, she has the beautiful blue eyes and she’s very calm and she raised these three sons, all extraordinary and all very much who they are, and there is great strength that emanates from his mother,” Weaver said. “He’s told me that he first drew [the ‘Avatar’ alien princess] Neytiri when he was 14 and he drew this picture of a blue princess for his mother as a gift. There’s something about her that has inspired Jim. Jim is very impatient with people who underestimate women. There’s a reason.”
With the exception of pyro, there’s nothing the show’s producers love more than giant props, hence the massive insectoid egg that brought Weaver to the stage like a stripper in a birthday cake. The silver DeLorean from “Back to the Future” also arrived from the 1980s for a 25th anniversary reunion of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, but the glowing emerald lantern the size of a small lighthouse proved to be the night’s biggest challenge — it took three tries to get it past the stage doors and out to the audience for the night’s big finale, an appearance by Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively to promote the Warner Bros. superhero film “Green Lantern,” which hits theaters next summer. The eager Greek crowd didn’t seem to care if the seams were visible — the television audience won’t see them after the three-hour event is edited down to 90 minutes.
All those giant props probably will end up on studio lots or online auction blocks in the weeks to come but don’t be surprised if Weaver’s hatch somehow makes it onto a truck headed east on Interstate 10 with an Empire State destination punched into the GPS. “I love it,” the queen said as she left the building. “I think it would it would look great at home in the garden.”
— Geoff Boucher
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