Leave it to Weaver

Avatar star Sigourney says you’d better keep your hands off her jeans.

by Margy Rochlin

Her brisk confidence and natural air of East Coast privilege—her parents were British actress Elizabeth Inglis and former NBC president Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, who created the Today show and the Tonight Show—make it hard at first to believe Weaver’s persistent claims to possessing a loose, playful side. But the proof can be found in a session of phone tag, in which Weaver’s messages reveal an affinity for funny voices and self-mocking delivery. Who, I ask her, is that woman on her voice mail who announces in a thick Italian accent, “It’s Sig-ORRR-neee WHEE-ver . . . ”? “That’s me,” she says, laughing, “and it’s supposed to be Russian.”?

Weaver and her husband, theater director Jim Simpson, celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary in 2009, and little about their marriage has changed over the years, she says: “I can honestly say that my husband is still one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.” She loves that as we speak, Simpson is by himself in the Adirondacks, hiking on unmarked trails, determined to complete a 20-year quest to conquer all 46 high peaks in the mountain range. “So while he’s doing that,” Weaver says, “here I am learning how to dance the samba. It just has a nice symmetry to it.” Reminded that disgraced South Carolina governor Mark Sanford has rendered that kind of trip suspicious for faithful husbands everywhere, Weaver pauses, then smiles. “Well, I think Jim is in the Adirondacks,” she says dryly.
 

 

Last year, the couple faced their empty-nest anxieties together as they dropped off their cherished only child, Charlotte, at college. “We sort of panicked,” says Weaver about the terrible silence they imagined in a Charlotte-less household. On impulse, they drove through the night to a 1,400-acre farm on the shores of Lake Champlain, in Vermont, where they stayed for three days in a Victorian-era inn. “Suddenly we were the happy empty-nesters. Because our daughter was safe, she was doing what she had to do,” Weaver explains. “You know, I miss her, but I have to say that I think what you miss is not your grown-up child—I can text her. I miss the companionship of the little person who used to always be with me.”
 

She and Simpson seem to have finally gotten past the overcompensation phase of Charlotte’s absence. “We were the busiest people in the world last fall,” Weaver says. “Too busy. Now we’re trying to figure out how to balance some of these wonderful opportunities with the chance to sort of slow down.” One commitment she will always make time for, though, is her work with the Flea, Simpson’s 13-year-old award-winning downtown Manhattan theater company. “It’s the most important thing I’ve done on the planet,” she says. “I believe Off-Off-Broadway is a little greenhouse for new talent, which sprouts branches to inform the rest of the business.” As a founding member of the company, she appears in some productions, rounds up movie-star friends such as Bill Murray for fund-raising benefits and uses portions of her Hollywood paychecks to keep the theater afloat.

Not only is Weaver energized by such a packed schedule, she can’t picture herself otherwise. “To find the kind of peace to sit in your garden and just appreciate the day? I’d like to be that person. But it hasn’t happened to me yet,” she says. “Maybe it will.”
 

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