• Golden Globe Awards

Out of the Archives: Sigourney Weaver on Playing Dian Fossey

When HFPA journalists interviewed Sigourney Weaver in 1988 about Gorillas in the Mist: The Adventure of Dian Fossey, directed by Michael Apted, this is what she said about Dian Fossey.
“Working on Dian Fossey allowed me to see that, to a certain extent, we all think of animals as third-class citizens of a planet that actually belongs to us and they’ll have to find room to do whatever they do in a way that’s convenient for mankind. But for Dian, she felt that relationships with animals were as profound as relationships between people, and that had a big impact on me. In fact, the time I spent with the gorillas was so fulfilling that it changed me and all of us. Now we see the planet as a place we really need to take care of, because Rwanda is the most beautiful place imaginable, but it’s changing very quickly and someday there won’t be any Rwandans left if we keep going the way we are. “
“I never had the privilege of meeting Dian, but I liked the fact that she was well known because I needed to amass as much information as possible, so I looked at the tapes of her on The Tonight Show, I read her incredible letters filled with humor and integrity. In the beginning, I was a little intimidated because everyone I talked to had a different Dian to describe. Some would say, “this woman was so difficult,” while others would say, “she was such a loving friend.” There were all these opposites, and I finally decided that everything I heard about her was probably all true.”
“There was always something different about Dian, she was obsessive, and there was a comfort she felt with animals that she didn’t feel with people. But I realized that what people called her crazy behavior came out of great hurt, and I felt that, if I could convey her love for those animals, then the audience might be able to understand that everything I did that seemed crazy came out of this terrible pain that she was in because her dearest friends had been mutilated and killed. “
“Dian was 53 years old, when she was killed in 1985, so we’re talking about a woman who’s from a generation when they curled their hair, they painted their nails and everything, so she was a very feminine creature. She used to sleep in hair rollers up there in the mountains when no one was gonna see her except her gorillas and her trapper, and she used to lecture women who were researchers up there about not letting themselves go and continuing to groom themselves properly. Dian actually was very conventional in many ways. She would fall in love and she would be very dependent on a man, she cared very much that they found her attractive, she loved expensive clothes and gold jewelry. We didn’t have time to show how complicated her love life was, but she really was a creature of opposites.”
“I don’t really feel I play strong women; I play women who hide their vulnerability very well, and in Dian’s case, she was very vulnerable, but she learned over in Africa to come across very tough with the Africans because she was there by herself. She wrote letters to Louis Leakey, in the beginning, saying, “you have to send a man up because my staff won’t listen to me.”