Why Sigourney Weaver gave herself a new name

The actor burst onto the scene in 1979's Alien, having shed her old identity as Susan years earlier.

As a teenager, actress decided she didn't want to be Susan anymore

Actress Sigourney Weaver arrives on the red carpet to promote the movie "A Monster Calls" during the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, September 10, 2016. (Michelle Siu/The Canadian Press)

Sigourney Weaver's parents didn't choose her unusual first name. She chose it herself.

"When I was about 14, I was reading The Great Gatsby and I picked it out of the book," she told CBC talk show host Bob McLean in 1981. "I guess I was bored with my name, which was Susan."

But Sigourney stuck. The actor, who was a guest on CBC Radio's Q this week, was in some of well-known movies of the 1980s, including Aliens and Ghostbusters. 

"I look back with amazement at that decision," she said. Her parents called her S for a while, "in case I wanted to go back to the other one." 

Alien recollections 

Sigourney Weaver, after Alien

42 years ago
Duration 3:31
The actor is a guest on a CBC talk show in 1981 to discuss her latest work, how she got into acting and why she changed her name.

At the time, Weaver was promoting her 1981 film Eyewitness. But she had been noticed for her role as Ripley, the sole human survivor in Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien.

She said her 5'11'' height had never been a hindrance to her success on stage or in film.

"I've never had to walk in a trough or anything," she said, referring to the movies she'd acted in.

That included some of her co-stars in Alien

"Tom Skerrit and Yaphed Kotto both towered over me," she said. "Of course, the monster was much taller than me." 

Weaver's father, Pat Weaver, was one of the creators of The Tonight Show. Her mother had also been an actor, appearing in the movie The 39 Steps. 

Despite having both parents from a show-business background, Weaver said she'd never aspired to be an actor.

"I didn't ever have any ... revelation that I wanted to be an actress," she said. "I applied to a drama school when I was finishing college, and I got in, and I thought, 'Well, that's a good sign.'"

Sigourney Weaver's latest film is The Good House, in which she stars with actor Kevin Kline. It made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 15. 

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