The work of legendary gorilla scientist Dian Fossey will be brought back to life in a new three-part documentary series for National Geographic television, now in production. Scheduled to air this fall, the series will feature narration by actress Sigourney Weaver, who played Dian Fossey in the 1988 movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” based on Fossey’s book.
“I had the amazing experience of portraying Dian Fossey in ‘Gorillas in the Mist,’ spending months with the majestic mountain gorillas,” says Weaver, who also serves as the honorary chair of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
“In the 50 years since Dian founded the Karisoke Research Center, scientists have safeguarded the gorillas and increased awareness about conservation all around the world. I am honored to be working with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and National Geographic on what promises to be a remarkable documentary of Dian’s courageous life and legacy.”
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund President and CEO/Chief Scientist, Dr. Tara Stoinski, says there couldn’t be a better time to re-tell the story of Fossey’s work, which has since been greatly expanded and has helped the critically endangered mountain gorilla population to grow and stabilize.
“The Fossey Fund has not only carried on the important gorilla protection and scientific research that Fossey started, but has expanded it to include helping local communities, building the next generation of conservationists in Africa, and helping other gorilla species in danger of extinction,” says Dr. Stoinski.
“The National Geographic special will be a definitive biography of Fossey’s work, life, death and legacy, and will include never-before-seen footage from both National Geographic and Fossey Fund archives, a fitting endeavor for this 50th anniversary of her work,” adds Dr. Stoinski
In addition, the series, titled “Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist,” will include footage shot recently of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda and with Fossey Fund field staff. Tigress Productions, the company producing the series, is filming an historic group of gorillas who were among the first studied by Dian Fossey. Originally named Group 5, the group split in 1995, with one of the offshoots being the modern day Pablo’s group. Pablo’s group’s most famous member is elderly silverback Cantsbee – the last of the silverbacks first seen and named by Dian Fossey and then monitored throughout his 38 years. Amazingly, Cantsbee suddenly reappeared on Jan. 4, after being missing for months and presumed dead, adding yet another chapter to the amazing story of these gorillas and Fossey’s legacy.
Tigress Productions also produced the 2007 documentary on silverback Titus, which aired on PBS “Nature” in 2008.
“Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist” is also being produced in partnership with Academy-Award-winning executive producer James Marsh. It will air globally in 171 countries and in 45 languages this fall.
Come as you are, Defenders. There’s a new enemy in town.
Meet Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, the villain of Marvel’s The Defenders impressive enough to draw the attention of Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Iron Fist (Finn Jones). She’s an “utter badass,” showrunner Marco Ramirez says of the character, who is the perfect fit for the Sigourney Weaver, of Alien and Avatar fame. “Sigourney is the kind of person you can buy as the smartest person in the room, who you can also buy as a person holding a flamethrower. Her character is a very powerful force in New York City. She’s everything Sigourney is: sophisticated, intellectual, dangerous.” He pauses. “I’m sorry. I can only say a bunch of adjectives right now.”
A flurry of adjectives sounds about right for Alexandra, and not just because Marvel’s keeping further details about her character under tight wraps, so much so that probing Ramirez for more on Weaver’s character is like trying to stick a needle through Luke Cage’s unbreakable skin. After all, she (or whatever she’s fighting for) has to walk a very difficult, spoiler-ific line when it comes to the team-up series. “We knew it would take something massive to pull these four characters from their individual worlds to work together,” Ramirez says, “but also small enough that it felt like it existed in our world.”
For now, EW has the exclusive first look at Alexandra sitting high above the New York skyline, dressed in angelic, rabbit-in-a-snowstorm white and looking up at… someone?… Or something? She has no code name and no comic-book history, but Ramirez teases that she brings an “intellectual sophistication” that matches former big bads like Daredevil‘s Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). In that case, may we suggest Queenpin as a moniker?
If you’ve ever been to the McKittrick Hotel, the site of Punchdrunk’s immersive theater (and mandatory stop for visiting relatives) Sleep No More, you know it can get creepy at night. But even on an afternoon this summer—empty of all Eyes Wide Shut masks, bellhops lip-syncing to Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” or impromptu nude dance sequence in blood baths—the McKittrick still has a looming, menacing presence. Or maybe I was just nervous. After all, I was there to meet Sigourney Weaver, and a dark, semi-abandoned haunted house might have been the wrong call. Why couldn’t I have picked a well-lit coffee shop to interview the star of all the Aliens and Ghostbusters?
If I was skittish, Weaver, already posing for photos when I tentatively tiptoed into an empty bar area, seemed entirely at ease. “Don’t let me forget, they have my meat in the freezer,” Weaver reminded no one in particular between poses. “I really can’t forget to take the meat with me when I go.” Directly following our interview, Weaver would be driving back to the Adirondacks, and the possibility of leaving the meat (never clarified as to how much there was of it, or what kind) was causing her more anxiety than a Hitchcockian faux-tel. Weaver—68 years old and 6 feet tall without heels—can make herself at home in even the most inhospitable of environments.
The notion that Sigourney Weaver is the embodiment of the “DIY and take no shit” authority figure for a generation of young women might sound, in retrospect, like a backhanded compliment. But for those of us who grew up as tomboys in the 80s, Weaver stood as shining beacon of some other way to be. While other girls wanted to be Princess Leia or Jasmine, there were always a few of us who wanted to be Ripley. Or later on, Katharine Parker in Working Girl, a woman so ahead of her time in office politicking that she managed to mash-up Claire Underwood from House of Cards and Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, a solid two decades before either existed.
“I think it’s a perfect time to be different,” Weaver tells me on the topic of beauty standards, as we slide into a dark and quiet booth in the red-curtained bar room. “I think it’s our time.” She notes her obsession with watching the Olympics. “You see the glorious range of what women look like, how strong they are. I think this is all changing on screen, as people want to see themselves reflected a little bit more. They don’t want to see some little stick figure up there all the time.
Full interview: observer.com
Sigourney Weaver has four films coming out between now and 2022 – three Avatars and an Alien sequel – most of which have yet to be filmed, and which the 67-year-old has prepared for by cramming in as many small films as she can in advance. This is a psychological as well as an acting necessity, a way for Weaver to fine-tune before the onslaught – and which, in the case of A Monster Calls, has resulted in an almost unbearably poignant movie. The film, adapted from the Patrick Ness novel about a child who loses his mother, is so finely wrought that when Weaver first read the script, she thought, “I don’t think I can be part of this, it’s too painful. And then you realise this is your job, to tell the story.”
Weaver is bright today, in a studio just outside New York, with that friendly but slightly patrician air she puts to good use in the roles she does best: the ostensible villain who isn’t all that she seems. For someone as open as Weaver, she plays repressed very well, most notably Janey in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, but going back as far as Katharine in Working Girl, and even to Ripley in Alien, the film that established her as an actor able to convey large internal movement via the smallest surface ripple. These roles are often characterised as “cold”, which feels to Weaver like a gendered term designed to debase their humanity. “The male perspective may be that it’s a cold person. But in fact, like in Ice Storm, Janey was disconnected: she couldn’t focus on the present and her family. Bored and lost. But I would never have gone to ‘cold’.”
If she is optimistic about human nature, it is not only a requirement of her job – to inhabit another psychology requires deep levels of empathy – but of what appears to be her generous disposition. A small example: I am 30 minutes late after a train debacle, something that, with an actor of Weaver’s standing, would customarily cause upset on a par with the sky falling in, but is instead met with concern. Standing up from the lunch table to her full 6ft, and in a tweed jacket that speaks to an idea she has of England, she projects an amused frankness that she later describes, with some embarrassment that it should need to be clarified, as “normal”. One can be the sort of actor who shouts and screams and throws tantrums, but “honestly,” Weaver says, “life is too short”.
In the new movie, directed by JA Bayona and co-starring Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson, Weaver plays a woman whose adult daughter is dying of cancer; an unsympathetic figure, at least as she is seen through the eyes of her grandson. It is a fairytale of sorts, what Weaver calls “a unique blend of allegory and harsh, harsh reality”, and one that, in the context of her career in sci-fi and dystopian drama, is in some ways the most frightening landscape of all. A Monster Calls covers the triptych of worst nightmares: of a child losing a parent; of dying oneself and orphaning one’s children; and, the worst of all, suffered by Weaver’s character (and the thing that makes her tight-lipped demeanour so interesting), that of losing one’s child. “It’s not that she’s cold – it’s that she’s not sharing, because she can’t,” she says.
The film is set in England, and for reference Weaver drew on her own mother, born and raised in Essex, a graduate of Rada and the West End stage before she emigrated to New York and met Weaver’s television producer father. “She had the most beautiful speaking voice,” she says. “When I began shooting, I sometimes sounded like her. I really was uncomfortable. And I really needed to find the grandmother’s accent. It’s not a Manchester accent, but we didn’t want to be posh.” (The class setting is one of the few aspects of the film that doesn’t quite add up, though the film’s dream-like texture largely forgives it.)
Full interview: theguardian.com