Shoulda Been Bigger: Linda Hamilton

Linda Hamilton is an icon of feminine ass-kicking. She ran like scared little girl in the first Terminator and played a monster-humping district attorney on television in Beauty and the Beast, but after Terminator 2 she became a symbol for real female action heroes. In fact she still is. Aside from Sigourney Weaver, no other actress has really managed to successfully pull off that kind of character. Others, like Angelina Jolie, have tried. But Jolie’s action characters are pure fantasy. They’re fetish queens in leather outfits or bouncy videogame babes without sweat glands. Linda Hamilton in T2 is tough as nails, bad to the bone, and frighteningly real. She gets dirty, disgusting, gritty, and she bathes in brute force. No one else has ever done the bad ass chick thing better.

You’d think with that kind of reputation, Terminator 2 would have launched Linda Hamilton into a career as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Just imagine her in a female powered version of Die Hard, blowing up terrorists and battling snide, uppity Germans. That’s the kind of movie in which Linda Hamilton belonged. Unfortunately, that never happened. In fact if you ask most people where she is, they’ll probably tell you she retired from acting, or maybe wonder aloud if she might have been killed in some sort of tragic car accident. As it happens, neither of those things is true. Linda Hamilton is alive and well, and what’s more she’s working, churning out dozens and dozens of low-budget movies which nobody has ever heard of, and nobody ever will.

Where did it all go wrong? Back in 1991 everything was all laid out for her. Terminator 2 was a massive hit, an instant classic, a landmark action movie still revered today by nearly everyone. So is she for that matter. Mentioning Linda Hamilton’s name invariably results nostalgic flashbacks to a time when chicks really knew how to kick some serious robot ass. Linda Hamilton was and is an icon, but for some reason she’s an icon that’s never in anything people might want to watch.

The reasons for her career cliff dive may have less to do with whether she’s well liked by audiences than it does with Linda herself. In 2005 Linda revealed that she’s bipolar. In fact, she credits it with helping her pull off those rage-babe performances. Speaking to Larry King in 2005 she said, “I think it gave me a wonderful arena in which to act out some of my rage.” But after T2 was over, it wasn’t particularly good for her career. Sarah Connor’s paranoid fear for the safety of her son was soon mirrored in Linda who said she couldn’t leave the house because “I just did not feel that my kids were going to be OK if I wasn't in the house protecting them.”

In light of her mental health problems, it’s amazing perhaps that she managed to do anything outside of Terminator, crap or otherwise. After Terminator was over, the closest she got to doing anything else worth watching was Dante’s Peak, but by then it was six years after Terminator 2 and the top billing on Dante’s poster was Pierce Brosnan.

Now even the Terminator franchise is going on without Hamilton. On television Sarah Connor is played by Lena Headey and in the new movie Terminator Salvation, if Linda Hamilton shows up at all, it’ll only be in a cameo. It’s hard not to wonder what the action world might have been like if Linda Hamilton had been able to live up to her full potential as a proper ass-kicking female hero. Since 1991, we’ve had nothing but poor substitutes. Linda Hamilton shoulda been bigger.


Josh Tyler