“In my career, I’m always getting chased by something, whether it’s a chicken or a monster,” jokes Sigourney Weaver in reference to the actor dressed in a yellow chicken suit who is quietly lurking on the periphery of her Harper’s Bazaar shoot with the fine-art photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia. The setup is a playful take on the lensman’s images, featuring a real bird confronting the actress in a New York penthouse, that ran in the magazine’s October 1996 issue. “Maybe I was the chicken’s pet,” she says with a laugh when asked who ruled the roost on set 20 years ago. As it turns out, Weaver’s avian adventures are not the only thing taking us down memory lane. She is also celebrating the highly anticipated release of this summer’s estimated $154 million reboot of the 1984 blockbuster Ghostbusters, the film that helped cement her place in Hollywood. This time, though, instead of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as the proton-pack-wielding cast, there is a powerhouse quartet of female comedians, namely Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon.
This new, ladies-centric take did not pass without a fair amount of controversy. Self-proclaimed “Ghostheads” railed against having women in the lead roles, prompting the trailer to became one of the most “disliked” videos in YouTube’s history, and director Paul Feig to address the backlash in a series of tweets that called out commenters for “misogyny” and for being “haters.” Weaver, who makes a cameo, could not be more confident about the current ensemble. “To be able to hand Ghostbusters over to these incredibly talented women felt perfect, and it was time,” she says. “There is such wonderful chemistry between the four of them. That does remind me of the boys because they were old friends and they had worked together a lot too. That kind of comedic pairing is just gold. You just turn the camera on and let them go at it.“
“It was really the chance to be possessed by a dog,” says Weaver of her role in the original Ghostbusters. “I thought that would be fun.“
It was Aykroyd’s studied belief in the supernatural that prompted the original script, which he and Ramis polished in the basement of Aykroyd’s home on Martha’s Vineyard one summer, as their families took to the beach. To say the movie was an insta-hit is an understatement. It grossed $238 million domestically, which would be impressive by 2016 standards, never mind 1984, and was nominated for two Oscars. While the men famously battled the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and a slobbish green ghost named Slimer, Weaver turned into a sexy demon in an off-the-shoulder shimmering copper dress. She opted for the role for a very specific reason: “It was really the chance to be possessed by a dog. I thought that would be fun,” says the Yale School of Drama graduate. “I love the idea that a cellist would turn into this crazy ghoul.“
The spook factor has been present throughout Weaver’s epic career. In addition to the Ghostbusters films, there was the bloodcurdling Alien franchise, the wondrous Avatar series (which is now in preproduction for four more films), and her upcoming vehicle, the fantasy film A Monster Calls, costarring Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson. Yet even with all her experience, the actress hasn’t developed a belief in the paranormal. “I haven’t,” she says, “but I do have a friend who tries to get in touch with the other world, and she does things like go on ghost tours of Grand Central station and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So there’s a lot of ghost presence, perhaps, in New York.”
That presence is certainly being felt this summer as McCarthy and the three Saturday Night Live all-stars suit up. “I think the fans are going to be pleased by how we pop up,” Weaver says of her role in the film. “It’s just a very sweet movie but also very funny and kind of crazy. I think that’s a big part of what films can do—take us to another world.”