Before borders closed due to the pandemic, Sigourney Weaver was able to travel to Paris in January to shoot a highly anticipated episode of “Call My Agent!,” the hit French series that’s available on Netflix worldwide. The first international actor to participate in the ensemble series, Weaver was quick to accept the part which sees her taking part in a French movie. The experience allowed her to dive into comedy which she rarely does, as well as practice her fluent French. With “Call My Agent!” set to close Canneseries this week, Weaver spoke to Variety about her experience working on the French show, the dilemma of moviegoing versus streaming during the pandemic and her work life in the Covid era.
I heard that you said ‘yes’ to be in this show in only a few hours. What made you so enthusiastic about the prospect of starring in it?
I replied without even reading the script! It’s the first and last time I’ve done that in my life, but I had so much admiration for the ensemble and the idea and so I just said ‘yes’ before they could change their mind.
What do like so much about “Call My Agent!”?
It’s a love letter to the business, to the relationships between actors, artists; it goes behind the scenes to show the problems of actors in dealing with different directors and mood scenes, cosmetic surgery and all these situations that come up in a very humorous way that no other show does; and it has a lot of affection for the business and for the job of being an agent. The agents in the series are very passionate about their clients. It’s very inspiring.
Do you feel that it’s a very French take on the world of agents or do you see similarities with the way U.S. talent agents work?
I don’t live in Los Angeles, but I feel that the show’s version of the business is set in Paris so I think it’s much less about the business and making money, and it’s much more about telling a story, what choices we, actors, make. For those of us here in America, it’s been such a wonderful thing to be able to turn on the television and be in Paris with these wonderful actors and sit in the cafes, go to a party… and it’s not just a trip into the business, it’s a trip into the world of Parisians and I for one just loved being there with everybody.
Did you participate in the writing of your part?
When I read the story, my character was very passionate about playing opposite to the younger man and I think I was also living that dream in person, and when I came in I said, ‘I think what’s wonderful about that story is that I, Sigourney Weaver, the glamorous star, can try pressure that young director to reconsider how he thinks about her and cast a younger man opposite her.’ I did make this part a bit of my own by working on the script with my French teacher. I changed how I present the story of the older woman and the younger man; I tried to make it much more personal. I’ve done that story of people of the same ages falling in love, it’s been told a million times and it’s now time to open things up to couples of all different ages and I think the story of [of “Call My Agent!”] makes a beautiful statement with these sophisticated older woman and their younger lovers.
You haven’t done a lot of TV series through your career: Did this experience make you want to do more?
I did do some, for instance “Political Animals,” but I haven’t done that much. I love a lot of series that I watch but it’s a long time commitment and I‘m more than a hummingbird, I like to dart around and committing to five to seven years is difficult for me in New York, so it has been something I haven’t done very much of. I think there is probably nothing more fun in the world than being part of an ensemble comedy like “Call My Agent” with Camille [Cottin], Fanny [Herrero] and Liliane [Rovere]… I have never been offered to be part of a comedy year after year but I would jump at it because comedy is the most fun thing of all and I never get to do it.
You shot “Call My Agent!” on location in Paris right before the pandemic hit Europe and borders shut down, that was lucky!
Yes, we were there in January and I’m so grateful that I got to be part of a French show that was absolutely at the top of its game with such a good crew, and I was so inspired to see how everyone worked together. This is the fourth season so everything was like a smooth machine and everyone was so generous and gave me such a warm welcome. I had such a wonderful time wearing Dior and Vuitton and walking around in these beautiful boots, coats and bags. It was so much fun! To begin the year with [“Call My Agent!”] and have this experience and then have the world close down made the contrast even more poignant between the vivacity of our industry and working together, and now having people so isolated.
Your most recent movie, “My Salinger Year,” opened the Berlin Film Festival in February. When do you think it will get released?
It’s opening in Canada in theaters on Nov. 13 but I think Philippe Falardeau is hoping that we can stream it around the world and I hope they will stream it in America. I think we need wonderful stories to keep us entertained in this difficult time and I just want it to find an audience. It’s a delicious film, and I have another film called “The Good House,” which I did with Kevin Kline, and I hope they won’t wait to bring it out in theaters because who knows when that will be. I’d rather have it get out around the world to audiences.
So you’re not in favor of holding the releases of your movies for theaters?
I’d rather they streamed things because I wouldn’t go to a movie theater right now! What thrills me is the idea of getting very good stories to audiences now in their homes and helping us through this very difficult time with good entertainment. If someday somebody wants to see these films in a theater I’m all for it, but I think right now actors have a responsibility to support audiences all over the world by giving them a wonderful story to take their mind off everything that’s going on and give them a bit of of a vacation from their own lives. I’m very hopeful that I can be part of that with these two movies and with “Call My Agent!”
How has your work life been for the past several months?
I’ve been reading scripts and having meetings over scripts over zoom, and occasionally in person. Everything I’m supposed to do has been postponed. I’ve been able to do some voiceover for National Geographic, and I find it very difficult to do things from home and challenging to do my own makeup and hair and everything else but I’ve been learning. You’re so used to being with a group of people and collaborating and working so hard, I miss that camaraderie of being in a project with my peers very much, and I think that when we’re finally able to work together again I’ll be joyful because it’s very difficult. You really realize that you’re just part of a big family and doing everyone else’s job is just not nearly as fun. I’m much better at doing my makeup than I used to!
What’s in the pipeline for you? What will you be shooting next?
I have two or three shows that I’m supposed to do. One with Elizabeth Banks that’s actually about abortion in the ’70s; and another one which I hope to do where I play a woman whose best friend is a sheep, and a couple other things I’m looking at. Unfortunately one gets so excited to start and I don’t know many people who are working right now. I think we’re still trying to figure out how to keep everyone safe. So I’m hoping in the New Year that we will be able to start. In the meantime, I’m making the most of this time with my family and hoping that we have a different administration and that we can all get to work on moving things ahead in terms of climate, to work as a planet to reduce climate change. So they’re more important things than the movies we want to make to think about now.
I see on IMDb that you have movies lined up until 2028 with the “Avatar” franchise!
We haven’t made “Avatar” 4 and 5, those are in the future, but I have made 2 and 3 and I guess James Cameron thinks we can’t present them until the end of 2022, and I hope for everyone’s sake that we will all be able to go a theater and enjoy the films in person. The experience of watching films with other people, especially a film like “Avatar” is such a precious experience and as much as people have appreciated seeing things in their home I think that everyone is ready to be in a theater with everybody, and to hear each other laugh, scream… There is nothing like the group experience for a lot of movies, and I’m hoping very much that it’s not a thing of the past.