So how did Sigourney Weaver meet her husband, director Jim Simpson?
“She loves this story!” he says, sitting alongside his wife at the Flea, his downtown Manhattan theater.
It was summer 1983. “I was at Williamstown [Theatre Festival] doing Old Times,” says Weaver. “I saw this guy chain-smoking and reading this pile of books about Moscow art theater. He looked very intellectual—and cute.” But love failed to blossom, even after Weaver asked him to dance at a season-ending party. “He said no,” she recalls. “I just shrank. Then he said, ‘I was kidding. I would love to dance!’ I was so mortified that I never looked him in the eye.” It wasn’t until a party a few months later that things took off. “He stayed afterward, and I asked him out to dinner,” says Weaver. Adds Simpson: “It’s nice to be pursued.”
And nicer still to be celebrating their 19th wedding anniversary this October. “They’re a very interesting combination of a sophisticated, big-town couple,” says pal Ivan Reitman, Weaver’s director in 1984’s Ghostbusters, “and just real regular folks.”
That combination is evident in The Guys, a new film directed by Simpson, 47, in which Weaver, 53, stars as a writer helping to compose eulogies for firefighters killed on 9/11. Adapted from a play of the same name, The Guys is a very personal project for the couple. “I always knew that New York is an amazing community of souls,” says Weaver, who lives in midtown Manhattan with Simpson and their daughter Charlotte. Despite the play’s subject matter, she adds, “it’s an uplifting experience.”
The same could be said for the making of the film, which was shot in New York City last spring. Weaver and Simpson were joined on the set by Charlotte, 13, who plays Weaver’s daughter. “We wanted her to be with us and know what we were doing.” Says pal Swoosie Kurtz, one of several stars to appear in The Guys’ rotating stage cast: “They are devoted to Charlotte. The fact that they do not live in Hollywood is to their credit.”
Rather, Simpson and Weaver are about as New York as a bagel and schmear. “I was born and raised in New York, and we were here on 9/ 11,” says Weaver, the daughter of former NBC president Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, who died last year, and British actress Elizabeth Inglis, 89. After the attacks, “you felt like you had lost someone,” she says. Wanting to help, the Oscar-nominated star (for 1986’s Aliens and 1988’s Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl) reported to Ground Zero. Meeting the firefighters, she says, “I saw what they were for each other.”
Meanwhile her husband was dealing with the potential shutdown of the Flea, which was located just blocks from Ground Zero. “People didn’t want to come downtown to be entertained; it was still a place of horror,” says Simpson, the Honolulu-born son of John, 76, a church administrator, and Ann, 75, a community activist. Then came the success of The Guys, which was written by Anne Nelson, a Columbia University journalism professor who based the work on her own experience.
The Guys marks Simpson’s first feature film—and his first big-screen collaboration with his wife. “We didn’t get together to be a working relationship,” says Weaver, who is also featured in the new kids’ movie Holes. The pair prefer to spend time with Charlotte and their Italian greyhounds Baci and Petals. “We actually like each other’s company,” says Simpson. So after nearly 20 years, what’s their secret? “I have no idea,” says Weaver, laughing. But her husband does: “Make the right choice is what I say.”
K.C. Baker in New York City