Award-winning actress Sigourney Weaver has gained a reputation for playing some of the most memorable action heroines in Hollywood. In 1979, her fame skyrocketed when she first played the resourceful Ellen Ripley in the Alien film franchise, captivating audiences with her bravado and fearlessness. Her performance also earned her an Academy Award nomination, and the character is often regarded as one of the most significant female protagonists in cinema history.
After that, Weaver was a bona fide celebrity, as well as an icon that women and girls everywhere could look to for inspiration. Her work in over fifty films has resulted in a number of awards, including Golden Globes, a BAFTA Award, and many others. On top of her career in show business, Weaver has always been strongly committed to social justice, having served on the Board of Human Rights First for 25 years, and has been the Honorary Chair for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund for the last 30 years. In 2009 Weaver received the Rachel Carson Award for her environmental work.
Before Weaver was a sci-fi queen, she was a first-rate student who followed her undergraduate studies at Stanford by applying for a spot in the Yale School of Drama in 1971. Despite appearing at the audition reading a Bertolt Brecht speech and wearing an eccentric rope-like belt, she was accepted by the school but proceeded to have a difficult time. Some acting teachers referred to her as "talentless" and advised her to stick to comedy. More than that, because of her imposing 5'11" height, Weaver kept getting type-casted as prostitutes and old women. But to her credit, Weaver found solace in her friends at Yale, including American playwright Christopher Durang, as well as her time performing at the Yale Cabaret. Before leaving Yale in 1974 with a Master of Fine Arts, she performed in the first production of the Stephen Sondheim musical “The Frogs,” alongside fellow classmate Meryl Streep.
Naturally, prejudice over her height didn't stop Weaver from making it big, and in 2004 the Hollywood star returned to Yale's Long Wharf Theatre to star as the titular lead in the play, "Mrs. Farnsworth." With students and faculty packing the seats, Weaver won the audience over with her portrayal of the virgin-eared, old-money homemaker throughout the night. She consistently received hearty laughs while performing physical comedy and freely dispensing her grandmother's hand-me-down aphorisms. And although there were some other notable names in the room that night, there was never any doubt about who the real star was.
Fortunately, even her rocky times as a Yale student have been taken care of. Indeed, Weaver admitted that the errors of her faculty were recognized by former dean Robert Brustein and later rectified. She explained, "I actually have a long apology letter from Robert Brustein, saying, 'I'm so sorry this happened to you. I didn't realize the people who were running the acting department at the drama school hated actors.' They did. And they were fired when I graduated."