BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. — Nurse, mother, and occasional farmhand, Alice Goodwin is the closest to the real-life Sigourney Weaver of any character she has portrayed, says the actress. Ms. Weaver appears as Goodwin in her latest film, "A Map of the World," based on the 1995 best-selling novel by Jane Hamilton.
"Alice is eccentric," says the subtly chic Weaver over breakfast. "She has a great sense of humor but is very sarcastic."
Perhaps best-known for her role as Alien-hunter Lt. Ellen Ripley in a series of sci-fi movies based in space, she adds quickly, "It's not often that I'm offered a normal mother [role] on earth."
Director Scott Elliott has dubbed the movie a human comedy of life, although key events in the story are put in motion by a tragedy. A child drowns in a farm pond, and Goodwin is unexpectedly accused of child abuse, which sets in motion a series of difficult adjustments for the rural Wisconsin town in which the story is placed.
"Everyone in the story makes impossible sacrifices," Weaver says. The whole story follows an unexpected path, including the evolution of her character. "It was such a relief not to be sympathetic all the time," she says.
The actress, who began life as Susan Weaver, chose her professional name, Sigourney, from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," one of the few moments of precociousness the actress will acknowledge. In general, says the daughter of former NBC president Pat Weaver, "I'm always a late bloomer." Her birthday is in October. "I enjoyed turning 50," she says with a laugh, noting that she has measured her progress in decades.
"Every decade, I've felt like a cake that is getting a little bit more well done," she adds. "I'm finally beginning to feel comfortable with myself...."
Raised on the East Coast, Weaver retains her New York base, if for no other reason than to maintain a sense of distance from Hollywood.
Her take on the current state of the industry is more positive than many actresses at her stage of life. "I feel there are so many positive roles for older women this year."
Her career has been marked by eclectic performances, from gorilla-rights activist Dian Fossey ("Gorillas in the Mist") to a British Embassy worker ("The Year of Living Dangerously"), and a cello-playing supernatural channeler ("Ghostbusters").
"What a wonderful industry I'm in," she says, amid discussing the trials and opportunities of midlife womanhood. She points to the serious, low-budget film she is now promoting, "A Map of the World," and then mentions her other current film, "Galaxy Quest," in which she plays a "blonde bimbo."
However, the entertainment industry can be brutal on women, concedes the actress. "There's nothing more touching than experience in the face of actors. I feel sorry for young girls these days," she says. "They are under so much pressure to look and be the same."
Individuality, she maintains, is the key to success.
"That's all you really have," she adds. "If you don't use your individuality, how can you possibly get ahead?"
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society