Although she has appeared in numerous roles throughout her career, Linda Hamilton will always be synonymous with Sarah Connor. She is the kick-ass, iconic star of the Terminator movies – including the 2019 reprise, Terminator: Dark Fate. But soon after the excitement of the latest release, the star received some devastating news.
Hamilton has been in the limelight most of her adult life. At the age of 23, in December 1979, she appeared in TV soap Secrets of Midland Heights. A couple of years later, a role as a victim of a college killer in movie TAG:The Assassination Game introduced her to a career on the big screen. What’s more, she also met her future husband, Bruce Abbott on set.
Leading roles in CBS TV movie Country Gold and Stephen King’s chilling 1984 movie Children of the Corn followed. Later that year, Hamilton starred in the first film of the franchise that was to make her a household name: The Terminator. Her co-star as the eponymous anti-hero was Austrian-American bodybuilder and Governor of California-to-be Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Hamilton played Sarah Connor, a Los Angeles waitress whose life is in danger from robot killer the Terminator. It has been sent back in time to kill her by a computer system called Skynet. Her future son, John Connor, will lead a resistance group against the artificial intelligence, so the Terminator has been instructed to eliminate her to prevent his birth.
The film – spoiler alert – ends with Sarah ultimately defeating the Terminator, with the help of soldier from the future, Kyle Reese. Reese is sacrificed too, but not before he has formed a relationship with Connor and become the father to her unborn baby. This child will turn out to be her son, John.
Audiences loved the ground-breaking sci-fi adventure. Its clever casting of beefcake Schwarzenegger as the man/machine, and Hamilton as the personable Sarah, was perfect for the movie. The feature received rave reviews and grossed just over $78 million worldwide. It was number one in the U.S. box office for two weeks.
After The Terminator, Hamilton had a guest spot on established TV crime drama Murder, She Wrote. The actress then took on the role of Catherine in long-running TV series Beauty and the Beast. She played the part until 1989 when her son Dalton was born; husband Abbott was to leave her during her pregnancy. Then in 1991 she starred in follow-up blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
The scene for the second movie sees an increasingly unstable Sarah incarcerated in a mental institution while her son is living with foster parents. This time, Skynet sends a new Terminator – an advanced prototype – to do away with John. But the future boy has himself programmed a Model 101 Terminator to come back to the past and try to keep him safe.
The high-tech movie was a commercial smash-hit, taking $520 million globally at the box office. It also brought about a new romantic relationship for Hamilton, with director James Cameron. In 1993 the couple had a daughter, Josephine. Indeed, they were to marry in 1997 before divorcing in 1999 in a case that involved an eye-watering settlement of $50 million dollars.
Meanwhile, although nothing could top the box-office success of the Terminator movies for Hamilton, she continued to impress critics and audiences alike with her roles. The actress won a CableACE Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe for her portrayal of a mother with AIDS in 1995’s A Mother’s Prayer.
The now-seasoned star appeared alongside Pierce Brosnan in 1997 release Dante’s Peak. The movie did well financially, although the $180 million takings couldn’t quite match The Terminator’s profits. Hamilton was awarded a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for her role in the epic volcano disaster story.
After some TV work, including a cameo in Frasier, in 2009 Hamilton reprised the role of Sarah in Terminator Salvation. This time, however, she only provided her voice and wasn’t required on screen. The extensive body-sculpting work which she’d needed to undertake for her role in the second Terminator movie wasn’t to prove necessary again for another decade.
That was when, at the age of 60 and being until then content with minor TV work, Hamilton once again took on the role of an older Sarah in Terminator: Dark Fate. Apart from Terminator Salvation, there had been two more films in the franchise, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Genisys, as well as a TV and web series. But nothing had proved as much as a hit since the series’ second outing.
Hamilton hadn’t appeared in these additional movies. It may not be an exaggeration to say that the absence of the story’s popular heroine could have contributed to their lack of success. So keen, in fact, were the film’s producers to get Hamilton back into the role they effectively canceled the premise of the character’s death, which had occurred off-screen before Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
The star, then, returns to the role in Terminator: Dark Fate as if Sarah had never died. At the beginning of the latest installment Sarah is living in Guatemala with her son John, although – more spoilers – he is soon killed by a T-800 Terminator sent to dispose of him. The events of the three previous movies are portrayed as having happened in an alternate reality.
Hamilton herself wasn’t hung up on the fact that the happenings of some of the interim movies were – dare we say – terminated. She told magazine The Hollywood Reporter, “To create a new fuel and fire for Sarah Connor, I thought it was a very good story point. I’m not one that clings to past ideas… I just think it’s much more interesting to launch from a new place.”
After all, the development of the storyline probably isn’t the only reason that audiences watch the franchise of films. Rather, it is also the cutting-edge special effects and clever application of practical effects. The incredible liquid-metal nature of the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day was a case in point.
The villain can incredibly realistically melt and morph its body like quicksilver into lethal weapons or exactly impersonate other people. This has deadly consequences – including for John’s foster parents. Interestingly, director Cameron had wanted his villain in the first Terminator movie to have these attributes, but CGI wasn’t quite that developed in 1984.
As well as the incredible application of technology, some of the effects in Terminator 2: Judgement Day were achievable using nature’s own trickery. Twins Dan and Don Stanton, for example, play the T-1000 and the hospital security guard into which he morphs. This means the security guard can look at the identical T-1000 version of himself with no CGI required.
Twins weren’t only used in the case of the hospital guard in the movie. In fact, Hamilton herself had an identical twin. Her sister Leslie, almost the spitting image of the actress, was employed in the film as Sarah’s double. Leslie was used, for example, when the T-1000 morphs into Sarah to try and fool John.
Linda and Leslie were used to particularly dramatic effect in one scene, where Sarah is seen in a “mirror” changing a chip in the Terminator’s head. Although incredibly realistic, there is in fact no mirror. Instead, Leslie is simply acting the reflection of her sister. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body double shows the back of his head in the shot.
Although the similarity between the pair is uncanny, Leslie was nonetheless used in scenes where Sarah is further away – such as the mirror reflection – while Linda is closer to the camera. In total, Leslie appeared in three of the movie’s scenes. As well as the two scenes we’ve talked about, she played a younger Sarah in a daydream about herself.
Even though Leslie faultlessly performs as Linda’s double, she wasn’t, in fact, an actress by profession. The twins were born on September 26, 1956 in Salisbury, Maryland, and attended Wicomico Junior High and Wicomico High School together. But after this, their paths diverged. While Linda attended acting classes in New York, Leslie studied at PGH School of Nursing in Pittsburgh.
Leslie graduated in 1978 and went on to work as an emergency room nurse. Later in her career, she specialized in hospice care. While her sister has led a somewhat nomadic life, moving between Malibu, California and Virginia to her current home in New Orleans, Leslie settled for 35 years in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.
She married, taking her husband’s name, Freas and had three children. Sadly, on August 22, 2020, Leslie passed away unexpectedly at the age of 63. A visitation was held a week after her death at the Mount Laurel Home for Funerals. The cause of death was unknown, and Hamilton hasn’t commented publicly on her sister’s demise.
While her sister was starring in blockbuster action films, Freas seemed to prefer the quieter life. Her obituary states that outside of her work looking after patients, she enjoyed caring for her children, Kendall, Adam and Ashley. She was also grandmother to two grandchildren, Ollie and Luna Bo.
Freas was also a keen angler. “She was an avid fisherwoman through the years and was not shy about out-fishing anyone who joined her,” her obituary stated. “Above all, she cherished the time spent with her family and friends and will be deeply missed by those she leaves behind.”
Perhaps, though, the sisters were not so different in their outlook. Although Hamilton has had leading roles in several of the Terminator films, aside from Dante’s Peak she has not appeared in many other big-budget movies. The choice seems to be somewhat deliberate, given that she had to be persuaded to come back for the final episode in the series.
In fact, Hamilton almost turned the offer of Terminator: Dark Fate down because she didn’t want to disrupt the peaceful life she’d made for herself. When director Tim Miller decided to try to get her to reprise the role of Sarah, he realised he had a monumental task on his hands.
“She doesn’t care about any of the trappings of stardom – in fact, she doesn’t seem to want it at all,” newspaper The New York Times quoted him as saying. “One of the hardest things for her with coming back to this character was knowing she’d have to step back into the spotlight again.”
Hamilton herself admitted she was reluctant to take on international stardom in her 60s. “That was my hesitation,” she told The New York Times. “Do I want to trade this lovely, authentic life for that? I didn’t want my neighbors looking at me differently. We’re neighbors because of who we are, not what we do, and I don’t want that to creep into my life again.”
So uninterested is she in fame and stardom, knowing that the public might think she’d taken on the role for the profit almost put her off making the movie. “I gave it probably six weeks of intense thinking and consideration before deciding to do it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to,” she told Variety magazine.
She continued, “I didn’t want it to look like a shameless money-grab. I am living this quiet, lovely life that doesn’t involve being a celebrity, and you really have to think, do I really want to trade that in again for another 15 minutes?”
Although single, she’s also far from the days of romancing her leading men and directors. In fact, Hamilton happily admitted that she was very content on her own. “I love my alone time like no one you’ve ever met,” she told The New York Times.
To further prove the point, she added, “I’ve been celibate for at least 15 years. One loses track, because it just doesn’t matter – or at least it doesn’t matter to me. I have a very romantic relationship with my world every day and the people who are in it.”
Perhaps it was the thought of the intense training regime that taking on the role of Sarah required that further put her off. Hamilton had to work for a year with Serena Williams’ personal trainer, who handily had some time off as the tennis star was pregnant. The grueling routines included weight-lifting and cross-training.
She also had to watch what she ate very carefully. “I didn’t eat carbohydrates for a year-and-a-half,” she told InStyle magazine. The actress added that there was little down time on set, commenting, “On the film, we worked a lot of six-day weeks.”
“Even if we had a weekend off, there was probably a scuba lesson or military training,” she told the magazine. “When I did have a day off, I’d sleep 20 hours. I’d rest my body and read my books to take my mind elsewhere.”
All of which sounds a lot for someone in their seventh decade to take on, and her hesitation is understandable. Was it worth it? The movie didn’t do that well at the box office, making only $261 million. While this of course sounds a lot to you and me, the cost of the movie was such that it needed $450-$480 million to cover costs.
Hamilton told The Hollywood Reporter regarding the lack of box office success, “I would really appreciate perhaps a smaller version, where so many millions are not at stake…I would be quite happy to never return.” Hamilton, like her late sister, seems to appreciate the quieter things in life. It seems, in fact, that she would be happy for the Terminator to never be “back” again.