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Sigourney Weaver returns to Africa

Actress' visit to Rwanda chronicled in TV documentary
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sigourney Weaver recently made the trip back to Rwanda to check on the close friends she made while filming the 1988 movie “Gorillas in the Mist.” She had wanted to check on them long before this, but it was impossible with that nation's genocide, civil war and subsequent instability.

Almost 20 years later, the three-time Academy Award nominee was pleased to find many of her friends — some humans, some primates — happier and healthier than when she left.

The visit is chronicled in the one-hour TV documentary “Gorillas Revisited With Sigourney Weaver,” which debuts 8 p.m. ET Sunday on Animal Planet. The focus of the BBC-produced program is the gorilla conservation program run by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, for which Weaver serves as honorary chairwoman.

Fossey, a Californian who made researching and rescuing the African gorilla population her life mission, is one of those characters that left an indelible mark on both Weaver, 56, and the audience. (The real-life Fossey was killed in an 1985 murder that remains unsolved.)

The 56-year-old actress told The Associated Press that people still come up to her and comment on “Gorillas in the Mist” or the “Alien” movies. Fossey and Ripley were both strong women that made for rich roles in dramatic films, Weaver said, but she thinks comedy is more her forte.

Remember “Dave,” “Galaxy Quest” and “Heartbreakers,” she wonders aloud.


AP: Did your return to Rwanda leave you with a positive or negative vibe?

Weaver: It actually was very encouraging. You are constantly passing signs about the genocide and passing cemeteries, but you can't put the whole country in jail. ... To be there with the children, there was hope and heartbreak, but they're trying to find whatever good in their future. They have names like Constellation, Epiphany and Innocence, aspirational names.

AP: How are the gorillas?

Weaver: They're a miracle, too. They're glossy, beautiful, healthy. The group has grown from 25 to 61. To see these young gorillas from the film — they were adolescents — as silverbacks now. And some of the females who played around me have babies now, some have grandbabies!

AP: You've said that spending time with the gorilla families back in the 1980s fueled your own maternal instinct. Your daughter is now 16. Did she travel to Africa with you?

Weaver: Not yet. I'd like to take her. She's working for a wilderness vet this summer so she'd be interested. I do bring her as much as possible but she does have school. We went to New Zealand during spring break and we're going to China for the Shanghai Film Festival after school ends.

AP: “Gorillas Revisited” is a rare TV appearance for you. Are you a TV watcher?

Weaver: We got TiVo, which I appreciate. I watch “Dog Whisperer.” I'm trying to whisper my own dog out of her neurotic behavior. I also watch “Flip This House,” you know, where they'll knock down a wall and all these rodents come out.

AP: Your husband, Jim Simpson, is the director at the Flea Theater in New York and you've appeared on stage there several times. As the director's wife, do you get to handpick roles?

Weaver: Last year he did “Mrs. Farnsworth,” and, yes, I am the director's wife and I said, “I want to be a part of this.” ... But we try not to work at the same time. We don't want our daughter to get the short shrift.

AP: Are there good roles out there for over-50 women?

Weaver: I love playing women my age. The roles I'm getting offered are more interesting now than when I was younger.

(Her upcoming films include “Infamous” about Truman Capote developing a friendship with the two murderers he researched “In Cold Blood”; “The TV Set,” a comedy about a TV network that airs shows such as “Slut Wars”; and “Snow Cake,” in which she plays an autistic woman.)