An Unknown Story of Linda Hunt, a Woman Who Turned Her Disability Into Success
Linda Hunt had a tough path to success. Unlike some stars who only need to display their talent to succeed in Hollywood, Linda had to work much harder to be accepted as herself. She faced sadness and letdowns, but her determination to never accept less led her to 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.
At just 6 months old, Hunt’s parents noticed something unusual about her. She was slow in developing her motor skills. Her mother took her to the hospital, and doctors said she had congenital hypothyroidism. They predicted she would eventually need to be placed in an institution.
But instead of accepting this outlook, Linda’s mother decided to defy the odds. She started working with Linda every day to help her improve her motor skills. By the time she began school, Linda had made significant progress. However, she still stood out from her classmates and didn’t quite fit in. Right from her first day of school, she felt alone and different. 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 is going to be,” Hunt shared in a newspaper interview back in 1991. Her journey began at 8 when she watched a performance of Peter Pan on stage. It was then that she realized she wanted to do the same — to have the ability to make others believe in the stories she held in her mind. When she told her parents about her interest, they hired voice and acting teachers and enrolled her at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago.
During her time there, her doctor made an unexpected discovery. She didn’t have congenital hypothyroidism as initially believed; instead, she had hypopituitary dwarfism. This condition means the pituitary gland doesn’t release enough growth hormone. She stood at 4 feet 9 inches and weighed only 80 pounds. For a decade, she tried various treatments and medicines to improve her condition, but unfortunately, none were successful.
While studying, her professors suggested that she pursue directing instead of acting. They believed that it would be challenging for her to make a stable career as an actress because of her condition.
After graduating in her early 20s, Hunt moved to New York to start a career.
“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.
Luckily, Linda had many supportive friends who helped her out. She got a job as a stage manager at small theaters in the off-Broadway scene. However, even after working for three years, she didn’t make much impact and began doubting herself.
Later, she moved back to her parent’s house, and that’s when her life took a turn.
Linda decided to go back to doing what she loves — ACTING.
While living with her parents, Linda’s acting coach reminded her that acting was important to her and that it was her true talent. She said, “I had lost myself for a while, and that awareness gave me back to myself.” Afterward, she audited for acting roles and sent out her acting portfolio.
Her first professional acting opportunity came with the play Hamlet, and over the next two years, she appeared in several more plays. Then, one day, Linda got a call from her agent. Her agent told her that director Peter Weir was searching for an actor to portray the character Billy Kwan in the movie The Year of Living Dangerously. Billy Kwan was a character who was a half-Asian male photographer with dwarfism.
“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 remembered.
However, after meeting with Peter, she understood she needed to accept the role. “It was one of those absurd moments in life when you have to go forward into a situation that makes no sense.” Although it may have seemed illogical at the time, this role allowed her talent to shine, and she became the first person to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex.
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.
While Linda Hunt found leading roles in theater, she had to settle for supporting roles in movies. She candidly shared, “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 frustration 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.”
Although her career didn’t take off as expected back then, she’s one of Hollywood’s most recognizable figures today. Over her career, she appeared in films like Dune, Kindergarten Cop, and Dragonfly. She also had a booming voice acting and television career, especially in the TV series NCIS: Los Angeles, where she won 2 Teen Choice Awards.
Fun fact: there is also a widespread speculation, that Linda’s appearance and character served to be an inspiration for the popular character, Edna Mode from The Incredibles. However, others believe that Edna was primarily based on costume designer Edith Head.
Talent is important, but nothing beats dedication. Do you, too, get inspired by the true stories of people with powerful characters? Then make sure to read another article of ours!