Apologies for a five-year-old spoiler to the highest grossing motion picture of all time, but when Sigourney Weaver’s cantankerous but loyal Grace Augustine perished in James Cameron’s Avatar, it seemed quite unlikely the actress would return for the upcoming sequels. Well, that’s not the case, as 20th Century Fox and Cameron have announced Weaver’s return to the franchise, albeit playing a different character. Details beyond that are unknown, but the 3-time Oscar nominated actress and former Ripley will join Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang for a trio of sequels that are scheduled to shoot back-to-back-to-back later this year.
Weaver first worked with Cameron on the 1985 science fiction classic Aliens, when Cameron picked up the franchise reins from Alien director Ridley Scott. That chapter in the franchise is considered by many to be the best in the series. It makes a certain full circle effect that one of the earliest signposts of Cameron’s illustrious (and mightily successful) career was established with Weaver. “Sigourney and I have a long creative history, dating back to 1985 when we made Aliens,” Cameron said. “We’re good friends who’ve always worked well together, so it just feels right that she’s coming back for the Avatar sequels. Her character of Grace Augustine, as fans know, died in the first movie, so she’s playing a different and in many ways more challenging character in the upcoming films. We’re both looking forward to this new creative challenge, the latest chapter in our long and continuing collaboration.”
Aliens created one of the most famed and noteworthy examples of a strong female character dominating and genre blockbuster. That interest in gender politics through the lens of big effects works has been a fascinating touchstone in most of Cameron’s work. While The Terminator is synonymous with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance, it’s anchored by Linda Hamilton’s (as Sarah Connor); same goes for True Lies, where Jamie Lee Curtis ran off with the action flick or The Abyss‘s Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Even Titanic, the only outlier in Cameron’s career, only managed Oscar nominations for female stars Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart. That goes a long way in saying that hopefully Weaver will be given a character worthy of her superior gifts in the upcoming films.
Avatar 2, which will almost certainly be titled something else, is expected to hit cinemas in December 2016, with the next films (Avatar 3 and 4) in the series planned for a each of the following years. Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds) wrote the screenplay along with Cameron. The first Avatar earned $2.7 billion at the worldwide box office, making it the highest grossing film of all time (Cameron’s Titanic is in second place), earned four Academy Awards and ushered in a wave of respectability and awe for 3D films (for better or worse, but set precedents for recent films like Gravity and Life of Pi.)
Weaver was last seen on screen in the 2012 thriller The Cold Light of Day opposite Bruce Willis and Henry Cavill and will next be seen in Ridley Scott’s biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings opposite Christian Bale and Aaron Paul, due in theaters this December. Beyond that, she will appear in Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium follow-up called Chappie alongside Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley.