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As Linda Hamilton returns to the blockbusting franchise, it’s now clear that it was she, not Schwarzenegger, who changed the action movie for ever

t is 35 years since Sarah Connor and the Terminator’s eyes first met across a dark 80s nightclub, shortly followed by his red laser sight meeting her forehead. They have had their ups and down since: attempting to destroy each other in the first movie; teaming up again seven years later to avert Judgment Day in Terminator 2; then being torn apart by the increasingly erratic Terminator timeline. But as they meet again at last, in the new Terminator: Dark Fate, it is striking how much of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lives came to be shaped by these roles – albeit in very different ways.

It was at Hamilton’s urging that James Cameron refashioned Sarah Connor between Terminators 1 and 2, from damsel-in-distress to muscular, shotgun-pumping, commando tiger mom (Cameron did much the same for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Aliens). Action cinema was never the same again. Hamilton had recently divorced and given birth to her first child, so she was in the mood for a transformation. It worked so well, she and Cameron became a couple and had a daughter together. “I think what happened there is that he really fell in love with Sarah Connor,” Hamilton recalled in a recent New York Times interview, “and I did, too.” After T2, Hamilton wanted to branch out and make comedies, but she was only offered more action roles. She and Cameron separated in 1999. Not unlike Connor herself, Hamilton practically became a recluse.

Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, rode the wave, leveraging his Terminator success into a good run as a Hollywood leading man: Predator, Total Recall, True Lies, er, Jingle All the Way. He went into business (you can still buy a “Terminator” cocktail at Planet Hollywood; it sounds gross), and then into politics – all the while successfully trading on his cyborg persona (“Hasta la vista baby to the car tax!” he proclaimed during his 2003 campaign to become California’s “Governator”).

We are three weeks out from the domestic launch of Terminator: Dark Fate, which opens overseas in a slow-rolling expansion beginning October 23 before opening in North America on November 1. The film is being screened for press prior to that date with the review embargo dropping right before it opens overseas. This implies that all parties think/hope that the film is at least as well-received as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (which Universal opened early overseas to avoid conflicts with the World Cup but let domestic critics sample the goods first). And if the first batch of pre-release tracking is to be believed, then Paramount’s expensive (a cost shared with Skydance, Fox and other related parties), the third attempt at Terminator 3 will open with around $45 million in North America.

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