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Dreamy Weaver.

By Jesse Fox Mayshark

DECEMBER 15, 1997:  She can do romance. She can do action. She can do comedy. She can do drama. She doesn't always make good movies, but even in bad ones, she's rarely less than intriguing. Most notably, she has fashioned for herself one of Hollywood's most successful careers without resorting either to Demi Moore-style "blockbusters" or Meryl Streep-ish showcase roles. She is Sigourney Weaver, and she is in a class by herself.

Now's as good a time as any to take a second look at her remarkable range and capabilities. On the big screen, you can see her talking tough and kicking ass in Alien 4 and using a cooly libidinous surface to mask emotional frailty in The Ice Storm.

Meanwhile, a new video release, Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997, R) gives Weaver the chance to inject new venom into the tired role of wicked stepmother, and she does it with a vengeance. The made-for-Showtime film, a decidedly adult fairy tale full of blood and unsavory innuendo, restores all the darkness that got left on Disney's cutting room floor and piles even more perversities on top. Conceptually interesting, it loses its way toward the end, resorting to horror-film clichés. (It's also a little hard to imagine who the intended audience is.) But Weaver has fun fleshing out her character, an unstable woman crazed by jealousy and the loss of her own child (and egged on by a certain magic mirror).

She is equally impassioned in Roman Polanski's Death and the Maiden (1994, R), an adaptation of Ariel Dorfman's tense play about a former political prisoner in a post-totalitarian country confronting the man she thinks raped and tortured her. Ben Kingsley gives a wrenching performance as the accused, and Stuart Wilson is effective as Weaver's perplexed husband. As usual, Polanski has trouble playing the drama entirely straight, but that's OK—his odd moments of humor keep the whole enterprise from overheating. Weaver makes her terror palpable, along with the thirst for vengeance it engenders.

One of her best early roles—apart from Alien, of course—came in Peter Weir's political/romantic epic The Year of Living Dangerously (1983, PG). Weaver plays the seductive love interest of Mel Gibson, who also gives one of his best performances as an Australian journalist covering the 1965 Indonesian civil war. Linda Hunt won an Oscar for her supporting role as Gibson's (male!) sidekick.

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