Linda Hamilton Talks Returning to 'Terminator' Franchise as a 'Woman of a Certain Age'

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Thursday's Terminator: Dark Fate panel may have ended with a surprise appearance by Tom Cruise (to promote Paramount's other upcoming flick, Top Gun: Maverick), but it began with James Cameron streaming live from Pandora, where he's busy shooting Avatar 2, 3 and 4, he said.

"I call him Jimbo," Linda Hamilton deadpanned when she took the stage soon after, referring to an earlier joke when director Tim Miller was asked if he had any nicknames for Cameron.

"She's slept with him," Miller quipped. "I haven't."

"Only once!" Hamilton replied of her ex-husband.

The Terminator panel included Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Diego Boneta, Gabriel Luna and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Hamilton was indisputably the star. The actor, who portrayed Sarah Connor in 1984's The Terminator and its sequel, 1991's T2: Judgment Day, nearly didn't sign on to reprise the role.

"You kind of want to retire a champion," Hamilton said. So, what convinced her to return to hunting terminators? "I was intrigued by, 'What has happened to make her who she is now?' There were so many possibilities 27 years later, and to rock it as a women of a certain age."

Hamilton, who's 62, explained, "I originally thought I'll just put in the same kind of work and get the same results. And that doesn't happen." After a year of training for the role, "I woke up and said, 'I can no longer worry about trying to be what I was, because I am so much more [now].'"

"People will always talk about the training and the body," she added. "But the hard work that I did was the deep introspection of...a woman who has lost so much. I had to go to my deepest sorrows and my places of deepest loss, and that's what makes Sarah Connor, Sarah Connor."

Dark Fate sees Sarah and a human-machine hybrid named Grace (Davis) join forces to protect a young woman (Reyes), with an assist from Schwarzenegger's T-800, who now goes by Carl. "Of course I need to come back. I'm addicted to Terminator," Schwarzenegger said of why he came back.

New footage screened during the panel proved the latest installment in the Terminator-verse is chockablock with explosions and F-bombs, hence its R rating, which director Miller officially confirmed during the panel. "I got so many takes of Linda saying f**k, it's amazing," he said. "But none of Arnold. He wouldn't say it. Robots don't curse."

Terminator: Dark Fate blasts into theaters on Nov. 1.

Follow along all weekend on ET Live and check out ET's YouTube page for videos of all of our exclusive Comic-Con interviews.

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