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Sigourney May Hold Oscars’ Only Surprise

Times Arts Editor

A nationwide poll of film critics in the matter of the Academy Awards, just published by Premiere magazine, produced some unsurprising results, as that it should be a nice year for “Rain Man.” The surprise was that Sigourney Weaver was voted the nominee to beat in both the best actress and best supporting actress categories.

While actors have won in both categories in separate years, and there have been a handful of double nominees, including Jessica Lange and Teresa Wright, this would, I think, be the first double-acting win in the same year.

You will get no predictions here. The acting categories, and the supporting category in particular, are often mischievously difficult to call because there is always such an abundance of fine work.

To choose among Glenn Close, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver, or among Weaver and Joan Cusak, Geena Davis, Frances McDormand and Michelle Pfeiffer in the supporting category calls for a Ouija board and a consulting psychic.

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On past evidence it is clear that the performance itself is only one of the considerations that play through the minds of the voters as pencil is poised over ballot.

How the film as a whole was regarded is one consideration. The other contemplations include how widely a film was seen and how much it was talked about and whether the nominees are repeaters or newcomers and what their images are (image being the public impressions of private lives). They all add to the unpredictability.

“Jodie sent me, and I imagine all of us in the category, telegrams,” Weaver said over coffee a few days ago. “She said the nomination is the glory and the rest of it is one great party, or words to that effect. And she’s right. You don’t really feel the competition. For me it was great luck, dumb luck, to get two such different roles.”

Weaver has just finished shooting “Ghostbusters II” and, after a cast party in Malibu, was off to Paris to promote the earlier films. In “Ghostbusters,” this time she has a child called Oscar, although the name was in place before the nominations, she says. The film was a cheerful reunion of old friends, but Weaver rediscovered the old truth that drama is hard but comedy is harder.

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There was some location shooting in New York. “And there were Bill Murray and the boys, in zero weather, bathed in pink slime, and New Yorkers in party hats singing ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ ”

Most of her own moments, she added, were what she described as “crooked love scenes,” even harder to do than “non-crooked” love scenes, given the peculiar and ephemeral nature of comedy, which must survive rehearsals and multiple takes before a crew sneaking glances at its watches.

Murray, she says, calls her “Goulash” on the grounds that he can never remember “Sigourney.” As she has said, she was christened Susan but didn’t like it. “It was short and I was tall,” she explained the other day. “Neither of my parents go by their given names, so there was a family precedent.” Her father, who invented both the “Today” and the “Tonight” shows in his days as head of NBC, is Sylvester Weaver but always called Pat. She announced her own change of name (Sigourney is an obscure, unseen character in “The Great Gatsby”) when she was 13.

“The headmistress at my prep school didn’t approve of the name change at all. When my parents came up for a visit, she started to say, ‘You’re certainly not going to allow . . .’ and my father said, ‘Are you refering to our daughter Sigourney?’ ”

Her oldest friends, she says, call her Susan--"to remind me I’m a total hoax.”

Weaver’s role as the vindictive boss, Katharine, in “Working Girl” has brought her sharply divided responses from viewers. “A woman in New York came to me and said, ‘Why did you take that terrible part?’ Other women have said, ‘I always used to like you and now I don’t any more.’ It’s the business of not separating the actor from the role.

“But a lot of women have told me they meet Katharine all the time. They enjoy hating me, which was the whole purpose of the exercise.”

Weaver’s own creed is that women have to rally round each other, as the other secretaries rallied round Tess (the Melanie Griffith character). She says she argued with director Mike Nichols about just how disagreeable Katharine should be. “I think she really would have done something nice for Tess. It would probably only have been a dress from Bergdorf-Goodman, but something.

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“But it finally wasn’t business, was it; it was revenge for Tess’ stealing her boyfriend. That was the opening of the lock.”

Nominated two years ago for “Aliens,” Weaver was, she says, “such a dark horse I was just there as an observer. It was relaxing.”

It will probably be a little less relaxing this time.


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