How Linda Hunt Made It to Hollywood And Found Love, Despite Her Disability

11 months ago

Linda Hunt’s journey to success in Hollywood was not a smooth one. Unlike some stars who rely solely on talent, Linda had to overcome significant obstacles for people to accept her as she was. She faced moments of despair and disappointment, but her refusal to settle for anything less propelled her to become the shining star she is today.

Despite a difficult childhood, Linda rose above every obstacle with her parents’ encouragement.

At just 6 months old, Linda’s parents noticed something different about her. Her motor development was slow, and after taking her to the hospital, they received the devastating news that Linda had a form of congenital hypothyroidism. The doctors even suggested that she might need to be institutionalized in the future.

Instead of accepting this prognosis, Linda’s mother made a courageous choice to defy the odds. She dedicated herself to working with Linda daily, improving her motor skills. As a result, Hunt made remarkable progress by the time she entered school. However, she still felt different from her peers and struggled to fit in. From her very first day of school, Linda experienced a sense of isolation and estrangement. One of her teachers even made her feel uneasy. In her own words, Linda shared, “Everybody either wanted to take care of me or push me around, you know? 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 candidly shared in a 1991 interview with a newspaper. Her journey began at the age of 8 when she attended a mesmerizing performance by Peter Pan. Witnessing the power of storytelling on stage, she knew she wanted to possess the ability to make others believe in the worlds she imagined. With her parents’ support, they hired voice and acting coaches and enrolled her in the prestigious Goodman School of Drama in Chicago.

A startling revelation came to light during this time—her initial diagnosis of congenital hypothyroidism was incorrect. Instead, she was diagnosed with hypopituitary dwarfism, a condition characterized by inadequate growth hormone release from the pituitary gland. Standing at 4’9″ and weighing a mere 80 pounds, Linda tirelessly pursued various treatments and medications for a decade, but unfortunately, none yielded the desired improvement.

Throughout her studies, her professors, acknowledging the challenges her condition presented, encouraged her to explore directing rather than acting as a potential career path. They believed that, as an actress, she would encounter significant difficulties in making a sustainable living.

In her early 20s, Hunt moved to New York to begin her 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.

Fortunately, Linda had a group of caring friends who offered their help and uplifting support. She found employment as a stage manager in small off-Broadway theaters. However, even after three years of hard work, she struggled to make a significant impact and began questioning herself.

Eventually, she decided to move back to her parents’ home, unaware that this decision would radically change her life.

Linda decided to go back to doing what she loves — ACTING.

East News

During her stay with her parents, Linda’s acting coach reminded her of the profound significance of acting in her life, reigniting her awareness of her talent. “I had lost myself for a while, and that awareness gave me back to myself,” she reflected. Motivated by this realization, she resumed reading for roles and sending her resumes.

Linda’s professional debut took place in Hamlet, and over the next two years, she graced the stage in several other plays. Then, out of the blue, she received a life-changing call from her agent. Director Peter Weir was seeking someone to portray the character 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 meeting 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.

Winning an Academy Award didn’t bring the level of success Linda had hoped for or significantly change her life.

Hunt managed to land several title roles in theater, but in films, she only had to settle for supporting roles. “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 the TV series NCIS: Los Angeles, for which she has received 2 Teen Choice Awards.

And soon she met her beloved.

Linda is happily married to Karen Kline, a retired psychotherapist she has been with since 1978. The couple exchanged vows in 2008 after spending 20 years together. While there is no public knowledge of any other relationships for the NCIS LA star, Linda and Karen are not believed to have children. However, Linda did mention her affection for their cherished dogs!


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