Linda Hamilton lifts the lid on her return to Terminator – and her own fears for the apocalypse
The Terminator: Dark Fate star talks failed movies, reuniting with Arnie, and why it took her so long to come back to Sarah Connor
After 28 years away from Terminator, Linda Hamilton is back as Sarah Connor – and in Terminator: Dark Fate she definitely makes the movie her own as she reunites with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 to fight off a new deadly robot from the future.
Recently, RadioTimes.com had the chance to catch up with Linda about her return to the franchise, what she thought of the movies that came after her exit and what awaits Sarah Connor in her new adventure – as well as her own fears for the future.
By the end, there were even a few tears.
So, Linda, after years away from the Terminator franchise, was it weird to come back?
It was strange at the start, and during the year of getting ready. Because I just wasn't sure that I could come up with the goods! And that it would be interesting still.
But then I thought, Sarah Connor of a certain age, Sarah Connor 27 years later…. That would be an interesting thing for me. I just wanted to make sure that I didn't let Sarah Connor down.
So what about this made you want to return?
Jim [Cameron] spoke to me about what they hoped to do with the story, and it was a very loose outline of where they might go, because the script hadn't been written yet. We wondered, who is Sarah Connor today?
I wanted to make sure there was something new to attack. Otherwise it would have just been the same old same old, with diminished returns, because I'm that much older and who wants to see that? It's got to be something that tweaks the minds of the fans and send her off in a different direction.
I think that if you look at the Sarah in the first Terminator, who’s almost a damsel, to the warrior in T2, to Sarah in Dark Fate, it’s like three different iterations.
Mm-hmm. For me, the woman who played her, mentally it is very different in this one, because she's darker than ever, and farther along in her life. And more irretrievable, I think. She's bitter and broken, and she’s fighting the machines not to save humankind so much as to wreak her own vengeance.
Sarah Connor is not someone who has expanded and grown as a person. She's shrunk. I think her soul has shrunk into a very small tight kernel of disappointment. And that made her start from a new place, and gave her a journey.
I think Dark Fate definitely reminds us that Arnie's the Terminator, but Sarah's the main character in the films, certainly the first two.
Yes! It’s Sarah's journey.
People forget that, don’t they?
They do! They keep talking about Dark Fate like “Now it's a female story, and three strong female characters, and female empowerment...” but that has always been the DNA of the franchise, a woman. Or more than one woman, now. The same only bigger.
2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was the first edition of the franchise you weren’t in, with Sarah dying before the events of the film – were you ever asked to be a part of it?
They did ask, and I actually read a script. But there really was nothing new in it. And they just disposed of her, it just was sort of literally a toss-off.
It's not that it wasn't important enough, I don't care how big or small, it's just there was nothing new in it for me. And I was like “You know what, I'm gonna retire a champ. And I like the first two films and I think I'm just gonna leave it at that.”
Though you did do a little vocal cameo for Terminator: Salvation in 2009…
Yes, and that was fun! That was hard even just vocally to come back after all those years and go 'OK!'. To revisit it.
I really had high hopes for that film based on what I saw. But it didn't really cut it, did it? I think their mistake was bringing so many characters in, and such a big story and all the machines, and the kitchen sink.
But it didn't sort of pare it down to characters that you cared about, at all. Because no-one really got enough screentime to tell their story. You can blow up a thousand buildings, but it doesn't matter if you don't know who's in the building and care about them.
In your absence, there have been other Sarah Connors – did you see Emilia Clarke or Lena Headey in action [the two Game of Thrones stars played the character in Terminator: Genisys and TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles]?
I saw one episode of Sarah Connor Chronicles. And it was really not because I rejected it, because I want every Sarah Connor out there to just kill it. I'm not competitive in that way, but I just don't really watch TV.
I love Lena. I just think she's fantastic, I met her, I love her spirit, I love her courage. I think she's great, and I think she was a great Sarah Connor too.
I did not see Genisys. Although I will treat myself to that as soon as I get home!
One of the things that struck me about Dark Fate is that it's the first Terminator film in a while that isn't about stopping the apocalypse – it’s just about escaping this one Terminator, staying alive.
Yes, and it’s a reduction which I think is so important in a franchise. To keep reducing it down to its original form, just getting thicker and better with each incarnation. So we're sort of trying to bring it back to that form again.
Also, without giving anything away, the film doesn't not set up a sequel, but doesn't directly suggest one either.
Right. They could be left alone.
But there’s nothing to say they couldn't come back.
There you go.
I guess what I’m driving at is whether that’s something you'd be open to - doing more?
Uhhh...I'm really tired! Hahahaha. I'm still tired!
Yes if it were worth telling again, if there were a new version. If this film does well...and it'll have to do really well, because it was really pricey, so it's going have to turn quite a lot of money before it goes into profit.
Am I dying to go back there again? Not right now! Well, we'll see.
If you did come back, where would you like to see her go next?
Fat! Ha, that would be shocking to the audience, and sort of satisfying.
I don't know, “What do we do?” I'll always be reaching for that. We'll just have to see.
To possibly head down a downbeat route, Dark Fate suggests that in the next 20 years or so this horrible apocalypse happens – and given the current climate emergency, and political issues in the world, do you think that feels even more likely than it did in the '80s, early '90s?
Yes, it's more timely than ever. People ask me, “When do you think the end of the world will start?” And it's like, “It has started. It has definitely started.”
I have children that are millenials, and it's the first time properly in my life that I can really properly understand the dilemma facing our younger generations about bringing children into this world. Bringing children into a globe that is failing...damn. It's really hard to watch.
My children... worry. And it's very painful. Do we want to bring our children into a world where there won't be enough water? Or food? It's very sad that that's what our young generation has to think of, and what we're robbing them of.
I would really always try and encourage my children to come from a place of hopefulness. But I don't know if that's the fair thing to really ask of them any more. Because it would be unreasonable to be hopeful, with the way that things are going.
And finally, I should ask what it was like to reunite with Arnold – had you seen each other much in the intervening years?
Not enough. He went off and did the whole Governor thing, and you don't really ring the Governor and say 'Hey, I wanna talk to the Governor!'.
So we left each other alone and then I moved away, and then I moved somewhere else. I'm kind of hard to find, by design.
But it was great to come back together with him. And I was a lot more joyful at seeing him again than I ever thought I'd be.
Just like some floodgates opened up, and when you have a 35-year shared history it feels good to get back together.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
Terminator: Dark Fate is in UK cinemas now, and will be released in other territories on the 1st November. Why not watch the Terminator movies in order before Dark Fate.