April 2, 1945 – For 35 years, I have much admired the work of Lydia Susanna Hunter, who uses the professional name Linda Hunt. I am just zany for small people and Hunt is nothing, if not diminutive at just 4’9”. Like Jessica Lange in American Horror Story, Glenn Close in Damages or Robin Wright in House Of Cards, LHunt lends major acting cred to the cast of a television series. She plays quirky Hetty Lange, an M-type character, on the immensely popular NCIS Los Angeles, a series, I admit, I have never viewed, sorry Ms.Hunt.
Hunt, a lesbian in real life, should be beloved by gay people for playing Billy Kwan in The Year Of Living Dangerously (1982), a very fine film co-starring Sigourney Weaver and a pre-insane, not yet antisemetic, still very hot Mel Gibson. The role won Hunt an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This was the first Oscar won by someone portraying a member of the opposite sex. I’m not talking about a turn like Barbra Streisand’s in Yentl, a girl playing a boy; Hunt actually convincingly portrays a male character. Her performance is complex and deeply touching.
When you think of an Academy Award winning actor who is an out and proud lesbian married to a woman, Jodie Foster is probably the first, or even only name that comes to mind (there is also Melissa Etheridge, as Sam Smith reminded me at this year’s Oscar broadcast). She notably won over Cher, who was up for her portrayal of Meryl Streep‘s lesbian best friend in Silkwood. I like to imagine how different the past Academy Awards might have landed if Hunt had played the Cate Blanchett role in Carol. That would have livened things up a bit.
Hunt studied at the famed Goodman School Of Drama. She had her film debut in Robert Altman‘s zany musical movie, Popeye (1980). Other credits include the school principal in Kindergarten Cop (1990), filmed in Oregon, where I reside, plus the lesbian Alice B. Toklas in the underrated Waiting For The Moon (1987), plus dozens of other films, some excellent and others dreadful. But, Hunt’s contribution is always craft-worthy, original and interesting.
Hunt has received two Obie Awards (a sort of Tony Award for Off-Broadway), plus a Tony nomination for End Of The World (1984). She created the role of Aunt Dan in the terrific Wallace Shawn‘s biting comedy Aunt Dan And Lemon (1985). She portrayed Sister Aloysius in the 2005 Pasadena Playhouse production of Doubt. Hunt also appeared as Pope Joan in Caryl Churchill‘s Top Girls (1982) at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
Television has been kind to Hunt with memorable roles on The Practice (1997-2004) and HBO’s Carnivàle (2003-06) before landing the gig as Henrietta “Hetty” Lange on NCIS: Los Angeles, which recently reached its 150th episode. It’s interesting that she’s been an out of the closet actor for most of her career, but she is rarely on a list of out and proud LGBTQ stars.
Hunt is one of those working actors that I always admire. I wonder if she sings; she would be simply mesmerizing in a Vegas show. Hunt has been with her wife, Karen Klein, for 27 years. They married in 2008. The couple lives in a classic cute 1917 era Craftsman bungalow in Hollywood with their three dogs.
I think Hunt would make for a most interesting guest at a cocktail party.