It’s amazing how much of our lives we spend planning. If you’re anything like me, you expend a lot of mental energy visualising possible outcomes for certain things, be they films, holidays, social gatherings, or in this case, an interview.
Still, no matter how much we might try to imagine how an event will turn out, chances are it will always be different in reality, but rarely do they turn out to be even better than the ones in our heads. Meeting Linda Hamilton, however, happened to be such an occurrence.
First things first: Linda Hamilton is amazing. What follows will, no doubt, sound like some kind of frenzied fanboy babbling, mixed in with the events leading up to the interview, but I’ll try to remain as coherent as possible. Don’t forget, you can always skip straight to the interview itself and excuse me while I preach. I won’t be offended.
I got to the venue an hour and a half early, as I’d planned to meet my girlfriend between the interview and a lunchtime screening I was attending, but after an already bad start to the day, I received a tearful call from her saying that her purse had been stolen, so instead of the nice afternoon we’d planned together in London, she’d be spending it at the police station. By the time I reached the venue I was shaken, worried and a little upset, so it’s at this point I’d like to thank Alex and Hannah of Organic Marketing for being such gracious hosts and for being constantly kind and entertaining, despite their long day in a dark corridor.
As I sat and waited, I engaged in a range of discussions with other writers from a variety of other companies (Total Film, Film4.com, Blockbuster etc.), all of whom were of differing backgrounds and ages, yet the one thing everyone had in common was a complete and utter love for Terminator. What struck me the most was that every person, no matter how jaded or nervous, came out happily shaken and all confirming that she was nothing but lovely (and when someone tells you that who also remembers flying out to L.A. for the Terminator 2 premiere and interviewing James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, then you listen).
When my turn duly came, I was told apologetically that Linda wanted to take a quick break for a cigarette. She came out of the hotel room and asked who she was due to see next, I told her it was me, then she asked if I minded if she had a quick break. I jokingly said I’d love to join her, at which point she took me by the arm and off we went.
We duly went outside, she lit my cigarette and we talked about a variety of personal things, with her showing such an incredible honesty and trust that I couldn’t help but return the favour.
So, the interview that followed was less formal than usual, but, hopefully, no less insightful. All I can say is that if you get a chance to meet her, do it. There is an indescribable quality to her that I suspect makes everyone she comes into contact with feel special and her kindness and concern for a total stranger was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before.
It is my great honour to share with you the experience I could never have imagined – the day I met Linda Hamilton.
Linda Hamilton: Here we are!
And how are you doing?
Very good, very well.
And how are you dealing with the endless journalists, who are pretending not to be Terminator fans?
[Laughs] That’s always fun! I. Love. This. This is not a problem for me.
I mean one gets used to it, for one. It’s hard to phrase every question, or answer as if you have never heard the question, you know and after a while you start to go, “Okay, Linda, you’re not plugged in right now you’re just…” but you know it’s an art, but I’ve learned it.
It’s one of the most difficult things about the interview, I thought, because you know I’ve been a big fan of yours since I was… younger!
[Laughs] Because you’re still little!
I’m not as little as I look, I don’t think! [she laughs loudly] But it was really difficult to think of things to ask you that you wouldn’t have been asked.
I know, and plus you have a certain task, which is to talk about this movie…
…because the website I write for is called Den Of Geek, so it gets a lot of proper fans, particularly of Terminator and science fiction.
I know those fans, because I have been doing a lot of fan conventions for the last year.
I saw you were over here last year, but I couldn’t make it. How did it go?
Great! And I’m coming back in May but it’s up, it’s north a little bit, 40 miles out of London. I don’t know where. [It’s here.] Those are… boy talk about your intense day or weekend! You’re meeting 5000 people, one at a time and trying to give every single one of them… I greet every single one of them with a kiss and try to give them something, you know because that’s why I’m there and I want them to take away something, so…
They appreciate it, though, I know they do, because it’s one of those things where it’s strange because you’ve played a heroic character, so sometimes people find it difficult to break between where you finish and where the character starts.
So being nice to them I think is just about anything anyone can ever do.
Why would you do anything but be nice, if you’re going to do those things? I mean, I’ve heard the tales…I’ve heard the tales of too many people that go are they’re just not really into people. It’s like why would you do this if you’re not into people, you know?
The film, Holy Water, how did that come about? Because the director thanks you in his notes, for being really helpful towards the whole film getting made.
Sweet! [of him] I was a champion of the film for the longest time. I wish that I could say I helped get financing, maybe me being Linda Hamilton did. Truly, when I read the script… I had known Tom rather peripherally fifteen years before when I had worked with his father directing and Tom produced, so it was a great gift to, all these years later, get the script from someone that remembered me. And I think that’s kind of why I’ve been in the business of just generating good will, enough good will that people will want to work with me again! Do you know what I mean?
I keep saying I may not be Miss America, but I will be Miss Congeniality every time. I’m a team player and I really see the whole picture, not just my part in it, but the whole and that is kinda why I wanted to do this movie.
It’s not about the part, the part is pretty much parodying the strong, scary character that I played before, but it was so necessary for all of those other actors to bounce off and make them funny. Because the scarier I am, the funnier they are, so I knew my job and it wasn’t thrilling, it wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was great fun and I’m into that.
I’m going to go on to Terminator now…
Just because I can’t help it!
You can talk about it!
I may as well disclose it now. [I had well and truly been stripped of formality by this point!]
What I was curious about was that you have played a lot of strong female characters, not just in Terminator, but in other movies like Dante’s Peak and some of the TV movies. At what point did you decide to embrace that? Was that because of Terminator, or was it something you already had an interest in?
I think when we start out we don’t necessarily begin by defining what we want to play, or even what our strengths are, unless we’ve got a great acting coach that says ‘hey you’ve got this, you don’t have that’.
I mean I was sent to LA because I trained in New York. I had agents there and, basically, I was so internal and so shy and so quiet, that they said you will never be on stage, your strength is on film, because that’s where they capture the nuanced performances.
And they made me go to LA, so it’s interesting that, I would say that, at this point in my life, I am much stronger on stage than ever on film. I have grown into someone who is confident, strong and, you know, I really have a presence that probably is better on stage and sometimes too big for film or television.
And is theatre what you are actively pursuing now, more than film?
Comedy is what I’m pursuing, because I just want to do work that reflects me and my light heart. I’ve done so much grief and loss and death, I just think that if I never play another tragic character that would be fine with me. I have nothing to prove, I have soooo wept! [laughs]
Unless it’s the classical roles on stage, which will always be worth it, because they’re the classical roles, but, basically, I don’t want to sit around and make people cry, I want to make people laugh. There is not enough of that in the world. Plus it’s sort of the final frontier.
[The PR person comes in to ask me if I could make this my last question, I turn back round to Linda Hamilton and she’s holding up three fingers in the air to her, to signify that I can ask three more questions. I laugh, she then drops her fingers down to two and waves them with a pleading look in her eyes. My heart melts a little.]
Just your voice was used in Terminator Salvation. How strange was it not just to revisit that character, but to do it from beyond the grave?
Very strange. From beyond the grave and with a whole new set of people and twenty years later – it freaked me out! [laughs] I got up to do it and we were actually on the stage for a day and a half. I went two times because he [McG] wasn’t sure what he would need, and then we went back and finessed it and on the first couple of rounds, I was like, “Oh my god, I don’t know if I can find her again!” because she’s been the character I’ve been trying to [gestures] put to the side, so I can be somebody else. But after a while it went on like a pair of comfy jammies and there I was.
But what was interesting was to marry my voice, because there are very specific tapes that we used in the first Terminator and you see me recording them [she puts on a squeaky voice] “and my voice is about this high! I can’t keep my voice that high anymore!”, so I thought, ‘Oh, my god, they’ll have to marry these very different voices, so it was interesting, because they segway straight from that first tape from the first movie, so it was a challenge to sort of try to find the balance between the strength of Sarah Connor, the younger Sarah Connor and me now. It was good. And negligible, really, but still fun to go in and see it.
Ok, one last one…
[She jokingly whispers] But which one!
Okay I’ll go for something lighter. What’s the first kind of nostalgic feeling that you have when you think about filming in the 80s? What does it bring back for you?
Oh, my god! Skip the 80s! Next question! You know what – Beauty And The Beast was in the 80s, I left in ‘89 and Beauty And The Beast was very definitive for me, because it was several years of my life and really hard. Fifteen hours a day and you know we’re used to doing it for three months now and then having a break, but this is nine months and when you’re off you just want to lie down for three months. It’s really aging, it’s hard!
But you know to be in the bosom of the TV show of a family is really something else, when you’ve worked together for two years and you remember the Thai soup that you all share, because every single one of you is sharing the same cold that’s coming on.
It’s those moments where you’re all exhausted, it’s the last day of the week and the three costume girls are lying on the bed, and you’re lying on the floor, and two other people are lying next to you, and there’s a person in the chair, and you’re all like [snores]. You know, that kind of intimacy, the forced intimacy, all of those things I remember. Isn’t that glamorous!
But that, to me, embodies filmmaking. It’s just a whole bunch of strangers that, by the end of the show, have become more than… closer than family and the teamwork that it takes, and standing there trying to remember the lines that you learnt thirty hours before, the night before, and haven’t had a chance to look at again, because you’ve been doing scenes all day. [she hold sout her arms on either side of her body, with her head back talking really quickly to emphasise the chaos]
And they’re spraying you with body makeup and doing your hair and someone’s putting the dress on you, while you’re running lines and the panic! You have to learn to be a sort of the calm, in the centre of that, and to never let it show. And because you’ll never get it if you’re panicking, to just be the calm with everything going around you.
Those moments are… you wouldn’t trade them for the world. And you just go, ‘How am I doing this!? How am I doing this!?’ and when you surprise yourself like that, those are the days you remember, you know it’s the human stuff.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us!
[I finish by joking that, after hearing everything she had to go through, I’m bad enough at remembering my simple questions after the event from earlier in the day, and Linda Hamilton softly says, “I know. Go to your girl”. She hugs me, kisses me on the cheek and I leave with a memory I will never forget.]
Holy Water is released in cinemas from February 5th.