Linda Hunt’s journey to success was not at all easy. While some stars only have to show their talent to make a career in Hollywood, Linda’s efforts had to be much bigger, so everyone would accept her just the way she was. She had to learn how to deal with despair and disappointment, but the fact that she never settled for less helped her become the star she is today.
Linda’s childhood was difficult, but thanks to her parent’s encouragement, she managed to rise above every obstacle.
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When Hunt was only 6 months old, her parents noticed that something about her was different. Her motor development was slow, and when her mother took her to the hospital, they said that Linda had a form of congenital hypothyroidism, and eventually she would have to be institutionalized.
Instead of accepting this prognosis, Linda’s mother decided to beat the odds and began working with her every day on strengthening her motor skills. Hunt improved dramatically by the time she started school, but she was still different from her peers and didn’t fit in. Even from the first day of school, she experienced isolation and estrangement, and one of her teachers made her feel uncomfortable. “Everybody either wanted to take care of me or push me around, you know?” she said, “I was teased a lot.”
Linda feared that her condition would limit her acting opportunities.
“I knew I wanted to act at an early age. I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be,” Hunt revealed for a newspaper in 1991. It all started when she was 8 years old, when she saw a stage performance of Peter Pan in the theater. She realized she wanted to do that too — to have the power to make others believe what was in her mind. And when she revealed her interest to her parents, they hired voice and acting coaches, and then sent her to the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago.
That’s when her doctor discovered that she, in fact, didn’t have congenital hypothyroidism but hypopituitary dwarfism — a condition where the pituitary gland doesn’t release enough growth hormone. She was 4’9″ and weighed only 80 pounds, and for 10 years, she tried various treatments and medications to improve her condition, but unfortunately, they didn’t work.
During her studies, her professors encouraged her to pursue directing instead of acting because they felt that, due to her condition, as an actress, she would have a hard time making a living.
After graduating in her early 20s, Hunt moved to New York to start a career.
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“I was very young and very lost. I didn’t even attempt to act professionally. That would’ve meant getting an agent and going on auditions. I wasn’t capable of doing any of that. It was truly emotionally beyond me,” she recalled.
Thankfully, Linda had a bunch of friends who helped and gave her moral support. She found a job as a stage manager for small theaters off-Broadway. But, even after 3 years of working, she hadn’t managed to leave a mark and started to doubt herself.
She then moved back to her parents’ house, and that’s when everything changed.
Linda decided to go back to doing what she loves — ACTING.
While she was staying with her parents, her acting coach reminded Linda about the importance of acting in her life and the fact that that’s her talent. “I had lost myself for a while, and that awareness gave me back to myself.” Soon she started reading for parts and sending out resumes.
She made her professional debut in Hamlet and in the following 2 years, she appeared in several more plays. Then one day, Linda received a call from her agent, saying that director Peter Weir was looking for someone to play the role of Billy Kwan (a half-Asian male photographer with dwarfism) in the movie The Year of Living Dangerously.
MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection/East News
“I met the casting director and said, ’You are going to rewrite the male part for a woman, right?’ And he said, ’No.’ I laughed. It was so wonderfully preposterous,” Linda recalled.
But after she met with Peter, she realized she had to take the part. “It was one of those absurd moments in life when you have to go forward into a situation that makes no sense.” Even though it might’ve looked like nonsense to her at the time, this role helped her talent fulfill its full potential, and she became the first person to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex.
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But, even after winning an Academy Award, Linda’s life didn’t change, and it didn’t propel her to the top as much as she wanted.
© NCIS: Los Angeles / CBS Television Studios and co-producers
Hunt managed to land several title roles in theater, but in films, she had to settle for supporting roles only. “I am working more than I thought I’d be. I am not working as much as I’d like. I am still feeling enough frustrations about my life and my career that I am in analysis now — but not forever. I go into moments of total despair and darkness. Thankfully, I believe there are always answers,” she revealed in a candid interview.
Even though, back then, her career didn’t skyrocket as she expected, today she is one of the most recognizable characters in Hollywood. Throughout her career, she appeared in movies such as Dune, Kindergarten Cop, Dragonfly, and more. She also had a successful career in voice-over work and television, notably being the TV series NCIS: Los Angeles, for which she has received 2 Teen Choice Awards.
After all, Linda Hunt proved that with a positive attitude, hard work, and dedication everything is possible.
Do you think that it would have been easier for Linda to succeed if she’d started a career in today’s world and not in the ’70s?