Okay, so the only movie of hers I’ve seen in the theatre was Terminator 2, during a very brief high school association with Edward Furlong, whose cousin I was friends with in elementary school. On the other hand, I’ve bought Dante’s Peak twice, once because I saw it cheap and forgot I already owned it. I loved it too much to pass up the chance. It is a profoundly silly movie, albeit not the sillier of the two volcano movies that came out at the time, but I love it nonetheless. I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen it, but it’s definitely more than I’ve seen her as Sarah Connor.
She was already moderately successful when she was cast in the role. She’d done a fair amount of TV work, including a movie where she plays a woman who charges her husband—played by Mickey Rourke—with rape. She wasn’t a big star; I’m honestly pretty sure they couldn’t have gotten a big star for Children of the Corn, not the best Stephen King movie ever made even if we’re talking about the first one. And there, she didn’t do any of the sequels. She had one of those “working actress” careers that would keep her fed, clothed, and housed, the way a lot of people do.
But, yes, she was one of the people you’d later pick out of reruns of TV shows, if she’d done anything other than Hill Street Blues before The Terminator that anyone watches in reruns. (Her famous Murder, She Wrote appearance is from 1986, two years after The Terminator.) It’s entirely possible that she would have kept on in that sort of career had she not come to the attention of I assume Stanzi Stokes, James Cameron’s casting director. I’m quite sure her life was changed by it. Certainly the movie would not have been anywhere near as successful without her performance.
Beauty and the Beast seems like an odd follow-up to it, but it’s a show I really enjoy and considered using an image from. It’s an unusual show, especially for network TV in the ’80s. Hamilton played a New York ADA who ended up in love with Vincent, played by Ron Perlman in cat makeup, a member of a secret community in the sewers. I don’t remember what channel was playing reruns when I was young, but I watched a lot of episodes after school at one point. I wouldn’t have recognized the name at the time, but one of the show’s writers was a not-even-young-then George R. R. Martin!
Apparently, she’s said she doesn’t want to play Sarah Connor anymore, and I for one can understand the decision. It’s not just that her movies don’t get much attention—I’ve never heard of some of them. It’s also that it seems more likely for women then men to be put into a trap where, if they have a famous role, that’s it for their career outside that role. Schwarzenegger was able to go off and do all sorts of things, whether he was really suited for the roles or not, and he’d probably still be doing that sort of acting today if he hadn’t taken a detour into politics. But it’s harder for Linda Hamilton to break out of Sarah Connor unless she does it herself.