The Real Reason Linda Hamilton Came Back For Terminator: Dark Fate

She's back.

Terminator: Dark Fate star Linda Hamilton and director Tim Miller recently sat down with Entertainment Weekly to talk about the upcoming film, a spirited discussion in which one of the main topics was Hamilton's return to the franchise after 28 years.

The two seem to have a genuine rapport, which certainly bodes well for Dark Fate. But Miller was the first to admit that — even with the help of returning producer James Cameron — it was in no way certain that Hamilton would be willing to come back for another round as Sarah Connor.

"When we started, we just didn't know if she would do it," the director said. "[Cameron] was very honest about, 'Look, I'll ask her but I don't know what she's going to say.' But he did, and she was interested. Like a nervous deer, we had to creep up on her and convince her one step at a time to do it."

Hamilton concurred with this assessment, conceding that she wasn't keen on rejoining the band if there were no new tunes to play, so to speak. "[Miller] called me three times before I even called him back," she said. "The third time, he was like, 'It's about work,' and I'm like, 'Oh, hey, what's up?' But, even with that and his big sell, it took me weeks to decide that I really could go there and might have something new to say."

The deciding factor, apparently, was the screenplay, in which the passage of time had done interesting things to Connor's outlook following the climactic events of 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the sequel to the classic 1984 original. "There is a real gift in that so much time has passed, and that gives me so much more to explore with the character," Hamilton explained. "Sarah Connor is the same person, but I wanted to see how the difference in events have changed her and shaped her and [sent] her forward. There was meat there. I didn't want to just recycle the same idea. It's a woman who has a different mission, a different story, so I wanted to see what we could do with that."

"And then, of course, she met me," Miller interjected with a chuckle. "Linda is almost ready to trust me."

"We're really close to having a trusting relationship," Hamilton agreed, playing along.

In response to the question of whether she ever thought she'd return to her iconic role before the opportunity to star in Dark Fate came along, Hamilton had to admit that the thought had barely crossed her mind. "It was many, many years of just being sure that it was done, that I was done," she said. "I kept saying, 'Yeah, yeah, if I'm in one now it's like the geriatrics era.' Which is actually kind of true. I never saw this coming, which made it that much more interesting."

Miller then offered an interesting peek at what will set his film apart from the sequels Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, and Terminator: Genisys (the events of which are all rendered non-canon by the new film). As opposed to the approach taken by those films — in which repeated time traveling shenanigans resulted in a timeline that became more and more murky — Miller asserted that his film will take a decidedly more linear approach to an issue that previous sequels failed to effectively explore.

"The first two movies really deal with time as a loop, what's happening is the same thing that happened before and everybody is fighting to ensure that happens again," he explained. "And [Cameron] had this lucky break [in] that he only broke that rule at the end of Terminator 2, when Sarah destroys Cyberdyne, it's the first thing that happened that hadn't happened before. And so it was going to change the future — but no one knew how. And I don't think the movies that came after it really explored that in a clean way like I believe we are, with true consequences, and it makes perfect sense for Sarah to be the one to face those consequences since they were her choices to begin with."

As to the logistics of settling back into a character whom she hadn't portrayed onscreen for nearly three decades, Hamilton said that it was just as difficult — but rewarding — as one might expect. "It's not like riding a bike, I'll tell you that," she said. "Of course, one assumes if you put in the same hard work, you get the same results, so I went straight back into training really hard and it's like, 'Oh my god, you need hormones to put muscle on!' So just starting with the basic cosmetics of the character, and all of the things that I had to sort of include in my new reality as Sarah Connor."

More important than the physical training, though, was the task of once again finding who Connor was after living with the aftermath of the events of T2 for so many years. "Really, it's about building her backstory and figuring out where she's been and who she is today," she explained. "You have a character but so many things have impacted her in the last 30 years that it was like starting over, and yet, there is an echo of the younger Sarah Connor in everything that I had to create."

"I worked damn hard," the star continued. "I spent a year-plus training really hard and working on her walk and exploring her deep sorrows and just so many elements... because there is a path there. By the time we started, I felt ready, but a year-plus before that, I was pretty overwhelmed with a sense of obligation and duty and love for the character, just really trying to make sure that we honored the past and created something new for the future."

It may have been over a year of grueling physical and mental work for Hamilton, but for Miller — who, as the director of Deadpool, is kind of used to his stars just inhabiting their characters — it was as if Connor herself simply reported to work when the time came to shoot. "For me, it was a day," he said. "Linda shows up on set and she is Sarah Connor. It wasn't like I decided what she should be at this point; Linda had already put all of the thought into who she was, what she felt like, and how events had shaped her, so when we actually started filming, it was nothing but as if the character walked on to the set for me. It was great as a director. I don't think I could have told Linda what to do if she hadn't had it all figured out."

And who, exactly, is this steely, badass Mother of the Futurereturning once again to deal with those pesky Terminators that keep insisting on threatening the future of her world? "She's a woman without a country," Hamilton said. "Her original mission has changed due to circumstances, and she really doesn't have a team anymore, she just has a thirst for vengeance, so that makes her very alone. She's still a wildcard, but a wildcard without a real true mission is a lot more unpredictable. Basically very hard for her to find her humanity, so once again we get to take a journey on that level."

Well, we must say that the trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate had us pretty pumped, and hearing director and star explain their approach to the material has us even more so. There may be further revelations — and almost certainly some new footage, though the world at large may not get to see it just yet — when the filmmakers take to the stage at Hall H during San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. Of course, we'll be bringing you all the SDCC news that's fit to report, so stay tuned, and get excited: the flick hits the big screen on November 1.