Sigourney Weaver has swapped the terrors of Alien for the comforts of the White House in presidential comedy Dave. Harriet Lane met her to discuss the delights of an essentially old-fashioned comedy.
It sounds like the dream ticket. Reverberating with ‘ echoes from celluloid history. Dave sets off on one of f Hollywood‘s favourite crusades, that of realising the American Dream by giving an ordinary bloke a platfomi - in this case, the presidential podium in the White House. It’s all about the hope that. one day, politicians will give two hoots. Take a slice of Mr Smith Goes To Washington, a pinch of Being There, add a dash of Trading Places. and there you have it — a perfect fairytale pedigree.
Kevin Kline plays the sunny-natured Dave Kovic, who runs a temping agency in Baltimore. He's an extremely ordinary bloke. bar an uncanny resemblance to Bill Mitchell. the 44th President of the United States (setting up a plot with an uncanny resemblance to The Prisoner OfZenda). Spotted by CIA agents while on lookalike service at a local store, Dave is dragooned into impersonating the real thing when the President falls into a coma during a bout of adultery. Even the First Lady, Ellen Mitchell (Sigoumey Weaver) failes to notice the substitution, i as the presidential marriage has reached an advanced stage of rigor mortis. But once Dave starts to show an interest in steering the political course of the country — despite the best efforts of Frank Langella as the psychotic Chiefof Staff who is masterminding the scam — Sig twigs, and she and the man from Office Angels embark on a mission to set the US back on the right track.
It‘s quite a change for Ms Weaver, better known for her work in skinhead, thin layer of sweat and outer space. and she admits that at least part of the attraction of this particular comedy was cosmetic. ‘The fact that I'm playing the First Lady — which looks like a brilliant career move after Alien 3 — was actually a ﬂuke. l'd told my agent I didn't want to read anything for a while, but Ivan Reitman (the director) snuck the script to my husband and I heard him giggling over it in the next room. The script was wonderfully constructed, like something from the 305 or 405 with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne — and I thought it would be fun to wear nice clothes and be well groomed for a change.‘
The pitch tempted a lot of other people as well: the cast includes a brace of senators playing themselves. plus guest appearances by Larry King. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oliver Stone (whose latest conspiracy theory - that the President has been swapped for an imposter - prompts a TV interviewer to raise a wearily incredulous eyebrow). Weaver was amused by the reaction of the political establishment. ‘Once people started to sign up for it, it was quite a
scramble. In general, Washington was just delighted with the picture. and the Washington opening was just a free-for-all of happy politicians.‘
‘The tact that I’m playing the First Lady - which looks like a brilliant career move after Alien 3 — was actually a ﬂuke . . . lthought It would be fun to wear nice clothes and be well-groomed tor a change.’
This indicates the clout — or lack of it — of the film.
; Though one ofthe producers. Lauren Shuler-Donner,
has been quoted as saying, ‘1)ave reﬂects the concerns of millions of people who have no voice in
5 government‘. the end product still tickled the
politicians pink. Weaver. who voted Democrat last November and sees the Mitchell character as a Republican. is more honest. ‘lt's a vacation from the reality of politics. Republican or Democrat.’
The film certainly sticks to the most basic manifesto. Dave‘s political initiation takes place at a photo-op in a homeless shelter, where he performs magic tricks for the kiddies in front of an amazed and tearful Ellen. When he hears the shelter's grant has been cut. Dave calls in his accountant chum from Baltimore and they set about rearranging the budget over a few beers. Cut a few defence bills, Spring details on the cabinet during a meeting broadcast live to the nation, and - hey presto! — America takes its first teetering steps back towards righteousness.
But despite the gloopy sentimentality, Dave is a particularly amiable comedy. It‘s not adventurous, it's not incisive, it‘s not Bob Roberts; but it has Kevin Kline in two roles and Sigoumey Weaver back in comedy for the ﬁrst time since Working Girl. It's an
Dare: ‘a perfect fairytale pedl'ee' area she says she loves. but she doesn‘t see that many good scripts; even on this one, she requested a few changes. ‘There were some things I wanted less dramatic. It‘s a soufﬂe. and if we had a lot of angst
. about my husband in a coma, the souffle would fall.’ She makes an aristocratic little moue: it seems she has left Ripley in another universe. Apparently, they feel differently in the States and there is excited talk of reconstructing Ripley, Jurassic Park style, from her nail-clippings.
Weaver sympathises with the people who just can‘t let go of/llien; she herselfgot rather involved with Dare. to the extent that right after the election, when she was given a tour of the White House, it was so similar to the set that she momentarily climbed back into character. ‘lf Barbara Bush had walked in, I would have said. “Oh, let's have a cup oftea and talk about it.“ I had to restrain myself from thinking. “That cupboard needs to be fixed and there's a terrible stain on the carpet." '
Dave opens in Scotland on Friday 5 November.
THE FILMS 0F SIGOUBNEY WEAVER
Annie Hall (1977) Allen (1979) , The Janitor (1981) The Year Of living Dangerously (1983) : The Deal 01 The Century (1983) ' Ghosthusters (1984) ; line Fernrne Ou lleux (1985) 3 Aliens (1986) ; Half Moon Street (1988) ; Gorillas In The Mist (1988) i Working Girl (1988) ! Ghosthusters II (1989) i Allen 3 (1992) l 1492: Conquest 01 Paradise (1992) l Dave (1993)
sponsored by BACARDI BLACK
The List 5—l8 November 1993 17'