Sporting indefatigable good humor and enough charm to dazzle anyone within a 50-mile radius, actress Linda Hamilton of Terminator fame more than rose to the occasion while meeting a throng of her excited sci-fi fans at last weekend’s Spooky Empire May-Hem convention in Orlando, FL.
Despite the unrelenting crush of autograph seekers waiting in a line that stretched out the door and far down the Wyndham Orlando Resort’s convention center hallway, Hamilton made a concerted effort to greet each person with genuine warmth, and a handshake or a hug, and to chat with them individually. While posing for photos she even planted a kiss on more than a few surprised and absolutely enraptured faces.
The now 55-year-old Hamilton, who achieved iconic fame as Sarah Connor in The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), is also known for her role in the 1980s Beauty and the Beast TV series alongside co-star Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy), and the disaster epic Dante’s Peak (1997) with Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day, The Thomas Crown Affair). More recently Hamilton has been seen on television as Mary Bartowski, aka Chuck’s mom, in NBC’s spy series Chuck.
As well as signing and posing for photos with her admirers, Hamilton also appeared at a Sunday afternoon audience Q&A, although an unexpectedly early return flight schedule resulted in this final appearance at the convention being cut a little short.
After greeting her audience, and apologizing for having to leave early, Hamilton proceeded to open the floor to any and all questions that she could conceivably answer within 20 minutes.
Was she interested in a role in the new Beauty and the Beast reboot for TV?
“I think so! Well, it depends on the quality of the production. You’ve got to sort of check it out first. I think it has the same producer [as the 1980s original TV version], Ron Koslow. So if he came up with something that was really worthwhile for me, yeah. I don’t know what parts are available, though. Maybe the Beauty’s aging mother?” she laughed. “That works!”
Does she still keep in touch with her Beauty and the Beast co-star Ron Perlman?
“I do. He’s the best friend of mine to this day. I love him.”
Did she enjoy working with Pierce Brosnan in Dante’s Peak?
“Are you kidding me? I actually went around for about two days on set going, ‘Oh my god! I have beard burn from kissing Pierce Brosnan all night long!’ It was one of the highlights of my life! He’s a wonderful, wonderful guy.”
What was it like going from the first Terminator to the second?
“Of course, when we did the first movie, I thought, ‘This is crap. This is crap! No one is ever going to want to see this movie!’ So it was a shock. We never thought that we’d end up landing that much bigger seven years later.”
“But it was a joy to experience, because I knew quite early on what we had to do. Sarah Conner had been living with that certainty of the end of the world. It was very automatic. [While he was writing it] I sort of guided Jim [Cameron]. I said, ‘You gotta make her crazy.’ Then all of a sudden I had to play crazy.”
“It felt very complete to get to play that first part and then all those years later come back with a stronger Sarah Conner. But it was enough for me. I was like, ‘T3? Yeah, without me!’”
What would she have changed about The Terminator had she been the director?
“The love scene with Michael Biehn would have gone on and on…! Sixty minutes of the love scene and twenty minutes of killing, now that’s a good balance.”
Did she received much military training in preparation for her tough role in Terminator 2?
“Oh, yeah, did I ever! I worked out with a personal trainer for about three hours a day, six days a week, so I worked out pretty much eighteen hours a week [for 13 weeks before filming]. I also worked with an Israeli Mossad weapons guy [Uzi Gal, for judo and rigorous military training] in the afternoons, and that was the hardest part. Because that was all about breaking the individual down to get them into that military mindset. And he would be yelling, ‘What’s your number? What’s your serial number?’ while he was throwing things at me! He would have had me swimming in the ocean with a 50-pound backpack on every morning if I hadn’t said, ‘I have a little baby! I want to live to see my baby! I can’t hack this part!’ So that was really tough.”
“We would do recon, and when it all would get to be too much for me I would say, ‘Please excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.’ Then I would go into the bathroom and I would sit like this [hunched over and crying], for about a minute. Then I would wipe the tears away to make sure he didn’t see a thing, and go back out there like a soldier.”
Was it difficult to do the mirror scene [cut from the theatrical release but included on the Special Edition DVD] with her twin sister in Terminator 2?
“I was more nervous for her. It’s funny when you are working with someone you love. I said to Jim Cameron – with whom I had gotten kind of close at that point although we didn’t really fall in love until the very last minute, but I had a little cachet with him – I said to him, ‘If you yell at my sister, I am sending her home! You cannot say one mean thing to my sister!” And my sister was trying so hard to please. You know, she went through a little hell trying to get that one scene done, and I was protecting her. It’s really hard to act and do your job when you’re looking after somebody else. But she’s worth it, she’s my twin.”
How hard was it to do the scene in Terminator 2 where she was restrained to a bed and had a guard lick her face?
“That is a very astute question, because that was actually the hardest thing that I did in that movie – to lie there powerless. And interestingly enough, that is the only day in my career that my parents came to visit me on set. So Jim was trying to guard the monitor so that my parents didn’t see me going through this sort of terrible powerlessness, and they were trying to see what was going on, but Jim kept getting bigger and bigger so they couldn’t actually see the monitor. So yeah, that was hard.”
Has she kept anything from either of the Terminator movies as a souvenir?
“A couple of scars, that’s it. I don’t keep much. I really like to pass it all along, so anything of value gets donated. I don’t have one thing from that movie. Except for Jim Cameron’s daughter! She’s wonderful! She’s enough.”
What was her reaction to Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming Governor of California?
“It was a little bit of a shock. What was really interesting was that when he ran for governor I suddenly became like, important again! Everybody wanted my political opinion because I was a friend of Arnold. And I actually said honestly, and maybe a little too honestly, when asked if I was going to vote for him, I said, ‘Hell, no!!’ But after a while I truly became his total compatriot in it, because Gray Davis [his opponent] was just so Gray, and I couldn’t vote for him. I thought, maybe we needed a change. Maybe we needed a big strong guy in that office, and I supported Arnold completely.”
The story behind her going to the 201 Marine Corps Birthday Ball with Marine Sgt. Ray Lewis:
“The Marine Corps Ball! It was such an honor. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with this story, but the Sgt. wanted Betty White…and he got me. Betty White was working, damn her! So she was simply unavailable. When I saw that Betty White had turned this fellow down I made a YouTube video and I invited myself.”
“I sent off this YouTube video to stranger and eventually when he realized that is was me he called and said, ‘Let’s go!’ He was darling, all that evening he kept saying, ‘I asked for Betty White – and I got an upgrade.’
About her upcoming project:
“I’m heading over to Europe in a few weeks to play the U.S President. So I’m going to have to cut my hippy hair, I guess. I’m going to appear in a miniseries for British TV called Air Force One Is Down. It’s another action piece, very well-written. I love to go over there and do work that nobody ever sees. That’s been my specialty – I work a lot but nobody sees it! So I’m safe that way.”
“I’m one of the rare ones that knows I am blessed because I get to do what I love for a living. I think that’s a very small population that gets to do what they love. I don’t understand these actors that can’t, like, be nice. I get this: strangers come up to me and go, ‘I LOVE YOU!’ And I’m like, is there a better place to live in life than with people coming up to you and giving their love? So I try to give it back.”
“I think that being positive is a real mental discipline. And being happy and being in the moment is, too. I’ve suffered greatly and I’m sure that you’ve read some tales about how I struggled [with bipolar disorder]. But I’ve got something now that no one can take away. It’s just a true love of every minute and every connection that I’m able to make. Anything that can help you stay with yourself and connected to others. Just keep asking to be stretched! God tests us and eventually we get to a place where we are just so good to go. And that’s how I wake up every single morning: just good to go!”