Why Sigourney Weaver had to say yes to Call My Agent

By Emma Jones
Entertainment reporter

image copyrightNetflix
image captionSigourney Weaver is the first major Hollywood star to take a cameo in the series

Actress Sigourney Weaver, the star of hit films including Alien and Avatar, says she's only taken one project without reading a script - the new series of French comedy Call My Agent.

Weaver plays a version of herself in an episode of the hit show about the entertainment industry, which airs internationally on Netflix, and tells her agents as she arrives in Paris that she hasn't yet read the script for her new film.

And she explains how that also turned out to be partially true in real life.

"I really hadn't read it when I said yes," says Weaver, "and I'll probably never ever do that again in my career. But I knew whatever it was, I could make it work. I just wanted to say yes in case they changed their mind."

image copyrightNetflix
image captionThe fictional series depicts the trials and tribulations of entertainment agents having to deal with capricious stars

The episode, which was filmed in Paris just before the Covid-19 outbreak closed international travel, shows the actress speaking fluent French - which she can indeed do.

"It was such a delightful experience," she says. "I love France and I also love performing in a comedy. I'm not asked to do it enough and yet it's so much fun. By the end I was even improvising in French with the cast and I can't tell you how much it meant to me. The actors have such a sharp sense of comic timing."

media captionThe show has seen a long list of French A-list stars

Weaver is the first major Hollywood star to take a cameo in the series about the misadventures of a group of French agents and the talent they represent. The show's French title, Dix pour Cent (10%) the standard commission fee most agents receive.

But like the BBC sitcom Extras, which was set in the acting world, Call My Agent has attracted well-known actors to guest star in its episodes.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionIsabelle Huppert played herself as a workaholic who was secretly filming two projects at once

They include Isabelle Huppert, Monica Bellucci and Juliette Binoche, as well as Oscar winner Jean Dujardin. They play fictionalised versions of their star personas that poke fun at themselves and their industry.

Huppert played herself as a workaholic who was secretly filming two projects at once, Bellucci as someone who wants a date with somebody who's not famous.

"I guess it's such a good joke of finding out the reality behind the glamorous image of the actor," Weaver says.

"Isabelle Huppert doesn't take herself seriously and so sends up her real seriousness about her work. There's just about enough truth in it to make it resonate in a real way. It's great fun to make fun of yourself and make fun of your business."

Some of the main cast are big names in France, including Camille Cottin, who plays the central character - long-suffering agent Andréa Martel, who's trying to combine career and motherhood.

image copyrightNetflix
image captionAgent colleagues (L-R): Grégory Montel plays Gabriel Sarda, Camille Cottin plays Andréa Martel and Assaad Bouab plays Hicham Janowski

Cottin also starred in Mouche, the French version of the BBC series Fleabag, as well as playing the villainous Hélène in Killing Eve. She believes Call My Agent is authentic because it was co-created and written by a former talent agent, Dominique Besnehard.

"It's the mixture of having a very glittering side to the industry, which gives us all a chance to go backstage and see it up close," she explains, "but also you have the agents and their very human problems. Everyone who does come in for a guest role always wants to go for it 100%."

The fictional Weaver tells Andréa to cut her meat up for her and isn't satisfied with her room at the Ritz Hotel.

"And she's not like that at all but it was good to have the version of Sigourney Weaver who is very whimsical," says Cottin.

image copyrightNetflix
image captionIn the episode, Sigourney Weaver wants her character in a new film to have an onscreen lover half her age

"In real life she's so nice, so kind and easy going as well as being very, very impressive. But she understood that you have to make fun of the glamour system, so she did.

"On the other hand, her character in the show is very feminist and engaged, and she really was keen to make that as precise as possible."

In the episode, Weaver is arguing that her character in her latest film should be able to have a male love interest half her age. The 71-year-old actress says that was her own input into the script.

"I think that in the original script I was sent - not that I read it - my character Sigourney Weaver really was sleeping with young men," she explains.

image copyrightNetflix
image captionCamille Cottin (left) and her co-star Ophélia Kolb

"I said, 'Maybe not! Let's make it about an older actor who wants to convince a younger director that she is the appropriate partner for a young man.'

"It becomes more about the story, but we all worked together on the script to make those changes, so the story became much more political. It becomes much more about current problems in the business, and I think it was very satisfying."

While the French film industry has long been admired in Hollywood, TV shows such as long-running police drama Spiral have recently made French television as exportable to the UK as Scandinavian drama has been.

Call My Agent is now being remade in several countries, including the UK by the producers of the sitcom W1A. But it's reported that the current French series will be the last - which could be disappointing for other Hollywood actors who want to participate.

However, Cottin says she may have intriguing news for the show's growing international fanbase.

"In terms of the show ending, I don't know the English idiom for the expression, but our creator Dominique says in French, 'I haven't said my last words yet.' So, it means he's dreaming of possible comebacks, but I don't yet know what will happen."

The new series of Call My Agent is available on Netflix now.

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