The last Terminator movie Linda Hamilton appeared in was the second one, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It was directed and co-written by James Cameron, as was the 1984 original film, titled simply The Terminator.
Although several sequels followed, neither Cameron nor Hamilton returned for them. When Cameron decided to write the script for a new Terminator movie titled Terminator: Dark Fate, he picked up where Judgment Day left off, ignoring the other films in the franchise, and convinced Linda to return as her iconic character, Sarah Connor. Not only that, but she was joined by the original Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
We had the chance to talk to Linda by phone about what it meant to return to the character after 35 years, what it was like to reunite with Arnold Schwarzenegger, what her formula for acting is and what she’d like to do next! ~Alexandra Heilbron
It’s so exciting to talk to you today and it was so exciting to have you return to the Terminator franchise!
Oh, thank you!
Before this film, Terminator: Dark Fate, you’d decided not to make any more Terminator movies following Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991 — what influenced you to come back for this movie?
Well, several lifetimes have passed (laughs). I did feel very comfortable leaving the franchise after the first two films because it was a perfect, complete arc for a character and I’m one for just moving on and playing different ladies, but the fact that several lifetimes have passed since then; that Sarah Connor is now a woman of a certain age, that the future that she imagined has just completely turned on its end — that John is no longer there — that there are so many new colors to play — a woman without a mission, a woman without a country, really. She’s trying to kill the machines but also not a big fan of humanity. So, just to play a woman who’s so alone and so many rich things to draw from, rich and deep and dark and terrifying. I was like, “Oh, let me do it. I want to do what terrifies me.” I want to stand up and be a woman of a certain age that is not what people expect: “Oh, that ain’t the old Sarah Connor, that’s the ooooooold Sarah Connor.” (laughs) You know? And to find a way to embrace that and bring the other vastness that I carry with my 62 years and put that on screen.
Because it’s been such a long time since the last film, did you go back and rewatch the earlier movies to prepare?
I did not. I carry them within me (laughs). You know? And you just really don’t want to torture yourself with what you’re not anymore. I did that for a couple of months as I was training and going, “I know what do to. I’ll spend 18 hours a week working out like I did when I was 33 and then I’ll look the same (laughs).” And then you’re like, “Ooooh. You know, you need hormones to put muscle on and I don’t have hormones (laughs).” So I had to build my own confidence as I went along — okay, well that’s not going to work, let’s see what else I have to bring to the table. You wake up one day and if you’re a healthy person who’s lived a rich life and you go, I am not what I was — I am so much more than what I was — and let’s draw from that.
I love that! On the set, did you have any input into who Sarah Connor is? If you didn’t agree with something, did director Tim Miller welcome your input?
(Laughs) That is a complex question. Yeah, he was fantastic to work with and it took a little while to build that working relationship, it doesn’t just happen. He would say, “Well, relax your body a little bit.” And I was like, “Sarah Connor is never relaxed!” (laughs) I mean, we’re talking like day one, day two, I’m standing like a soldier and he doesn’t want me to look like a soldier, he wants me to be relatable and I’m like, “What? Sarah Connor has never been relatable!” (laughs) You know what I mean? After a while, we settled in and just had a fantastic working relationship.
But it’s really just a question of, the script wasn’t finished — we had a general idea but things were always changing and Mackenzie [Davis] and I would have to try to sort out what is causing this rivalry and tension within the characters because we don’t want it to read like middle school bitchiness. Just on every level we were trying to work it so it would be a whole piece when it was assembled. So yes, in answer to your question, it is probably the only time in my career when I was working where I would say, “Uh, I’m not saying that.” (laughs) Because it is a character that I have owned for 35 years and so it’s not even that I gave myself freedom, I had no choice but to say, “I don’t feel that that’s right.”
That was really more Jim [Cameron] than Tim [Miller]. Jim would send rewrites and all of a sudden things would be turned on their end and I would say, “Wait a minute.” It wasn’t direction so much as it was script, and that was a lot of Jim Cameron. Where I’d feel equal to the task of saying, “I don’t feel it. Therefore I can’t say it.” And that was kind of liberating. Not at all who I really want to be, I mean, pretty much I’m like a breeze to work with. I just try to make the director happy and do my best acting. That is it. That is my formula for acting. But here I felt a certain duty to speak up for a character.
What was it like to reunite with Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Wonderful! I have to say, I just truly didn’t really understand how much affection I felt for him — I mean, I just hugged him for like the first week. I was so happy to see him again. And you know, I did feel kind of like the two “big guys” on set, you know what I mean? I loved some of our action stuff and landing on his chest and being thrown off and just knowing that Arnold is amazingly, even after his heart attack, he’s just got so much game. And then true appreciation for who he’s become in all these years, just a really eloquent statesman for ecology, for the health of the Earth and I just love him. I will always love him, I know it.
There have been so many advances in technology since your last Terminator film, what were the differences technologically for you as an actor in making this one?
Well, visual effects and CGI have come so far from the first one, especially the idea that in the first one there were basically three guys with a heavy puppet, pushing buttons to make its head swivel (laughs). And this time, I was absolutely blown away by how many crew members it took and what the Visual Effects team would have to come and do, with gray backgrounds. I still don’t understand how, but to create the volume, to create it identically, there would be guys that were constantly taking long poles and putting x’s of tape along it and switching it for the next scene and these pieces of tape were very specific to the work that those fellows were doing. So we’d have to stop and they’d take these photos and we’d go, what is all this for? (laughs) Way beyond me. So I had to focus in on every moment that they gave me and count that everyone else was doing some job that I would never understand.
(At this point, I’m told by the publicist I have time for one more question and Linda objects, “Whoa! We just started!”)
I know, that seemed to go by so fast! I’d like to ask if there’s a role or type of role you’d like to play next?
I would love to do comedy. A lot more comedy. I’ve barely gotten to touch on it. It’s probably just my face (laughs). But I really think that action and comedy are very related — you just have to know everything backwards and forwards and be fluid and turn on a dime and just be so ready for anything and have that same huge energy because comedy requires it and action does too. So, I think that’s my final frontier. Comedy. What say you?
I think that would be amazing — I’d love to see you in a comedy!
Thank you, [the interview] seemed very short, love.
It did, it just flew by! But it was such an honor to talk to you. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Alexandra.
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