Linda Haynes, Star of ‘Rolling Thunder’ and ‘The Drowning Pool,’ Dies at 75

She also appeared in “Coffy” and “Latitude Zero”

A light-skinned blonde woman in a light T-shirt stands next to a convertible car, a light-skinned man with dark hair and sunglasses sits in the vehicle, which is in front of an outdoor ice machine and windows
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Linda Haynes, who notably appeared in films including “Coffy,” “Rolling Thunder,” “The Drowning Pool” and “Brubaker,” died July 17 in South Carolina — the news had not spread widely until Friday. She was 75.

“It is with great sadness that I report that my mother, Linda Haynes Sylvander has passed away, peacefully at home,” her son Greg Sylvander wrote on Facebook on Friday. She had moved to South Carolina three years ago to live with Greg. “As an only child, I have dreaded these times my entire life. I find peace in the knowing that my mother was at peace and had the most beautiful life these final years together with her grandchildren, Courtney Sylvander and I. We are going to miss my mom immensely.”

Haynes’ first film was 1969’s “Latitude Zero,” an international co-production directed by legendary Japanese filmmaker Ishirō Honda. The movie co-starred Joseph Cotton and Cesar Romero, among others. It was in the 1970s, though, that Haynes really made a name for herself, appearing in Jack Hill’s Blaxploitation sensation “Coffy,” Robert Mulligan’s “The Nickel Ride” and “The Drowning Pool,” Stuart Rosenberg’s adaptation of the Ross Macdonald novel.

But Haynes’ real breakthrough came in 1977’s “Rolling Thunder.” The movie, directed by John Flynn from a script originally written by Paul Schrader (Schrader shares credit on the finished movie with Heywood Gould), was a commercial hit but was received by critics with indifference. It has since been re-appraised as one of the great movies of the decade.

This consensus has been helped along by Quentin Tarantino, who adored the movie and even briefly named a distribution company after the film (Rolling Thunder Pictures). He devoted a chapter to the movie in his nonfiction book “Cinema Speculation.” There’s also a rumor that Tarantino will be remaking part of the movie for his final film, “The Movie Critic,” which is set in the 1970s.

On the page Haynes’ son set up for her obituary, Tarantino is quoted: “ROLLING THUNDER, I just love. THE performance of the film for me is Linda Haynes as Linda Forchet! She was in one of the sleepers for the first QT fest THE NICKEL RIDE, she was in Pam Grier’s COFFY she was the girl that reaches into Grier’s afro when she has the razors in there and ‘aaaahhhh’. But Linda Forchet is my favorite female character in a Paul Schrader movie. She has that look that Ava Gardner got, you know blousy, but it took Ava years to do it, and Linda Haynes just did it naturally. And I mean that in a good way.”

In 1980 Haynes appeared in the TV miniseries “Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones,” with Powers Boothe playing the infamous cult leader. In 1980 she was in Rosenberg’s terrific based-on-a-true-story “Brubaker.” And after that she… disappeared. In 1995, Tarantino and writer Tom Graves tracked her down — a decade later, Graves would write an essay about her.

After her career wound down, she worked as a legal secretary and remained a member of the Actors Studio. Even though her career was relatively brief, she left behind a wonderful array of deeply felt performances and helped inspire one of the most influential filmmakers of our time.