Most Terminator Fans will know that The Terminator was inpired by a nightmarish fever dream James Cameron had whilst filming Piranha II: The Spawning – but the real life inspiration for his feminist icon Sarah Connor, who was portrayed by Linda Hamilton in Cameron’s Terminator movies, is far more grounded in reality; as the waitress turned mother of the future was actually inspired by James Cameron’s first wife, Sharon Williams.
James Cameron shared the story in his recent book; Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron. Where a full page drawing, which Cameron did of his first wife, is accompanied by the following Sarah Connor anecdote.
James Cameron stated:
“This is my first wife Sharon, (referencing a full page drawing) and the gesture she’s making with her right hand (giving James Cameron the finger) tells you everything you need to know about her. I drew this in 1973. She sat and she posed on our couch, which was so torn up that we just draped an American flag over it to hide how bad it looked. She was taking time out of her busy day as a waitress at a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant. I used to go and hang out at Bob’s Big Boy and listen to her interacting with customers. She was such a smart-ass. Some guy would grab her arm and go, “Miss, miss! Can I get a bottle of ketchup?” And she would say, “Do you mean in addition to the one that’s already on your table?” And then she would just breeze on. So later, when I was writing The Terminator, I wanted the heroine, Sarah Connor, to be this working-class gal who would never suspect she was destined to play an important role in the future, I just said to myself, “That’s Sharon.” “James Cameron – Tech Noir: The Art of James Cameron
Before Sarah Connor’s world was turned on its head by SkyNet and its deadly time travelling Terminators, she was a waitress at Big Jeff‘s in The Terminator (1984) and would go on to be a legend spoken about by the survivors of Judgment Day, not only for being the mother of the leader of the human resistance, John Connor, but also for preparing him for his destiny, teaching him to fight, organise and ultimately succeed in the war against the machines.
They say write what you know, and James Cameron did exactly that. Had Sarah Connor been a quantum physicist trying to crack the code to time travel in 1984,- her struggle, and being thrown into an unexpected set of circumstances involving time travelling cybernetic assasins, likely wouldn’t have felt believable, or grounded at all. Instead we had a relatable character, a relatable job, and the result is that Sarah Connor remains a much loved icon of the silver screen.
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