If there’s one thing you should know about Linda Hamilton, it’s that nobody tells her what to do.
“Nobody convinces me of anything,” says the iconic actress, who returns to her signature role as Sarah Connor for the first time since 1991 in director Tim Miller’s Terminator: Dark Fate. “I do all my thinking on my own. There’s no amount of pressure that could bring me back if I weren’t ready and fully embracing it. It was not a no-brainer. I spent six weeks thinking about whether I wanted to do it or not, with a vague outline of the story, which was intriguing.”
Although there have been other sequels to the original two Terminator films — and other versions of Sarah Connor herself, played by actors like Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey — Terminator: Dark Fate is the first to pick up the story of Hamilton’s original iteration of the character, whose life takes an unexpected turn early in the film.
“Really, there were just so many reasons to be afraid of coming back,” says Hamilton about picking up where she left off. “I basically did not want to let Sarah Connor down. I wasn’t sure that I could do what I had done before. I didn’t want to be a clone of what I was 28 years ago, because that would be unreasonable and inauthentic, but I wanted to be able to come in with a new approach, because otherwise it would be the same old same old, with diminished returns.”
So what finally persuaded her to come back to the franchise? “It was the passage of time, ultimately, that convinced me. I had 28 years to fill in for myself, and definitely Sarah is going to be different, even if her situation had not changed, but it has. But even had it not, 28 years is going to is going to take its toll on someone, and I was interested in exploring that.” (warning: spoilers ahead in video and article.)
How has Sarah changed since we last saw Hamilton at the end of Terminator 2? “Well, she’s worse off than she was when you last saw her,” replies Hamilton. “You know, with a glimmer of hope about humanity. That’s the way she drove off into the last version of the future, hoping that having killed Skynet, she’s killed what’s coming. But ultimately, that collapses almost immediately. There is no John, there is no mission. Who is Sarah Connor without her mission? She’s in a dark, lonely place and out for vengeance, and that’s the way we meet her at the beginning of the film.”
For Arnold Schwarzenegger, returning to the role that made him a superstar — he has appeared in five of the six Terminator movies, with a CG stand-in showing up briefly in Terminator: Salvation — was a “no-brainer” once he heard the pitch from James Cameron, who also came back as a producer and writer on the saga he launched back in 1984.
“I think that whenever Jim Cameron is involved, you see an evolution in the Terminator,” says the actor. “In the first one, it’s very clearly a machine that crushes anything and kills anything that is in its way and is on a mission to kill Linda and to kill everything else. In the second one, it becomes a protector. That was a nice spin, a nice twist. In this one, he is a killing machine, programmed to kill, but he has been around human beings long enough that he grows a conscience and he starts making certain decisions himself. That is a whole other kind of a twist and evolution.”
Terminator: Dark Fate is out in theaters this Friday (November 8).
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye