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Interview of the week: Sigourney Weaver

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International   |   April 24, 2003 at 12:25 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, April 24 (UPI) -- The warden in the award-winning book "Holes" is hardly a likable character, but Sigourney Weaver, the actress who plays her in the film, says she refuses to see her as simply a villain.

"What touched me about her story," explains the star of the "Aliens" films and "Ghostbusters," "is that, like Stanley the boy this happens to, she never has a childhood. She has her own curse on her family where she has to find this wretched treasure that might be nothing, and she has sort of devoted her life to that and hasn't had (a childhood) either and it's turned her into this sort of a desert creature -- very hard and very soft at the same time. So, to me, it was a very interesting arc. At the end, I think she's quite childlike."

Based on Louis Sacher's popular 1998 children's book, "Holes" is the story of a teenager, Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf), who is wrongly accused of stealing a pair of sneakers and remanded to a Texas detention camp where an evil warden (Weaver) forces him and other inmates to dig holes as a "character-building experience." Chaos ensues when Stanley questions why the warden and her henchmen want to know if they find anything "special" in all those holes they are digging.

The 53-year-old native New Yorker says she began work on "Holes" right after production wrapped on "The Guys," a film based on Anne Nelson's play about a writer (Weaver) helping a fire captain (Anthony LaPaglia) as he struggles to pen eulogies for eight of his men lost on Sept. 11, 2001. After addressing such weighty and dramatic issues, Weaver admits she was relieved to act in a lighter project -- even if it did require her to play a villain for the first time on screen.

"It's such a wonderful book, and I'm such a big fan of it, and Louis wrote the screenplay," she says. "It's very hard, I think, to combine all that sort of mythology and mystery with the work camp, but I think it's got a wonderful cast (who pull it off). Jon Voight and Tim Blake Nelson and I play the three bad guys, and I'd never really played a bad guy before. It was hard actually. ... As a mother, I found it difficult to be that beastly to the boy, and she's pretty beastly."

On a more serious note, Weaver says she hopes "The Guys" offers comfort to those who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"I think at the time when Anne Nelson wrote the play ('The Guys' was based on,) we sort of tried to get it out to the people right away," Weaver said.

She says there was a sense that if they did not concentrate on what happened the day of the terror attacks they could "bring these guys to life in a way that could bring some solace to people because so many people felt devastated whether they lost a close friend or a family member or had no connection at all, as in my case."

Based on Nelson's popular play of the same name, "The Guys" opened in early April and was the first big-screen drama specifically about the events of 9/11.

Asked why she thinks there aren't more such movies due for release, Weaver replies: "I think it's a daunting idea to do something about Sept. 11 that doesn't do it in some cheesy way. I think people are still in shock. I think that we felt comfortable making this film because it was based on true experience. We had had so much support from the fire department, police department, so many people who had been involved."

Weaver says she is grateful to have a career that allows her to work in so many different kinds of media.

"For me, what I always envisioned, if I was really, really lucky was to work in a repertory theater," she confesses. "In the old days, you would do a drama, a regular play for two weeks, and then you would do a comedy, then you do a farce. And the idea was to be in a company where you get to play all different things, and there are only a few theaters like that in the country. So I try to do that with my career, and since Hollywood never knows what to do with you anyway, it's just as well. I try to just keep moving."

"Holes" and "The Guys" are in theaters now.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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