Three Movies and an Empty Nest for Sigourney Weaver

She has slain aliens, battled ghosts and sparred with a big-haired underling gunning for her job.

But Sigourney Weaver, the 5-foot-11½ star of "Alien," "Ghostbusters" and "Working Girl," is getting ready to cope with something entirely out of this world: empty-nest syndrome. Her daughter, Charlotte Simpson, 18, leaves for college in the fall, a prospect that leaves Weaver, 58, stunned.

"Oh, my God," she says, shaking her head. "But it's very exciting."

On the plus side is plenty of work and a potential trip to Southeast Asia with her husband, director Jim Simpson.

"When you're a working mother, the guilt is enormous. And to not have that, to actually be able to work and not feel that tug all the time, would be great," says Weaver, who's shooting Tim Allen's directorial debut comedy "Crazy on the Outside" and recently wrapped James Cameron's "Avatar." "It's worse for me than for her. She's fine without me. You just feel like your place is at home. She was my only one because I got started late, so I wanted to stay home and have fun with her."

Being a mom enabled Weaver to relate to Chaffee Bicknell, an unusually fertile woman who runs a surrogacy agency in "Baby Mama." It opens Friday.

In her exceedingly polite, genteel way, Weaver cracks a dry joke: "Around the corner, I'm sure there's a building going up now for busy New York women who don't have time to carry a child."

Weaver's Chaffee, who keeps getting pregnant despite being long in the tooth, pairs the baby-mad but reproductively challenged Tina Fey with Amy Poehler as her surrogate.

"It's such an intimate portrait of both of these women in a loving way," Weaver says. "Chaffee seems really nurturing but has this thing, 'Not me, I don't need this stuff.' I don't know why they wanted me to play this terrifying woman."

Actually, says writer/director Michael McCullers, "Sigourney was our first and only choice. I knew she'd bring a certain presence to the role. She's tall and elegant and beautiful. You have to believe what this woman is saying."

At home, Weaver is less imposing, once you get used to the idea of being near her. When McCullers first met her, he arrived at "this beautiful apartment, and Sigourney answers the door. I'm sure she could hear the gulp. We went into her kitchen and sat. Her daughter was running in and out, she was about to go to college trips. Sigourney was the most amazing and down-to-earth person. You can tell she's the cool mom."

That's why she relished "Avatar," a film she can't say much about yet. "It's taking place in another world. It's very ambitious," she says. "My character is a scientist and Jim is such a science geek -- he really cared about the science."

Since hitting 40, an age when roles for most actresses dry up, Weaver has worked almost non-stop. She starred in 1997's "The Ice Storm," 1999's "Star Trek" spoof "Galaxy Quest" and 2004's "The Village." In fact, says the three-time Oscar nominee, "I think there are more choice parts after 40. At least for me, that was true. I'm very fortunate and I love being part of an ensemble."

Perhaps one reason Weaver keeps getting roles is that her face is one of the few in Hollywood that isn't chiseled and frozen into place.

"Actors' faces have to move. It's a personal choice. It depends on what you want. Yes, we probably want to see perfect people, too, but we also want to see people who look like us. It's just about skin care to me and maybe exercise."

As for her laugh lines, Weaver says with finality, "I've earned them."

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