Sigourney Weaver: “The Spanish have a special relationship with cinema”

US actress accepts lifetime achievement award at San Sebastián film festival

Gregorio Belinchón
Weaver with J. A. Bayona, director of her latest film.
Weaver with J. A. Bayona, director of her latest film.Javier Hernández Juantegui

“This festival has always had a special place in my heart,” Sigourney Weaver told journalists ahead of the Donostia award presentation ceremony at the 64th San Sebastían International Film Festival on Wednesday morning.

“The first time I came here was in 1979, but I don’t think anybody here will remember that,” added the 66-year-old, laughing as she remembered how Alien, the film that launched her career, premiered at the San Sebastián film festival that year. Weaver has since been nominated for three Oscars, for Alien, Gorillas in the Mist, and Working Girl.

The career achievement award was presented to the actress at a gala on Wednesday night in the Kursaal auditorium in the northern coastal city.

Today, there are women in powerful positions all around the world, and this is reflected in cinema Sigourney Weaver

With Weaver at the press conference was Spanish film director Juan Antonio Bayona, who has directed her latest film, A Monster Calls. The cast of the film, which is not competing at the festival, also includes Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall and Liam Neeson.

A Monster Calls is based on the Patrick Ness novel, which won the United Kingdom’s Carnegie and Greenaway Medals for distinguished children’s books. Ness, who also wrote the movie’s script, tells the story of Conor, a 12-year-old boy trying to confront the illness of his mother with the help of monster that visits him at night. Weaver plays the boy’s grandmother, who also helps him through his rite of passage. A Monster Calls is Bayona’s third feature film, and – after The OrphanageandThe Impossible– is the final installment in his trilogy of poignant stories centering on the strength of the mother-child bond.

Much of A Monster Calls was shot in the United Kingdom, but many of the interior scenes were filmed in Barcelona.

“I love working in Spain,” said Weaver, “because I think the Spanish have a special relationship with cinema – you see it as artistic expression and not just a business. I have worked here several times and always had a good time. For example, in this country the crew has always read the screenplay, and you always get a really good rush of positive energy from the team. My first ever festival was San Sebastián, and I feel very honored to be given this Donostia prize – it’s a real encouragement to continue working,” she said.

The veteran actress took time to criticize the limited roles for older women in Hollywood, although she admitted things were improving: “The struggles of the past are gradually leading to women being given more important roles. A Monster Calls has two important producers behind it: Belén Atienza and Sandra Hermida. In this film, as in so many others I have appeared in over the years with directors that understand me, is not just a women who goes through a few moments of vulnerability. Obviously, she does, as in real life, but like in real life, we don’t just sit around waiting for a man to come along and save me.”

The career achievement award was presented to the actress at a gala on Wednesday night 

“There have always been strong female characters in movies and literature. Today, there are women in powerful positions around the world, and this is reflected in cinema. Now is an excellent time for women,” she said.

“It was clear that I had to choose Sigourney for the role of the grandmother,” said Bayona, when asked why he had picked Weaver. “Unlike other actresses that embody feisty women, in Sigourney’s work you can see her emotional weaknesses, her sensitivity,” he said.

Weaver also commented on her unexpected appearance at the age of 11 in Ron Howard’s latest documentary movie, Eight Days a Week..., a compilation of footage featuring music, interviews and stories from The Beatles’ 250 concerts from 1963 to 1966.

“I went to a Beatles’ concert in Los Angeles when I was a kid. They were surrounded by women screaming and shouting. So I decided to scream every now and then so as to fit in,” she joked.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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