In an interview with ‘The Independent,’ Sigourney Weaver discusses a variety of topics, including her upcoming projects, the impact of her work as Ripley, and her vision of the future of films. Weaver is doing ‘Avatar 2’ with Cameron, and she might be in ‘Ghostbusters 3’ if the project ever gets off the ground. Although she thinks Ripley “was a shrewd plot surprise created by studio executives,” she understands why people connect her with bringing feminism to Hollywood. As for the future of films, Weaver thinks “2D is going to be like black-and-white soon because 3D is the natural way that people encounter life.” I respect Weaver, but I disagree; 3D should be another tool for filmmakers, not the standard way to experience a film. I do not feel the urge to be immersed in a film; I enjoy sitting back and watching a story.
At the end of the interview, Weaver talks about ‘Prometheus.’ The film, slated for release on June 8, is directed by Ridley Scott, and many think the appearance of the Space Jockey in the trailer and in photos means the film is a prequel to ‘Alien.’ According to Weaver, during negotiations for another ‘Alien’ film featuring Ripley, she suggested that the story should go back to the planet, the one in ‘Alien’ and ‘Aliens.’ She said, “Fox and I disagreed on how the franchise should continue. But I’m glad it’s Ridley doing it, and I’ll be as curious as anyone, or maybe more curious, to see it. I think he took my suggestion. Fox wanted to go to earth and I said: ‘That’s so boring. Who wants to see aliens on earth?’ I said ‘go back to the planet’.”
Does Weaver deserve a ‘Story by’ credit? That would be difficult to discern. Ideas are continually bounced around in Hollywood, and tracing an idea back to one source can be problematic as individuals try to prove he or she said or wrote something first before hearing the idea somewhere else. Scott might have been thinking of taking the story back to the planet, and when he heard Weaver mention the idea, it could have just confirmed for him that the idea was a good one.
To determine if someone deserves any type of writing credit, people turn to the Writers Guild of America. The WGA’s Screen Credits Manual states:
“The term “story” means all writing covered by the provisions of the Minimum Basic Agreement representing a contribution “distinct from screenplay and consisting of basic narrative, idea, theme or outline indicating character development and action.”
It is appropriate to award a “Story by” credit when: 1) the story was written under employment under Guild jurisdiction; 2) the story was purchased by a signatory company from a professional writer, as defined in the Minimum Basic Agreement; or 3) when the screenplay is based upon a sequel story written under the Guild’s jurisdiction.”
Weaver suggested going back to the planet, but she didn’t create the planet, the Space Jockey, or any of the characters. Her idea involved taking Ripley back to the planet. We do not know if Weaver proposed to return to the planet in order to learn the origins of the ‘Alien’ story, which is what ‘Prometheus’ seems to be about. In order to get “Story by” credit, Weaver would have to prove she pitched a complete idea about discovering the truth about the planet and the story behind the Space Jockey. If she pitched a complete synopsis of the film and that synopsis is the foundation of ‘Prometheus,’ then she would have a case. If all she said was for the story to “go back to the planet,” then all she really did was possibly plant a seed, and the WGA has not sanctioned a “Seed Planted by” credit.
Will Weaver make a big fuss out of this? Highly unlikely. Weaver is a class act and a professional. She understands the nature of the business. When asked about not being in ‘Prometheus,’ Weaver said, “That’s show-business. I don’t take it personally.”
If she doesn’t have a problem with this situation, then I don’t either, and neither should anyone else.