Linda Hunt is in some ways the Platonic ideal of a Celebrating the Living honoree. She’s someone with a spectacular body of work that doesn’t get talked about very often. She is not young—and indeed she has Turner Syndrome, the partial or complete lack of an X chromosome, which tends to shorten lifespan and means she’s someone I’d rather get to sooner rather than later. She’s done a few impressive roles, including having won an Oscar for The Year of Living Dangerously (which I haven’t seen), and her voice is certainly familiar to anyone who watches a lot of PBS. And there are a few interesting details about her life that are worth sharing.
While I’m certain I heard her voice before then, I first remember seeing her in Dune, which I watched for the first time in seventh grade. She played the Shadout Mapes, the head of household. I can’t remember if I’d read the book yet at that point—I read the book and saw the movie right around the same time, as I recall. But she’s an interesting choice for the role, which does not require a woman of her stature particularly. Her voice sells the part, as far as I’m concerned.
Well, now, Linda Hunt. Her voice is a delight. It’s the best part of her acting, as far as I’m concerned. And that’s not the insult it might be, as she’s a fine and talented actress. Part of why I don’t like Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter is that I really hate seeing such a fine actress humble herself the way she’s required to in the movie—humbling is not in and of itself a bad thing, but that whole bit in the movie is awful, the more so because of the quality of actress in the scene.
I’ve seen Kindergarten Cop, though not in a long time, ditto Popeye, but really where I know her from if you take out Dune is all that PBS. This is one of those places where IMDb isn’t terribly helpful, because the credits are scattered among “Actress: TV” and “Self: Documentary” and “Self: TV” and so forth and are still incomplete, so I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard her low, soothing tones inform me about polio or Woodrow Wilson or Ishi or what have you, but it’s quite possibly dozens.
And, no, she’s not the model for Edna Mode. She just happens to look quite a lot like Edith Head, who is. Though at 4’9″, she’s a full four inches shorter than Head was. That is one of the two interesting personal details about her; the other is that she’s been in a relationship with psychotherapist Karen Klein since Wikipedia says 1978 and IMDb says 1987. Either way, they’ve been married for eleven years now.