When: Shooting ends in August
Director: Mark Medoff
Writers: Phil Treon & Mark Medoff
Producers: Mark Medoff and Ginger Perkins
Stars: Linda Hamilton, Chris Payne Gilbert, Chris McDonald, Lena Georgas
Plot: After accidentally killing her abusive husband Jack (Chris McDonald), hospice nurse Amelia Philips (Linda Hamilton) heads on the run in the family RV, with Jack’s body in the back and an unwanted passenger at the wheel: sardonic high school English teacher and self-defined failed novelist Darryl Tripp (Chris Payne Gilbert), who on the way to dump his novel in a landfill, takes refuge from a sandstorm in what he mistakes for an empty RV. As Amelia and Darryl cross the state together, into the evening of Darryl’s engagement party — which he misses — romance blossoms as Jack decomposes.”
Locations: Las Cruces, Southern New Mexico
Learn more about the movie and share director Mark Medoff’s blog about the filmmaking process at www.refugethemovie.com/blog.cfm
By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — As Sarah Connor in the “Terminator” films, she was responsible for nothing less than saving the human race. As Catherine in the popular TV series “Beauty and the Beast,” she was a dauntless New York district attorney who befriended a “mythic, noble man-beast.”
As herself, Linda Hamilton has led a unique and spectacular life, too, with a successful career that has spanned three decades and included numerous awards, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and lesser-known honors, like the Grammy-Award-winning “The Children’s Shakespeare” and her selection for studies with famed acting teacher Lee Strasberg.
She’s costarred with the actor who is the current governor of California. Her ex-husband, James Cameron, directed “Titanic,” the biggest grossing film of all time. She made People magazine’s list as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world. She hosted Saturday Night Live. She’s one of four siblings, including an identical twin (her sister Leslie Hamilton Gearren is a registered nurse and has served as her double). She’s raising two kids, Dalton, 19, by her first husband, Bruce Abbott, and daughter Josephine Archer, 16, with Cameron.
Perhaps most remarkable in a cutthroat business, she’s continued to work, appearing in top sitcoms, TV movies, and stage productions and done animation voice-overs and starred in blockbusters and critically acclaimed films that include “Dante’s Peak” and “Missing in America.”
Her recent projects include “Holy Water,” an indy comedy now in post-production. This week, she’s wrapping up the action-adventure comedy, “Refuge,” at locations in Southern New Mexico that include acreage crammed with battered cars and disembodied auto parts at Luchini’s Towing on Picacho Avenue.
“I remember her from the ‘Terminator’ movies. She’s still hot,” said John Nicholls, adding that the guys in the front office at Luchini’s agree with his assessment.
She’s also “a very naturally generous person,” said second assistant director Marissa Macias, among students from New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute working on the film.
“Working with her has been a great experience. She really is much nicer that you would expect someone with her level of fame to be,” Macias said, noting that Hamilton has worked “without complaints.” through weeks of triple-digit weather.
“The heat doesn’t bother me. After August in New Orleans, this is nothing,” Hamilton said, sitting down for an interview under a shady tarp during “Refuge “ filming breaks.
Though she’s visited New Mexico, this is the first film she’s made here, and she’s taking advantage of harvest time in the green chile capital of the world.
“I went to Andele’s and it felt like it was the first time I ever had a green chile enchilada. On my day off, I went over to get some more,” Hamilton said.
Asked to choose a personal favorite of all the movies she’s appeared in, she had a ready answer: “This one!”
Tony Award-winning playwright Mark Medoff, who directs the film, also shares writing credits with Phil Treon, who wrote the story that inspired the tale.
“I got the script. I loved it. I read it and I took it,” said Hamilton.
She said she has enjoyed working with a creative, collaborative mix of seasoned pros and students.
“I’m a fan of learning and gaining experience,” she said.
Reflecting on the reasons for the longevity of her career, she said, “It’s not always about talent. I’ve definitely grown as an actress. I think you get better at your craft. I never set out myself to be a movie star. They don’t have lasting careers, if it’s all about beauty and outside. You have to pull from something deeper.”
She likes the challenges of working in a variety of projects.
“It’s what I live for. I would always go where the fear is. My idea of living is to tackle fear.”
In recent years, she has returned to the stage, tackling Tennessee Williams characters and parts like Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
She would be happy to spend a large percentage of the rest of her life “solely on stage, playing the great parts.”
Born in Salisbury, Maryland, on Sept. 26, 1956, she got her start in hometown theater groups, attended Washington College in Chesterville, Md., and began her career with TV appearances, a role in a prime time soap, “Secrets of Midland Heights,” and a lead in the hit horror film, “Children of the Corn.”
Did she suspect her “Terminator” costar Arnold Schwarzenegger would grow up to be governor of California?
“No way! But I remember he was on the phone with George Bush,” during filming of the iconic blockbusters, she reports.
Acting remains her primary focus, along with her two teenage kids, who have no show business aspirations.
“They’ve seen fame and they aren’t interested,” and are exploring other options. Her daughter is considering becoming a therapist and her son has interests ranging from real estate to museums, after a recent trip to Europe, she said.
She’s been candid and open about living with bipolar disorder and her struggles during what she called her “lost years” from age 20 to 40, before diagnosis and treatment dramatically improved the quality of her life.
“There is a definite correlation between the mind and the body. Being physically fit doesn’t mean anything if the mind isn’t fit and being fit in the mind is not worth much if the body is suffering. I recommend balance between the therapies that are available, the medicines that are available, but not to give up on the body as a result,” she said in 2004 Associated Press interview.
She “continues to thrive” these days and ponders what might have been done to help her physician father, who shared the condition.
“He died when I was five. That was back in the days when it was called ‘manic-depressive’ instead of bipolar disorder,” she said.
She devotes time to a variety of causes, including fundraisers for Cystic Fibrosis, Physicians Without Borders and the Starlight Foundation.
On Monday, she joined other cast and crew members to volunteer as a celebrity bartender at a Meson de Mesilla benefit for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary and the Tough Enough to Wear Pink breast cancer research campaign.
Then it was back to regional locations that range from towing yards to a luxurious home, Stahmann’s orchards and Mesilla’s old Cotton Gin.
On his blog about the making of “Refuge,” Medoff terms Hamilton’s performance, “Funny and wonderful.”
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at email@example.com