It was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s time-traveling cyborg The Terminator is named for who famously declared “I’ll be back,” but Sarah Connor, the woman the machine was sent back in time to kill, has proved to be every bit as resilient. After breaking out playing the harried survivor in that 1984 James Cameron hit, Linda Hamilton has returned to the role multiple time and maintained a busy career as an actor, even as her personal life occasionally made the tabloids. Keep reading to learn what she’s been doing over the years and to see her now at age 66.
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Hamilton continued acting on the big screen after the surprise success of The Terminator, but her breakout role turned out to be as hard to escape as the time-traveling android. She appeared in a trio of films—Black Moon Rising, King Kong Lives, and Mr. Destiny—that opened to muted box office and middling critical reviews (or much worse, as King Kong Lives has a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes) before returning to the role of Sarah Connor in the 1991 blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day. She would revisit the character twice more over the next several decades, appearing the 1996 short film T2-3D: Battle Across Time (part of a theme park ride) and 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate.
“I can actually say that I’ve never felt so sure of myself,” she said to Den of Geek in 2019 regarding playing Sarah again after 35 years. “I was doubtful that I could go there again and do Sarah justice, but I owe her something…I did not want to let Sarah Connor down. Because, somehow, she’s become very real for me.”
Outside of the Terminator franchise, Hamilton found greater success on the small screen. In 1987, she debuted as Catherine Chandler opposite Ron Perlman’s Vincent in the three-season fantasy phenomenon Beauty and the Beast, which twisted the classic fairytale into a crime procedural in a modern setting. The series, co-written and produced by future Games of Thrones novelist George R.R. Martin, attracted a faithful following but was canceled in the wake of Hamilton’s decision to leave the show due to her pregnancy.
Her prolific television career continued, however, and in the years since she has guest starred on the likes of Frasier and According to Jim and held series regular or recurring roles on The Line, Weeds, Chuck, Defiant, and Claws. She currently has a recurring role as a military general on the Peacock sci-fi comedy series Resident Alien, which was renewed for a third season in july 2022.
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Hamilton has been married twice, including to her first husband, actor Bruce Abbott, with whom she shares son dalton. The couple divorced in 1989 after seven years together. But, more famously, she was also married to her Terminator director, Cameron. The two began dating around the release of T2 in 1991, and welcomed a daughter, Josephine Cameron, in 1993.
Hamilton and Cameron married in 1997 but divorced two years later amid speculation Cameron was having an affair with another actor (he later married Suzy Amis, who had appeared in his Oscar-winning film Titanic). Reportedly, Hamilton netted $50 million of the director’s considerable fortune in the split. In the years since, she’s been more than happy to make her own way as a single woman, telling the Huffington Post in 2019 that she has been contentedly celibate for around 15 years. “I love my alone time like no one you’ve ever met,” she said.
Despite their divorce, Hamilton and Cameron would reunite for the production of Terminator: Dark Fate, with the former serving as a check against the director’s ego during production—at least in her view. “Nobody challenges Jim Cameron’s dialogue. I did,” she told The Independent. “I was the only one who had real power of veto, because everyone’s terrified of Jim Cameron. But I’m not. What’s the worst he could do?”
While Hamilton’s most famous character is a survivor who perseveres despite horrifying sci-fi trauma, the actor has been forthcoming in discussing how her own experiences living with alcoholism, depression, and bipolar disorder have affected her career and relationships.
In a 2005 interview with CNN’s Larry King, Hamilton explained how she believes her mental health struggles caused her to behave erratically, leading to the end of both of her marriages, while perhaps ironically also giving her performances the hard edge that made her attractive to casting directors. “Even though I…was under the terrible burden of mental illness, I think there was a real survivor’s streak in me…and a real fierceness and maybe that’s what people saw and hired me for, because I was really just going to keep on pushing until I got free of all of the things that were bothering me.”
She decided to go public with her experiences in order to help others feel less alone. “I think it’s important to stand as an advocate for the mentally ill,” Hamilton said. “My journey has been so full of struggle and I just want to be able to offer some help and some general ideas to people that really need it the most.”