Hail Mary

Sigourney Weaver will rip your heart out in Prayers for Bobby, the true story of Mary Griffith, a religious mother who drives her gay son to suicide.




Ignoring Bobby’s protests that he hadn’t chosen damnation (“Why would I choose to have my whole family hate me?”), Mary taped scraps of healing scripture to his bathroom mirror, beseeched God to forgive Bobby for standing with one hand perched girlishly on his hip, and piously shred his self-esteem until he was writing in his diary, “I want to take a fuckin’ ice pick to my face and stab it ’til there’s nothing left.”

“As a mother,” says Weaver, whose only child, Charlotte, is 18, “I was shocked by Mary’s inability to listen to her son. Her heart wasn’t open. She was just convinced that he could stop and be her Bobby again.”

Weaver knows what it’s like to fall short of blind expectations. After her first appearance as Alien’s Lt. Ellen Ripley turned her into an international “dykon” (one website praises her “general studliness” and “femme bitch top persona”), she’s encountered gay fans who seem convinced that she herself walks around New York in tiny panties wielding a flamethrower. “It’s flattering,” Weaver says, “but they’re in love with [Ripley], not me. I feel incapable of helping them understand that I’m not this strong, wily creature. I mean, I run from spiders.”

She also knows what it’s like to be rejected. Neither she nor her upper-class family (her dad was legendary TV exec and Today show creator Pat Weaver) was prepared when she shot up to the undainty height of 5 feet 11 inches at age 11 and was forced to come out -- as a giraffe. Ridiculed at school, she eventually stopped sobbing and took preemptive measures. “I would make fun of myself before someone else could,” Weaver says, “constantly making jokes about what a goon I was.” Her campaign earned her dubious yearbook honors such as “Freshman Fink” or “Junior Birdman,” but her sense of self-worth didn’t recover.

Her determination to embrace her oddness reached new heights in her hippie Stanford years, when the English lit major and her flautist boyfriend began cohabiting in a tree house, dressed as elves in “harem pants and little vests with blue pom-poms.” She dismisses insinuations that she must have smelled (“I was a clean elf…when I could find a shower”) and bristles at the suggestion that committing to an alternative elf lifestyle is arguably super-gay. “I don’t think you should make generalizations about elves,” she says. “They come in all flavors and colors.”

Despite this empowering imp romance, the still-gawky Weaver was soon being humiliated again. The famously harsh professors at the Yale School of Drama, where she sought a postgrad degree, fixated on her height, declaring her uncastable. “They told me I had no talent and would never get anywhere,” she says. For three years they shamed her with token roles while foisting so many leads on Meryl Streep, one year behind Weaver, that Streep turned to a school psychiatrist, Weaver says, to cope with her guilt over the favoritism.

Tags: film