Weaver acquired the nickname of "the Sci-Fi Queen" for her numerous contributions to science-fiction film history. Other popular works she has appeared in include Galaxy Quest (1999), Futurama (2002), WALL-E (2008), Paul (2011), The Cabin in the Woods (2012), Finding Dory, and A Monster Calls (both in 2016). She returned to Broadway in 2013 to star in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Weaver played Alexandra Reid, the main antagonist, in The Defenders which premiered on August 18, 2017.
Weaver was born in Manhattan, New York City, the daughter of Elizabeth Inglis (née Desiree Mary Lucy Hawkins; 1913–2007), an actress, and the NBC television executive and television pioneer Sylvester "Pat" Weaver (1908–2002). Her uncle, Doodles Weaver (1911–1983), was a comedian and actor. Her mother was English, from Colchester, Essex, and her father, who was from the United States, had English, Scottish, and Dutch ancestry, including roots in New England. Weaver began using the name "Sigourney Weaver" in 1963 after a minor character (Mrs. Sigourney Howard, Jordan Baker's aunt) in Chapter 3 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.
Weaver attended the Ethel Walker School, a girls' preparatory school in Simsbury, Connecticut. She also attended The Chapin School and The Brearley School. Sigourney was reportedly 5' 10½" (179 cm) tall by the age of 14, although she only grew another inch during her teens to her adult height of 5' 11½" (182 cm). In 1967, at the age of 18, Weaver visited Israel and volunteered on a kibbutz for several months.
Weaver attended Sarah Lawrence College. In 1972 she graduated with a B.A. in English from Stanford University, where she first began her involvement in acting by living in Stanford's co-ed Beta Chi Community for the Performing Arts. Weaver earned her Master of Fine Arts degree at the Yale University School of Drama in 1974, where one of her appearances was in the chorus in a production of Stephen Sondheim's musical version of The Frogs, and another was as one of a mob of Roman soldiers alongside Meryl Streep in another production. Weaver later acted in original plays by her friend and classmate Christopher Durang. She later appeared in an "Off-Broadway" production of Durang's comedy Beyond Therapy in 1981, which was directed by the up-and-coming director Jerry Zaks.
Weaver's first role is often said to be in Woody Allen's 1977 comedy Annie Hall playing a minor role opposite Allen. Weaver appeared two years later as Warrant Officer/Lieutenant Ellen Ripley in Ridley Scott's blockbuster 1979 film Alien, in a role initially designated to co-star Veronica Cartwright, until a late change in casting.
She reprised the role in the three sequels of the Alien movie franchise, Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. Ty Burr of The Boston Globe states, "One of the real pleasures of "Alien" is to watch the emergence of both Ellen Ripley as a character and Sigourney Weaver as a star."
In the sequel Aliens directed by James Cameron, critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Weaver, who is onscreen almost all the time, comes through with a very strong, sympathetic performance: She's the thread that holds everything together." She followed the success of Alien appearing opposite Mel Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously released to critical acclaim and as Dana Barrett in Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II.
By the end of the decade, Weaver appeared in two of her most memorable and critically acclaimed performances. In 1988, she starred as Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist. The same year she appeared opposite Harrison Ford in a supporting role as Katharine Parker in the film Working Girl. Weaver won Golden Globe awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for her two roles that year. She received two Academy Award nominations in 1988, for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Working Girl and Best Actress for Gorillas in the Mist, making her one of the few actors nominated for two acting awards in the same year.
She gave birth to her daughter Charlotte Simpson (born on April 13, 1990) taking a few years' break from the movie business and focusing on her family. She returned to the big screen in 1992 with Alien 3 and Ridley's Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise in which she played the role of Queen Isabella. In the early 1990s, Weaver appeared in several films including Dave opposite Kevin Kline and Frank Langella. In 1994 she starred in Roman Polanski's drama Death and the Maiden as Paulina Escobar. She played the role of agoraphobic criminal psychologist Helen Hudson in the 1995 movie Copycat. Weaver also concentrated on smaller and supporting roles throughout the decade such as Jeffrey (1994), Ang Lee's The Ice Storm (1997), earning her another Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress and winning a BAFTA Award, followed by Galaxy Quest (1999), and A Map of the World (1999) earning her another Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.
In 2001, she appeared in the comedy Heartbreakers playing the lead role of a con artist alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Gene Hackman and Anne Bancroft. She appeared in several films throughout the decade including Holes (2003), the M. Night Shyamalan horror film The Village (2004), Vantage Point (2008), and Baby Mama (2008). Weaver also returned to Rwanda for the BBC special Gorillas Revisited. She was voted 20th in Channel 4's countdown of the 100 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time, being one of only two women in the Top 20 (the other was Audrey Hepburn).
In 2009, Weaver starred as Mary Griffith in her first made-for-TV movie, Prayers for Bobby, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award. She also made a rare guest appearance on television in an episode of the TV show Eli Stone in the fall of 2008. She reunited with Aliens director James Cameron for his 2009 film Avatar, with Weaver playing a major part as Dr. Grace Augustine, leader of the AVTR (avatar) program on the film's fictional moon Pandora.
Weaver has done voice work in television and film. She had a guest role in the Futurama episode "Love and Rocket" in February 2002, playing the female Planet Express Ship. In 2006, she was the narrator for the American version of the Emmy Award-winning series Planet Earth. In 2006 she also narrated A Matter of Degrees, a short film that plays daily at The Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (The Wild Center) in Tupper Lake, New York.
In 2008, Weaver was featured as the voice of the ship's computer in the Pixar and Disney release, WALL•E. She also voiced a narrating role in another computer-animated film, 2008's The Tale of Despereaux, based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo.
Weaver has hosted two episodes of the long-running NBC sketch show Saturday Night Live: once on the 12th-season premiere in 1986, and again, on a season 35 episode in January 2010. In March 2010, she was cast for the lead role as Queen of the Vampires in Amy Heckerling's Vamps. She was honored at the 2010 Scream Awards earning The Heroine Award which honored her work in science fiction, horror and fantasy films.
In May 2010, there were reports that Weaver had been cast for the lead role Margaret Matheson in the Spanish thriller film Red Lights.
In September 2011, it was confirmed that Weaver will be returning to Avatar 2, with James Cameron stating that "no one ever dies in science fiction." In 2014, he revealed that she would be featured in all three sequels.
In 2014, Weaver reprised the role of Ripley for the first time in 17 years by voicing the character in the video game Alien: Isolation. Her character will appear in two DLCs set during the events of Alien, with most of the original cast voicing their respective characters.
Weaver appeared in the 2014 film Exodus: Gods and Kings playing Tuya, directed by Ridley Scott, alongside Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and Ben Kingsley.
In 2015, she co-starred in Neill Blomkamp's science-fiction film Chappie, and stated that she would agree to appear in an Alien sequel, provided that Blomkamp directs.
On February 18, 2015, it was officially announced that an Alien sequel will be made, with Blomkamp slated to direct. On February 25, 2015, Weaver confirmed that she would reprise her role as Ellen Ripley in the new Alien film. On January 21, 2017, in response to a fan question on Twitter asking what the chances were of his Alien project actually happening, Blomkamp responded "slim".
Weaver has been married to the stage director Jim Simpson since October 1, 1984. They have one daughter, Charlotte Simpson (born April 13, 1990).
After making Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey, she became a supporter of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and is now its honorary chairwoman. She was honored by the Explorers Club for this work. Weaver is considered to be an environmentalist.
In October 2006, she drew international attention through a news conference at the start of a United Nations General Assembly policy deliberation. She outlined the widespread threat to ocean habitats posed by deep-sea trawling, an industrial method for catching fish.
On April 8, 2008, she hosted the annual gala of the Trickle Up Program, a non-profit organization focusing on those in extreme poverty, mainly women and the disabled, in the Rainbow Room.
She is a longtime friend of Jamie Lee Curtis, with whom she starred in the 2010 romantic comedy You Again. In a 2015 interview together, Curtis admitted to Weaver that she never saw Alien in its entirety because she was too scared.
Weaver has been nominated three times for an Academy Award, three BAFTAs (one win) and seven Golden Globes (two wins). She has also earned Tony and Drama Desk nominations for her work on the stage.1971: Better Dead Than Sorry (Yale Cabaret) as Jenny
1972: Story Theatre (Williamstown Theatre Festival)
1972: Sarah B. Divine! (Williamstown Theatre Festival) as Anita, the Eternal Maid
1972: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Williamstown Theatre Festival) as Dockdaisy
1972: The Rat Trap (Williamstown Theatre Festival) as Cynthia Muldoon
1972: Once in a Lifetime (Williamstown Theatre Festival) as Florabel Leigh
1972: The Elephant Calf (Williamstown Theatre Festival)
1973: The Tempest (Yale Repertory Theatre)
1973–74: Watergate Classics (Yale Repertory Theatre)
1974: Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Yale University Theatre)
1974: The Nature and Purpose of the Universe (Direct Theatre) as Eleanor (workshop production)
1974: The Frogs (Yale Repertory Theatre) as member of the Chorus
1975: The Constant Wife (Shubert Theatre, understudy) as Marie-Louise Durham
1976: Titanic (Direct Theatre) as Lidia/Annabella/Harriet
1976: Das Lusitania Songspiel (Van Dam Theatre)
1976: Gemini (Playwright's Horizons) as Judith Hastings
1977: Marco Polo Sings a Solo (Public/Newman Theatre) as Freydis
1978: Conjuring an Event (American Place Theatre) as Annabella
1978: A Flea in Her Ear (Hartford Stage)
1979: New Jerusalem (Public Theater)
1980: Das Lusitania Songspiel (new version) (Westside Theatre). Also co-authored the play with Christopher Durang.
1981: Beyond Therapy (Phoenix Theatre) as Prudence
1981: As You Like It (Dallas Festival of Shakespeare) as Rosalind
1982: Animal Kingdom (Berkshire Festival) as Cecelia Henry
1983: Old Times (Williamstown Theatre Festival) as Anna
1984–85: Hurlyburly (Ethel Barrymore Theatre) as Darlene
1986: A Streetcar Named Desire (Williamstown Theatre Festival) as Stella Kowalski
1986–87 The Merchant of Venice (Classic Stage Company) as Portia
1988: The Show-Off (Williamstown Theatre Festival) as Clara
1996: Sex and Longing (Cort Theatre) as Lulu
2001–02 The Guys (The Flea Theater) as Joan
2002: The Mercy Seat (Acorn Theatre) as Abby Prescott
2004: Mrs Farnsworth (The Flea Theater) as Marjorie Farnsworth
2007: Crazy Mary (Playwright's Horizons) as Lydia
2007: Love Letters (The Flea Theater, single benefit performance) as Melissa Gardner
2008: Love Letters (The Detroit Film Theatre, single benefit performance) as Melissa Gardner
2012-2013: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater) as Masha