Femacho, a Linda Hamilton Interview
Date: January, 1992
By: Alan Jones
The lastest buzz-word in Hollywood is 'femacho'. Self-explanatory, it's being used to describe the current rash of action-oriented movies with feminist slants like 'Nikita', 'Thelma & Louise' and 'V.I. Warshawski'. But the one Summer movie heroine the term fits best is Linda Hamilton in 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day'.
In reprising her Sarah Connor role, 34 year-old Hamilton may have found the proper film career launching pad she has desevred all along. A firm favourite of mine, and many STARBURST readers due to the CBS TV series 'Beauty and the Beast', I first talked to ht e 5-foot-5-inch star on the set of 'Black Moon Rising'. She hasn't changed at all. Apart from looking more gorgeous than ever, thanks to arduously working out for the 'T2' long haul, she's still very much the committed actress, serious about what she does, and highly critical of herself.
Kong And After
Before talking about 'T2', the scenes she most regrets being edited out, and 'Beauty and the Beast', read what she says about her body of work since we last spoke. "What can I say about 'King Kong Lives'! I was stunned when I saw it. It was the most ridiculous movie. I took the part because Dino's original didn't hurt Jessica Lange's career. While we were filming I never saw one full-size Kong, only a hand or a foot, as I was acting against huge blue screens most of the time. It was a hoot when I finally saw those monkeys flirt and bat their eyes. Then it horrified me for being so stupid. As for 'Mr Destiny' it was another mediocre movie. I've had more than my share of those. Nothing has beaten 'Stephen King's Children of the Corn' yet which still haunts my past as the worst film I've made. Can you believe they're making a sequel? They didn't dare ask me to reprise that role!".
But thankfully James Cameron, did ask her to reprise Sarah Connor from 'T1'. "I guessed all along a 'T2' would be a reality. I never knew when it was going to happen but instinct told me it would because I kept seeing increasing references to it in other movies over the years. He'll be back, I thought! But I didn't find out officially until February last year. I'd just gone off to do 'Mr Destiny' in North Carolina and 'T2' was offered then. The script arrived in March."
No Second Thoughts
Hamilton jumped at the offer without any second thoughts for one main reason. "It was Jim Cameron's movie. Had it been another director I probably wouldn't even have considered it because no one else could have stepped in and replace his vision. And I do think he's a visionary. In pure film-making terms, I love what he does. When we were making 'T1' I had no idea it was going to be that good. I didn't like making 'T1', it was very tough.But I wanted to get into Sarah's character again and tackle her seven years after I'd already done it to bring my film career full circle."
She didn't have any script input but Hamilton noted, "All along we'd spoken of making Sarah crazy. I was adamant about that trait and excited by the prospect. She's lived with the horror of nuclear war -- the certainty it's goinig to happen -- for so long now and I needed to show something of that torment to make audiences undetstand why she's not a nice woman anymore. I didn't want her to be the heroine everyone expected. It was a great challenge for me as an actress". I mention the horrified look on her face when she sees Arnold break into the asylum. "That was an important establishing scene as her nightmare has come true. That tied into a dream sequence we filmed but Jim cut. There were originally two nuclear war nightmares and the first had Dr Silberman [Earl Boen] becoming the Terminator. He's there in the hospital with her! Arnold's appearance doubly shocks her for that reason."
Although Hamilton walked away from 'T1' not liking Cameron at all, 'T2' was a different experience altogether as she explains. "I was young and thought he was too tough to work with. I felt he was too machine-orientated and there wasn't room for my measly acting concerns. In honesty we didn't get on the first time. But I knew what I was getting into with 'T2' plus my respect for Jim as a director had grown independently after seeing 'Aliens' and 'The Abyss'. I knew it was imperative I got my work done before we even started shooting because he'd never be able to devote any time to me afterwards. So we did it that way. We went through the script word by word. Therefore I knew what my job description was because we had agreed on it in that rehearsal period. That's why 'T2' was a more successful partnership for me. Jim's work load was even bigger on this and to his credit he kept it together pretty well."
Not that Sarah's character was irreversibly locked down during rehearals says Hamilton. "We had to modify her intensity during production to make it believable, not over the top. She did have to relate to the world at some point after all. And I know it sounds ridiculous but I had problems with lines like 'On the floor fuck face' as I was worried what my mother would think when she saw the picture!"
With regards to Schwarzenegger, Hamilton has this observation. "We almost didn't act together in 'T1' because he chased me continuously. When he finally caught up he was an endoskeleton! Arnold hung around the set a lot though and was a good sport. He still is. I don't think any of us guessed how big a mega-star he would become. But he's a team player, doesn't keep you waiting and was very generous with his personal gym and aeroplane. None of that side interferes with his work. I can't honestly say hand on heart that Arnold is a wonderful actor. Yet he knows how to use his persona well and smartly. And when it comes to merchandising and marketing you can't argue with him. He's also a lot braver than people imagine. He had this wonderful moment where he smiled at John [Edward Furlong]. The rushes were hysterical. But Arnold went for it and I really appreciated that dedication. That's why I like Jim so much as he sees the whole movie rhythmically and cuts out great stuff because it just won't work in context."
While agreeing Cameron got a great performance out of Furlong, Hamilton feels she was too hard on the teen actor in retrospect. "It was out of necessity as I play a mother who pushes. I didn't want to confuse him by being nurturing between takes. Now that goes against my nature, but I kept my distance off set to keep the character conflict continuity going. I held myself back from him. Not in a negative way, I just kept reminding him of the job to be done. I'm a driven perfectionist and someone had to hook Eddie into the reality of the scene. Arnold did the opposite because he was the goofy big brother in many respects. He could afford to be juvenile with Eddie and that kept him loose.
While Hamilton does set a new standard for action heroines, she had no idea it would attract so much attention. "It was hard to be thrust into that position by everyone. I wasn't prepared for the buzz about my body -- how hard I'd pumped up and worked out, All that seems to have overshadowed my acting to some degree. Sure it was tough to do, but not once did I think, Oh, this is really going to get me noticed. I did it because it was so much a part of Sarah's evolved character and my work process. There's a lot more to her than the 'Woman with a Gun' subtext going on that's been overlooked. Journalists seem eager to talk about the scene in which I condemn men. Sarah does that because she's bitterly screwed up and meant to be unsympathetic. It's not my personal polemic. God bless Jim for creating such strong women roles. People tell me I should actively pursue the lead in the Hollywood 'Nikita' remake. Why would I want to do that? I've already played it. So I'd get to wear high heels. Is that the furthest I could take it? Big deal!"
Last issue, Linda Hamilton told us how she moved on from mediocre movies to her femacho star status in 'Terminator 2'. Here she talks about cut scenes, military training and 'Beauty and the Beast'.
Hamilton undertook a gruelling work-out regimen and full combat training because, "I needed that character leap in terms of 'The Bigger Ficture'. It was automatic, organic and intense. I've softened it down now, but I still work out for short periods. I never wanted to be a sex object. I fell in love with running and my personal trainer, Anthony Cortes, was like a brother. I really miss him."
It took Hamilton three months of Summer 1990 to reach her peak. She trained for three hours, six days a week, in the garage at her Santa Monica home. Her drills included aerobics, running, swimming, "walking up hundreds of stairs, lifting free weights and mini-trampolining. I exercised all through the six month 'T2' shoot, which nearly killed me!"
On top of that, Israeli commando coach, Uzi Gal, primed her for action scenes with judo and military training. "I was so burnt out so many times, only getting four hours sleep a night. But I discovered major things about myself and it was great to come through that learning experience. I dreaded the military training, in fact, I hated it. It was vicious stuff learning to load clips, change mags and verify targets. All emotion had to disappear. That's what combat training is about. You can't let your gun jam due to a temper tantrum! I can't tell you the life lessons I learned from being put into that military mindset. It's given me great serenity and I now pray a lot more."
Hamilton didn't watch 'T1' again to get a handle on where Sarah was coming from "until about three-quarters of the way through shooting 'T2'. I was just curious. I didn't want the memories to be that crystal-clear because Sarah's defitiitely weren't. She's so wiped out, warped, and removed from that time, I figured it wasn't a good idea to remember too much. Like Sarah I decided to create my own version of the past. When I did see it I hated the way my voice sounded. Talk about Minnie Mouse! It's lowered significantly since then. 'Tl's Sarah is quite bland compared to 'T2's. She was more a cleanslated ingénue who had to find her own strength -- not too far removed from myself then. I had a lot more to sink my teeth into here. I'm sure I'll like 'Tl' again someday, but for now I'll pass."
Beauty and the Beast
In many ways 'Tl' set the seal on Hamilton's Fantasy female persona. Practically all her subsequent roles have been genre-related and she found her biggest success in TV's 1987-89 'Beauty and the Beast' seasons. Does she hate that perception? "I've never thought of my career that way, but I guess it is. I won't mind being considered a genre actress as long as I don't get stuck in that groove. I'm looking for comedy work for this reason alone. 'Beauty and the Beast' fan clubs and newsletters wondering if I still smoke or not [she does] stun me because I've moved so far past that now."
About 'Beauty and the Beast' Hamilton says, "It made a big impact and I don't regret it. I look back on it very lovingly now. Two years was the perfect amount of time. I would not have been happy had I continued. My pregnancy was the genuine reason I decided to leave when I did. It served me well and I adored many of the show's elements. I would have no interest in playing Catherine again [Hamilton says she's never heard even a whisper about a possible movie version]. Television is a frustrating medium to be involved in as characters aren't evolved, they're endlessly repeated. I really wanted my relationship with Ron Perlman to move along and investigate those interesting facets. It never happened nor was it going to. Apparently the third series got much darker after I'd left, but I never saw it."
The fruit of Hamilton's pregnancy was her son Dalton Abbott. She recently divorced his father Bruce Abbott star of 'Reanimator', and is now rumoured to be dating her 'T2' director. You can see 22 month old Dalton in the playground during the nuclear destruction of Los Angeles. And another family member appears in 'T2' as well. It's Linda's identical twin sister, Leslie Gearren, who plays Sarah's cyborg double at the climax.
"Her major moment got cut though. There was this great scene where I perform surgery on the Terminator's puppet head by lifting up the skin to get at the cylinders, chips etc... Jim did it as a mirror reflection with two teams of actors doing exactly the same movements so the camera could get everywhere without being seen. The shot started on Arnold's real mouth talking me through the surgical procedure, the camera moved up, crossed Leslie's body and hands, sees my hands doing the same actions -- that's when you had the sudden knowledge of it being a mirror -- pans up to my face and then into Arnold's puppet head. An extraordinary sequence! I wish Jim had used it. Those sort of effects are much more fun to do than the chore of sitting in a car for blue screen work with stagehands banging you from side to side and up and down. That whiplash effect threw my neck out. It's so annoying. You never get hurt doing the really dangerous stuff you could forever boast about!"
More fun came acting with special make-up wizard Stan Winston's puppet stand-ins for the scenes to be overlayed with computer-generated graphics. She recalled, "They all had these hilarious names like 'Wave Man', 'Pretzel Man' and 'Cleaver Man' depending on the twisted state they were in. Another cut scene had the T-1000 breaking down and reforming himself -- his hand melted into the stair rail complete with red and yellow danger striping. I also regret you not seeing the original way John realised I was a clone at the climax. He looked at my feet to see they had melted into the grating. They built these special boots which hid my feet hidden under the floor. They were so cool."
Hamilton was pleased Cameron had invited many of the original behind the camera personnel back for 'T2'. "Not because it gave me a sense of security so much as a sense of family. Adam Greenberg [director of photography] was so funny. He spent the first three weeks apologizing for making me look awful. 'And you are so beautiful too,' he kept lamenting. He never believed I preferred being dirtied down anyway. That was the 'Beauty and the Beast' challenge. I love all the rough and tumble stuff and had to keep reminding myself it did matter how Catherine's make-up and hair looked. I thought about those aspects and nearly changed my mind when, I was freezing in the steel mill being hosed down with ice-cold water!"
But was she ever aware of the escalating budget situation? "Subtly, I only hoped it wasn't being misspent. I just stood back from that and performed. I could see there were periods when Jim looked tense with lawyers appearing on set. I knew battles were going on. As I didn't know this film was going to work when I read it, I was side-tracked enough. Bigger isn't better and I liked the fact 'T1' was bare to the bone. Pure duplication is a mistake. I honestly thought the T-1000 would be the problem. It seemed too slow moving and I was sure he wouldn't scare anyone. That taught me a lesson. I'll trust Jim completely and implicitly next time."
Next time being on 'T3' perhaps? She laughs, "The inevitable question. Probably not. If it was Jim's vision again, though, I'd consider it. I'm not certain how we could top 'T2'. We say our piece thoroughly and another sequel would surely be solely for cynical box-office purposes. We all create our own time and I've only just come to terms with who I am. Yes, 'T2' was a major spotlight role and admittedly a glory in my life. I feel stronger, more blalanced, very happy and I really don't care what happens now. All I know is I'm ready to step forward. And a 'T3' doesn't figure in my goals at the moment."