RI­P­LEY’S HEROIC LEGACY LIVES ON

Talk about girl power. Al­most four decades after the orig­i­nal Alien film, where Sigour­ney Weaver fa­mously played the fe­male ac­tion lead, her legacy has never been stronger

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY -

Ri­d­ley Scott never thought it was par­tic­u­larly re­mark­able that the hero of Alien, Ri­p­ley, was a woman. “I thought, ‘Why not? Good idea. Let’s go’,” he ad­mits.

This was 1979, when fe­male he­roes were un­think­able in genre films. Yet Scott didn’t think twice. He sim­ply thought it made sense.

Of course, it turned out to be one of the most in­spired de­ci­sions in science-fic­tion or, in­deed, movie his­tory.

The de­ci­sion to go with a fe­male lead is gen­er­ally cred­ited to Alan Ladd Jr, the then CEO of 20th Cen­tury Fox.

Dan O’Ban­non’s orig­i­nal script had been writ­ten with an en­tirely male crew.

Then when pro­duc­er­writ­ers David Giler and Wal­ter Hill gave it an in­spired re­write they in­tro­duced two fe­male crew mem­bers. Al­most as an af­ter­thought, Laddy, as he was known, said why not switch the gen­der of the hero?

They didn’t change a word of the di­a­logue. There was no need. The bril­liance of the shift was that Ri­p­ley’s gen­der both de­fined her and was en­tirely be­side the point. She would sim­ply be the one who proved to have the in­stinct to sur­vive.

Al­though, Scott liked the idea that the au­di­ence would as­sume, as she wasn’t a man, she was sure to die around the next cor­ner. And there was an added di­men­sion in the na­ture of this crea­ture, and how it looked, con­fronting a lone fe­male.

Much to Scott’s de­light, Freudian-in­clined crit­ics would go to town on the sym­bol­ism.

How­ever, Ri­p­ley, last sur­vivor of the Nostromo, proved elu­sive.

Three weeks out from shoot­ing, Scott was down to two last pos­si­bil­i­ties. Sigour­ney Weaver and Meryl Streep had been con­tem­po­raries at Yale Drama School.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to imag­ine what Streep might have done with the role, but she had suf­fered a re­cent be­reave­ment and didn’t want to work. Weaver and Ri­p­ley are now in­sep­a­ra­ble.

“Ri­p­ley feels she is do­ing the right thing, but she doesn’t know she’s right,” ex­plained Weaver, try­ing to cap­ture her essence.

“She has to hope she is.” There is a flinti­ness to Ri­p­ley, she isn’t au­to­mat­i­cally like­able, but we re­late to her.

The ac­tor loved how she was or­di­nary. This work­ing-woman on her way home, “deal­ing with peo­ple in a cri­sis”.

She was ob­vi­ously beau­ti­ful, but that wasn’t key. There wasn’t time for ro­mance – this was sur­vival. The legacy of Ri­p­ley has been a pos­i­tive force through­out Scott’s ca­reer.

He has been drawn again and again to strong, self­de­ter­min­ing, im­pec­ca­bly cast fe­male char­ac­ters, but never in a point­edly, or show­ily fem­i­nist way (al­though you could ar­gue this makes them all the more so).

To Scott, they were just good ideas, so why not?

The lat­est film in the Alien fran­chise is in cin­e­mas to­day, and while fe­male he­roes are no longer a rar­ity, this one con­tin­ues the theme of strong lead­ing ladies. Alien: Covenant screens in ma­jor cin­e­mas from to­day

Direc­tor Ri­d­ley Scott ex­plains a scene to ac­tress Kather­ine Water­ston on the Syd­ney set of sci-fi film Water­ston in a scene from the much-an­tic­i­pated movie. Alien: Covenant and (be­low)

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