Along with James Cameron’s return to the franchise, arguably the most exciting things about Terminator: Dark Fate is the return of franchise heroine and action icon Linda Hamilton in the role of Sarah Connor. Director Tim Miller may have gotten more than he bargained for with Linda Hamilton though, because the actress proved unyielding with some very firm opinions about her most famous character, as she explained:
There was an approach thing that I had to sort out with Tim because Tim was shooting it like an independent, as he keeps saying. I still — because I haven’t seen it — barely understand what that means. But, in terms of approach, he wanted her ‘relatable.’ That was the word he used. And I was like Sarah Connor has never been relatable! She was relatable in the first movie as a nice waitress, but what do you mean ‘relatable’? You are trying to make her softer? I just knew that with the time that had passed and as her situation changed, she ain’t relatable.
It sounds like Tim Miller and Linda Hamilton were not on the same page for the R-rated Terminator: Dark Fate at all regarding the actress’s character in the beginning. Tim Miller wanted Linda Hamilton to play her as relatable, which is somewhat understandable because you want the audience to be able to identify with and follow the actions of the protagonist. But the way Linda Hamilton saw it, Sarah Connor is anything but relatable.
As Linda Hamilton told The Hollywood Reporter, Sarah Connor is only relatable in 1984’s The Terminator, when she is a waitress, before she gets thrust into a lifetime of war to protect a son that hadn’t yet been conceived. When we see her in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the film Dark Fate will follow, Sarah Connor is a soldier and a survivalist, rightfully paranoid about the coming apocalypse. Her love for her son and desire to protect him is relatable, but not many of us can relate to that type of life.
It seems that Linda Hamilton was worried that an attempt to make Sarah Connor more relatable would make her softer, and there's nothing soft about her. She's a stone cold badass. That didn’t make sense to the actress given the time that has passed for Sarah Connor since Judgment Day and what has happened to her.
Linda Hamilton’s strong opinions about Sarah Connor extended beyond the broad approach to the character to specific lines of dialogue. The actress even refused to say certain lines, as she recalled:
But I would go, ‘Nope, I am not saying that.’ And a couple of times I was like, ‘I am not saying that. That’s stupid.’ I have always been empowered to say those things but I just have never been that person. I just care so intensely about this character that I had to step up and toe the line about what felt right and what didn’t feel right.
As if there was any doubt, Linda Hamilton proved she’s as fierce as her character and was willing to breathe a bit of fire when presented with material that didn’t feel right to her. From our vantage we can’t judge these rejected lines and whether they were right or not, but to Linda Hamilton they either sounded stupid, like something Sarah Connor would never say, or both.
Linda Hamilton may have saved us from some cringey dialogue and it’s cool to hear that the actress felt strongly enough to speak up and put her foot down. She did that in situations she normally wouldn’t because of how much she cares about Sarah Connor. Talking about that sense of ownership, Linda Hamilton said:
And I’m not usually that actress that goes, ‘Oh my character!’ I try to do whatever is asked of me and make it work. I’m not going to think it all to death. I have never been that actress, but I was a little bit on this film because I am the authority on Sarah Connor.
Never one for making waves, Linda Hamilton was a tsunami when she needed to be in order to make sure that the Sarah Connor who showed up in Terminator: Dark Fate was one that felt true to her. The actress is certainly right that she is the authority on Sarah Connor (although an honorable mention is owed to Lena Headey for her performance in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), having played the character twice and lived with her for decades.
It’s great that Linda Hamilton gave her creative input on Terminator: Dark Fate, of course, and the fact that there was such dissonance between Tim Miller’s vision and the dialogue with what the actress felt was right could be cause for concern. But hopefully that back and forth ultimately bettered the film.
Terminator: Dark Fate hits theaters on November 1. Check out our premiere guide to see what movies you can look forward to the rest of this year.