Outside of Alien’s Ripley, sci-fi geeks probably remember Sigourney Weaver most fondly for playing Dana Barrett in 80s classic Ghostbusters.
But one thing you probably weren’t aware of is she had to hold off competition from a young Julia Roberts to bag the role of the object of Peter Venkman’s affections.
According to original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, what gave Weaver the edge was a jaw-dropping audition that saw the actress channel her inner Zuul by mounting the table and barking like a dog.
It seemed Weaver went for broke in a bid to nab a comedic role going against the grain of her intergalactic hard-ass Ripley. Cinema is a better place for it.
“And then she got on all fours on my coffee table, howling like a dog!”
Reitman explained the casting of Weaver in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter to promote the Ghostbusters reboot.
“Sigourney was slightly older [than Roberts], had just done [1979’s] Alien and she was so smart about the script. She said, ‘You know, I really think that Dana Barrett should be possessed. She should be like that dog on the roof.’ And then she got on all fours on my coffee table, howling like a dog!
“She was funny and had a regality, and having her with my Ghostbusters was like having Margaret Dumont with the Marx Brothers. Right after she left my office, I called Harold Ramis and said: ‘Harold, Sigourney Weaver just started howling like a dog in my office. She said that she should get possessed by the dog and turn into a dog,’ and I thought, ‘Damn, that’s a really good idea.’
“We had been having all this trouble about how to handle what happens on the roof in the last act, and we hadn’t solved it. Her idea of being possessed really personalised the larger concept – and that got included in the script. She was barely out of my office and we were writing it already.”
And that’s how Hollywood history was made.