The actress who plays Sarah Connor in the original Terminator movies on her lucky genes, Arnie and a truckload of Viagra.

Your ex-husband James Cameron has been nominated for a best director Oscar. Have you seen Avatar?
Yeah, I’ve seen Avatar. Twice. I love it. Jim’s artistry is amazing.

South African film District 9 has been nominated as well. Have you seen that?
District 9? How great! I saw that twice as well, and it was so entertaining. I also saw The Hurt Locker and Precious and love those too. That’s why I don’t vote, because it’s so hard to compare a film with a big budget with something a lot smaller. But, out of family loyalty, I’ll say I hope Avatar wins.

You will, of course, forever be remembered as Sarah Connor. How do you feel about the first two Terminator movies now?
I look at the first one and I can’t believe my voice was so high and mousey and that my hair was so awful. Oh my God, it doesn’t even look like real hair, it looks like a wig. When young actors come to me and say: ‘What do you recommend to someone who is just starting out’, I say: ‘Never be put on film in the 1980s because you will regret it’ [laughs].

You had much better hair in the second one …
Well, one of the best things I did on that film was not cut my hair like Jim Cameron wanted. He wanted me to butch my hair up and cut it off with scissors before I leave the mental hospital in the film.

I still believe to this day that had I cut my hair off people would not have been nearly as happy with that character. If I had butched my hair off it would have been too intense, too ahead of its time.

The world wanted to see a feminine strong woman … There is still a world full of women who don’t know they can be strong because of centuries of religious oppression. It’s nice to know that you’ve played a character that might one day open someone’s eyes to what a woman really can be.

Speaking of strength, your physique in Terminator 2 made headlines around the world. How did you manage to get such an incredibly muscular body?
You know what, it was simply down to genetics. Not that I didn’t work hard. I was completely disciplined, I watched what I ate and worked my arse off. But 15 out of 17 actors could have worked as hard as me and not looked as good, because I have lucky genetics.

Have you stayed in touch with Arnold Schwarzenegger at all?
Very peripherally. I am thrilled for him, the way things have turned out … I plan to get in touch with him when he is finished being Governor. I don’t want to bother him at the moment because he’s busy. In a year’s time I’ll make sure that he and Maria come over for dinner.

In your new film Holy Water you play a hard-arse hired by a pharmaceutical company to track down guys who have stolen a truckload of Viagra.
Well, I had the script for three years and no one I told about the movie forgot about it. It’s because the story involves something like Viagra, which has so much comedy potential. They kept on asking: ‘What’s happening with that Viagra film?’, which I took as a good sign.

» Holy Water is out now

Words: Pierre de Villiers