Interview: Sigourney Weaver Talks Abduction

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What if everything you thought you knew about your life turned out to be a lie? That’s the question posed by this week’s Abduction, putting The Twilight Saga star Taylor Lautner in the leading role of seemingly ordinary teen Nathan Harper, who accidentally stumbles across his own face on a website of missing children. Things quickly go from bad to worse when his investigation into his identity pulls him and his neighbor, Karen (Lily Collins), into a deadly game of espionage, putting him in the crosshairs of both the CIA and an army of international assassins.

John Singleton’s first big screen effort since 2005’s Four Brothers, Abduction‘s cast is balanced with an adult cast of seasoned high-profile talent. Leading the charge is Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Geri Bennett. While she begins the film as Harper’s kind-hearted psychiatrist, the unraveling layers soon reveal her as something much more.

ComingSoon.net sat down with Weaver to talk about the experience of working on the film alongside a fresh-faced cast of up and coming talent. She also offers updates on a number of upcoming projects, including Avatar 2 and Ghostbusters 3 and drops the hint that, depending on the response to Abduction at the box office, she’s interested in continuing the film as a potential franchise.

ComingSoon: You and Alfred Molina are sort of the experienced vets in this one, both in terms of your characters and in being surrounded by new talent. While you don’t have any scenes together, you both have that sense that you could be either a good guy or a bad guy. Is that something that you actively play up or do you just let the role speak for itself on that front?
Weaver:
It’s an interesting question because I think it’s why I did the movie. I wanted to try and take on that kind of role where it’s kind of a real character part. You go in and perform a certain job. In this case, I set A up completely and believably while, B, at the same time, I’m completely setting up the opposite. It was what I call the James Mason part. Alfred, to me, is one of those actors who can do just about anything. He sets up his CIA character so well. He’s sort of not the good guy, but he’s not a guy that you don’t like. If he’s a bad guy, you probably go, “Well, he must have had a good reason.” We didn’t work together, so it wasn’t until I finally saw it that I found myself so impressed. Maybe if we do another one we’ll have have the chance to do a scene together.

CS: It’s almost like you play with a slight smirk and he plays with a slight scowl.
Weaver:
I know what you mean, but I’m not sure I would say smirk. I think she’s a pretty straight arrow. Maybe not the best shrink since [Nathan] is lying on car tops and going at 75 miles per hour. In any case, I think they’ve all kind of gotten used to this arrangement, even though it’s a huge lie to Nathan. I guess maybe they’re planning to tell him on his next birthday or something.

CS: When you step into this, do you write a backstory for your character? Do you know her whole history?
Weaver:
More or less, yeah. Especially when you’re only in a few scenes, it’s important to flesh out the rest so that this world makes sense. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Where did I start? How I did I end up where I am now? They’re fun questions to ask. Then, suddenly, she’s back in action. I love how cold-blooded she is about Lilly’s character, too. I think that’s very real.

CS: How is that experience on-set, playing cold-hearted to another actor?
Weaver:
Well, it’s nothing personal. She’s just thinking about Nathan. She doesn’t really know anything about Karen. I think that the CIA training is not sentimental. If he’s going to be safer without the girl, she’s going to tell him. I don’t think I thought about it for a second.

CS: But there are actors who would be very method about that. Who would avoid interacting with another actor to fuel that performance before the camera. Do you just snap back and forth?
Weaver:
I like to read about the method and I think we all think about it to a certain extent, but one of the fun things about the movie was working on a high-octane thriller. Between setups, we were all playing FatBooth and things like that with our iPhones. We’re all gooey people together between the shots. No one is staying in character. I mean, if they want to, fine, but it’s not necessary.

CS: You’ve got “The Cold Light of Day” coming up, which you’ve said is very gun-heavy. One of the nice things about Dr. Bennett is that, while you get the feeling that she could handle a gun, she’s more a tactician and is really about fighting with clever strategies rather than arms. That sort of bleeds out into Taylor’s character. He hasn’t just learned to fight from his adoptive parents. He’s pretty clever as well.
Weaver:
It’s interesting. I think that the parents do that so well. When I read the script, I loved that fight with the father because it’s so upsetting. Of course, I knew the story. I have a daughter, so I can’t really speak to dealing with a son like that.

CS: You haven’t taught her to fight?
Weaver:
(Laughs) I haven’t yet. When the time comes, I’ll probably call someone else. But it made for a such an interesting family dynamic. You’re upset that he’s made to do this but you’re also really glad that he has those skills. You realize that he can’t afford to not be at his best.

CS: In the original script, Dr. Bennett was a man. Did that change only after you read it and expressed an interest?
Weaver:
I don’t really know how it happened. I think they already changed it to Geri with a G instead of Jerry with a J.

CS: Speaking of masculine roles, are you aware that you’re one of the names that comes up constantly among fans as someone that they want to see join Sylvester Stallone’s action hero team in “The Expendables 2”?
Weaver:
(Laughs) Oh really? That’s funny.

CS: Do you actively try to mix in action heavy parts with some of the more fun roles?
Weaver:
I do. I feel so lucky that I get to jump around a lot, both from genre to genre and from job to job. I started out in the theatre and there, there’s the idea of being in a repertory company where you play the Queen one day and a maid the next. You do a comedy and then a drama. I love that I’m at the point where I get sent so many things and all things that I’ve never done before. I’m so excited about that and I hope it lasts.

CS: And then there’s the roles that you have done before that you’re returning for. You mentioned that you’re definitely going to be back for “Avatar 2.” When does that begin?
Weaver:
I guess it’s next year and we’re going to do them back-to-back.

CS: When you talk about the performance capture on that, it almost sounds like doing a minimalist play.
Weaver:
I think it is. It’s an empty stage, but if you have a Dire Horse, there is usually a horse there. You have a lot of help, but you’re not really burdened by makeup or lights. In a way, it’s just more free. There are pictures all over the wall of the flora and fauna that you see and you’ve been immersed by Jim [Cameron] in the world, so you’ve got lots to make your imagination spring from. You’re kind of just working together as actors moment to moment and not worried at all about greenscreen or anything like that.

CS: Do you employ in your film roles the same warm-ups you would before going on a live stage?
Weaver:
I do. I warm up and do a lot of work on my breathing and relaxation. I think relaxation is probably the key to doing anything. I think it’s especially true for actors. I love to watch jazz performers and see how they’re open to anything at any second. That, to me, is a very good metaphor for acting.

CS: Does that lead to improvisation in the scene?
Weaver:
Yes, but it depends on the movie and the specific feel of the scene. And some of the actors don’t really like to do it.

CS: What about this one?
Weaver:
On this one, I think we kept pretty close to the script. I think I changed a few things to maybe make them more direct. But I don’t have a lot of scenes and I think I enjoyed the balance between the nurturing scenes at the beginning and the sort of pure business after that. I thought that was great.

CS: There’s another big sequel that everyone is curious about. Dan Aykroyd is saying that it looks like “Ghostbusters 3” will shoot early next year.
Weaver:
I’m so glad! (Laughs)

CS: Are you still involved?
Weaver:
Well, I have yet to read the script. I’ve had a couple of calls and I know they’re rewriting and all I said was that I hope my son, Oscar, has grown up to be a Ghostbuster and Ivan Reitman said yes. Beyond that, I have no idea. I hope it comes together, but we already did two wonderful films and, if we have to let this one go, that’s fine.

Abduction arrives in theaters this Friday, September 23rd.