Linda Hamilton Interview: "Terminator" Icon Talks Famous Film Franchise and Buddy-Outlaw Flick "Easy Does It"
Image attributed to Willy Sanjuan
Linda Hamilton is best known for her portrayal of Sarah Connor in The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Terminator: Dark Fate (2019). She also played Catherine Chandler in the TV series Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990), for which she was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award. She has had numerous other film and television roles over her 40-year entertainment career.
On July 17, 2020, Easy Does It is released on demand. The film, starring Hamilton as a ruthless crime matriarch, is a freewheeling action comedy where two best friends and their accidental hostage careen across the 1970s American South on a treasure hunt turned crime spree. Easy Does it also features Ben Matheny, Bryan Batt, Dwight Henry, Matthew Martinez and Susan Gordon.
"There were some trepidations because if it’s a bad film, then it’s going to look like a shameless money grab. Dark Fate was probably the most invested. I will just give anything and everything that I can. But I’ve played her over the course of 35 years. She’s kind of the bookends of my career, and I just cared so much about the character."
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Linda, how are you coping with the pandemic?
Linda Hamilton: Oh, I’m strong and tough, pretty okay. I feel a little lost like most people, but I’m doing my best to just follow the rules. I’m actually sort of a very, very cloistered person to begin with. Just happy to be at home. But funny when it’s enforced or demanded, it sort of becomes something else, doesn’t it?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Is that our rebellious nature coming out when we’re told what to do, even if it’s for our own good?
Linda Hamilton: (laughs) Yes.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You’re living in New Orleans?
Linda Hamilton: I do live here, yes. I’ve been here almost five years. I didn’t know anybody here. I literally just decided to move here because I’d always liked it. I’d never spent a lot of time here. I’d get a job or two, but I just said, “Let’s go there.” It was really dumb luck because it’s just perfect for me here. Perfect.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: It’s a great city. Had you worked with New Orleans filmmaker, Ben Matheny, before?
Linda Hamilton: Not at all. I guess word was out that I was local, so they reached out to my people and said they’d love for me to do this movie, but they only had a certain amount of dollars. I had just signed on for Terminator and was just starting my training. But I thought, “Let’s do this one first.” My agent called them and said, “She loves the part, and she’d love to do it, but she doesn’t want to do it for that price. She’d like to do it for half that price.” (laughs) So that’s how we handled it. Got to support young filmmakers with no money.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What did they tell you about the character other than your name would be King George (or the King)?
Linda Hamilton: (laughs) I loved the audacity of not changing the name. Obviously, it was written for a man or a fellow. But I just read it. I didn’t need to discuss it. I was like, “I’m in. It’s fun.” Just really and truly, anything I can do for aspiring filmmakers. I don’t get to play the bad guy, and it was very easy to say, “Yes.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You know that suit you wore really looked hot and uncomfortable (laughs).
Linda Hamilton: It was. Oh, my God! I just did my best though because it was just so utterly liberating because I gave myself permission to be as awful as I possible could.
I mean, awful, like I stuck my stomach out, I rounded my shoulders, so they weren’t back and straight like I walk (laughs). I slumped, I slurped, I picked my teeth. It was just so much fun! It’s just so much fun to be an older actress, too, and not have the expectation of being beautiful or looking a certain way to meet people’s expectations. This is just like a wild romp to be as awful as I could possibly be (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What did you think about relative newcomer Susan Gordon (Blue Eyes)?
Linda Hamilton: Oh, she was so committed, that girl! I thought she was fantastic, and I hope there’s a future for her. But really a very, very hard worker and a little freaky, you know. She had that character a little freaky (laughs). But I love my boys. I love Will (Addison). I Love Ben (Matheny). We’ve become friends because I just had a great time. As a matter of fact, I gave them back the money that I asked for, which was half of what they wanted to pay me. I was like, “You know what? Don’t even pay me. You need the money to finish the film.” That was how much fun I had.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have you watched the film?
Linda Hamilton: I haven’t seen it. I don’t see my work if I can help it at all. It keeps me honest. I’d be like, “Oh, my God, straight to the plastic surgeon.” I just don’t look. So I can believe whatever I want if I don’t have to see it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Why did you become interested in acting?
Linda Hamilton: My father died when I was five, so my mother was widowed with four very young children. She sent us not away, but there was a theater camp that came to our hometown, which is really on the eastern shore of Maryland, which is kind of remote from any sort of big city life. But they sent a couple of people down to my hometown to start a children’s theater program for the summer, and my mother enrolled us. That was all it took.
We were maybe 10 years old, and I think in the first year, they did Rumpelstiltskin. My twin and I were cast as the princess because we were twins (laughs). In the 60s, you know, that was just very special. It’s not like we had any extra special talents or anything, but the marquee said, “Starring the Hamilton Twins.” So we would alternate. She would play the princess one night. I would play the princess the next night.
But the next year, we did a version of Wind in the Willow. The play was called Toad of Toad Hall, and my sister got the part of Toad. I got the part of Badger who is just furious all the time. I felt like that’s when I fell in love. I think I was never the princess. I was always the grumpy Badger. I remember hiding under a pile of leaves for the opening scene and coming out of a pile of leaves scaring little children, and that’s when I found myself (laughs). I’m like, “I am not the leading lady. I am Badger.” So I do remember how much more fun it was to play that part than it was to play the pretty princess.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: And your twin sister didn’t pursue acting after that?
Linda Hamilton: No. She became a nurse. I’m the one in my family who didn’t do something with her life (laughs). My older sister’s a lawyer, my twin is a nurse, and my brother was a social worker. I’m just useless as an actress (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: My goodness, how horrible! (laughs)
Linda Hamilton: (laughs) It keeps me straight-minded. You know what I mean? That’s what really counts in this world.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You’ve got a 36-year friendship going with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Linda Hamilton: I do.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: That’s something that really counts also. Do you two agree on most social and political issues?
Linda Hamilton: Oh, politically … actually, I think we’re a lot closer now than we were. Yes. I actually voted for him as governor years ago. I did not think that was going to happen, but when I took a good look at Gray Davis, I just thought how ineffective, colorless and grey he indeed was. I was like, “We need to change things up.”
I have my own political leanings, so I would not vote out of loyalty, but I did vote for Arnold just thinking we needed a big change. Certainly he has become an amazing elder statesman for so many causes like the environment. I just really respect him. After all these years, it’s just so easy to say that I respect him. He’s an absolute one of a kind.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Did you know his work as an actor before Terminator?
Linda Hamilton: Yes, and it concerned me that he was in this film. And he knows this story. It just all came out on a talk show (laughs). I was a New York-trained actress. People were excited about the first script for Terminator, and I’m not sure why because Jim Cameron didn’t really have a huge following or a big name at that time. But the fact that Arnold was in it, I was like, “Hmm. I will reserve my judgment.” I actually went to the set. He started before I did. I don’t think anybody would’ve called him a great actor in those days, but I went and watched him as the terminator and thought, “Okay. This is working.”
So I had some trepidations. But in those early days, one doesn’t have the luxury of really choosing, you know. I was just establishing myself, so I went cheerfully along. I thought, “Oh, that Jim Cameron’s alright.” We didn’t particularly gel for the first film at all. I mean, only that he was busy and sort of too busy to really deal with actors.
I left that film saying, “Well, that director is definitely on the side of the machine, not humanity!” (laughs) Just one time I asked for playback in the entire film because I’m not neurotic, and I don’t need to see myself. I know if I’ve done what I need, and then I’m just going to trust that it gets put together properly. But there was one time, I just wasn’t sure that I had gotten that moment. In those days, there were very few special effects, so there was actually a mechanical arm that they were shoving kind of blind down this track, sort of like the terminator’s reaching out for me. But it was really just a mechanical arm that weights 200-something pounds, and it caught me pretty hard in the throat at one point. They couldn’t see, and I thought I’d had a little too much uncertainty.
I was a little afraid because it had gotten my neck quite a bit. I thought, “I’m not sure I was strong enough in that moment.” I wanted to see playback, and Jim Cameron was like, “No. Let’s move along.” That was the only time I asked for playback. And the one time I asked, he said, “Let’s move on.” We were like on day seven in a row really under the gun. So Jim heard from me on that day. That’s for sure. I think I might be the only actress that ever took him off set and screamed at him. Of course, there’s no ceiling on the sound stage, so everybody could hear, they just couldn’t see it (laughs). But then when I saw the film, I was like, “Oh, Jim’s a genius.” He is.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You were a little reluctant to do Dark Fate that was released last year. Was that because you weren’t sure it would be successful?
Linda Hamilton: Yes. Mostly. I just felt like I had done a really strong two films, so was there anything more to say from that character? Unless there was something new to add to the mix, I didn’t want to come on board. Then I, of course, knew that audiences would just be very cruel because the last time they saw Sarah Connor, she was a beast, and now she’s an old lady.
It’s not that I was afraid to go out there and be an old lady. But you think, “Okay. I’m just going to go work out like I did when I was 33, and I’ll get the same results.” Well, that just doesn’t happen when you’re 63 (laughs). You need hormones to put muscle on. I don’t have hormones. So I thought, “What can I bring that will make this worthwhile for the franchise?” Then after training and training and training and realizing where I was and how far I could get, I just thought, “You know what? It doesn’t matter because what I have to bring is not just a body. I have such a big wealth of experience that hasn’t been tapped into. I am going to bring all that.” I just have so much more going on than when I was 33.
So, yes, there were some trepidations because if it’s a bad film, then it’s going to look like a shameless money grab. Dark Fate was probably the most invested. I will just give anything and everything that I can. But I’ve played her over the course of 35 years. She’s kind of the bookends of my career, and I just cared so much about the character. I’m not the actress that says to the director, “Oh, my character wouldn’t say that.” That’s never been me. I just do what the director asks and try to make it work. Just keep it simple for me.
I don’t go through a lot of doubt or worry or process or neurosis, but I really had to stand up for Sarah a couple of times on this film because the script really never got finished. We were still working as we were shooting. It was the first time ever in my career where I just was absolutely rigid about certain things and said, “Nope. I know this character best, and that moment is wrong.” So I had to put up a good fight because I cared, not that Jim had wrong ideas, but it was really just a question of setting the tone and going from there. And ultimately there was just a great trust between all of us. It sounds like it was a big problem, but it wasn’t. But I did find myself so invested in outcome, and that’s not usually me.
I don’t care if a movie is successful. I just want it to be good. That still was true for this one. Box office doesn’t matter to me. That’s not my department. I just do everything I can to make it as good as I can when I’m on set. I’m glad that one’s done, honey. There won’t be another one.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So the Terminator franchise is over?
Linda Hamilton: It looks like it because it didn’t perform at the box office at all. They all know they’d be foolish to attempt it. There’s such a big budget. That movie had to make $500 million to break even or something. Certainly these days, they don’t. People just don’t go to films like they used to.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I’m sure the pandemic has hurt the movie theaters, but many films are also going directly to VOD.
Linda Hamilton: Yes. They won’t get their money back if they’re just streaming them somewhere, but I don’t really know how that works. Things are meant to be seen on a large screen. I think things were heading there anyway. Maybe this pandemic just accelerated the changes, but it just felt to me that was going to happen anyway.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have the production companies received the green light to start back shooting films?
Linda Hamilton: Of course, I’m not in the thick of it at all. I’m far, far away. But people I’ve talked to there have heard that some productions had started up, and when they realized the difficulty and the expense of keeping people six feet apart, they shut down again. I don’t know how you can do a movie by keeping people six feet apart. The only way I know how to make a movie is like six people crammed into a car, two of them are on camera, and the other three are in your lap or at your feet or sticking the boom up.
I don’t know how movies can be made with that sort of distancing. But I have heard that some productions started up certain they could go ahead, and then closed down when they started realizing you had to buy a trailer for every actor because no one can share a trailer. Some productions started up and just went, “Oh, no way.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I don’t know why I just thought of this when you were talking about a car, but I recently watched Children of the Corn again starring you and Peter Horton.
Linda Hamilton: Oh (laughs). What’s wrong with you?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: (laughs) It was probably just as creepy as the first time I saw it.
Linda Hamilton: Oh, my word. I thought that one was going to end my career, and my career had barely begun. I would show up and say, “Wait a minute. Isn’t the corn supposed to be black in this scene?” They’re like, “Oh, yeah. We ditched that. We couldn’t afford it.” Every special effect that would’ve made the movie cool, they’d go, “Oh, no. We couldn’t afford that.” I really felt sick inside. I really thought, “Oh, my God. This is just going to end my career.” But I survived that one.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Yes, you did. And it became a horror classic. Your kids weren’t interested in getting into show business?
Linda Hamilton: Not at all. My and Jim Cameron’s daughter interned at a special effects company. It used to be the Stan Winston Studio, and then they changed the name of it. But she worked with them for a summer sort of drawing and making puppets. She loved it because she’s a very talented artist. So I thought she had found her love, but it didn’t stick.
I remember the day each of them separately came up to me and said, “I never want to be famous!” We were coming back from Costa Rica. The plane had a problem, and we ended up in Guatemala. We were starving, but I got noticed. So there were crowds of people, and all my kids wanted was a burger from somewhere. But they were so annoyed that we couldn’t get over to buy them burgers, they said, “I never want to be famous!”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
Linda Hamilton: I was in the midst of doing two shows when this pandemic happened. I was doing two at the same time, one was an arc on Claws, and one on a new show that is just adorable for Syfy called Resident Alien with Alan Tudyk playing the alien. Oh, my God, he’s just fantastic. It’s a beautiful production design, just a fantastically fun show. So I was halfway through each of them. So I have to go back to work and cut my hair. It’s so funny, I grew my hair out, and it’s great since I’ve been here growing out an awkward haircut all by myself with nobody having to see me. Now it’s grown to this great little length, and I have to cut it where it was in March so it will match how it looked when we were filming. So that’s a little bit of a bummer.
Resident Alien is in Vancouver. I could walk to work for Claws. It’s literally just around the corner, and the other one is in Vancouver, which couldn’t be farther away, but I think when I go back, there will be something akin to a two-week quarantine before I get to the set. They’ll keep me in a box somewhere for two weeks before I step on the set. It’ll be two weeks of quarantine for two days of work or something like that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Linda, you’ve had such an interesting life and career. Why don’t you write a memoir?
Linda Hamilton: You know, I’m an avid reader. I just could not write a memoir. I love literature, and boy, if I had great fiction in my head, I would love to sit down and write it. But I’m not very much about me. So telling my story doesn’t interest me very much. But I would love to be a speaker. I would love public speaking. So give me a cause, and put me out there.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What are your social or political causes?
Linda Hamilton: I have been careful to stay very quiet. It’s a very strange position to be a celebrity and to be someone that can speak up, but then you can be hated for speaking up. I had a wellness campaign 15 years ago for the mentally ill. I have bi-polar disorder, so at that point, nobody had ever spoken of it. But Linda just doesn’t have a filter. I mentioned once that I had been diagnosed and, of course, it made it out there, and suddenly, everybody was like, “What?”
So I had a really great campaign with a company that wanted to just help people that are dealing with the side effects of medicine and to just trying to keep the total person healthy. I was very proud of that because I can get really honest and real about who I am and how awful I can be (laughs). So that was actually really meaningful. Anything I can do to sort of ease the way for people who are suffering means as much to be as anything. I have met people along the way who have said, “You helped my sister so much when you came out and spoke about your illness.” Those are the things that really connect with me, the stories of people who just need someone to reach out their hand.
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