Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino behind-the-scenes filming Kill Bill in 2004.
© Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection.
Quentin Tarantino is speaking up. In a wide-ranging interview with Deadline, the director candidly discussed his relationship with Uma Thurman, directly addressing the claims she made in a recent interview with The New York Times.
Though he and Thurman are now cordial to one another, Tarantino admitted that there were a few rocky years after her terrifying car accident on the set of Kill Bill. He explained his decision to spit on her and choke her for scenes in Kill Bill—revelations that were met with backlash on social media, painting Tarantino as a sadistic auteur who liked to personally torture his leading ladies. And Tarantino also spoke about his shock and ultimate “complacency” after finding out Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed both Thurman and actress Mira Sorvino, who was Tarantino’s girlfriend at the time.
Tarantino began by going into detail about the Kill Bill car accident. “It’s the biggest regret of my life, getting her to do that stunt,” he said.
In her interview, Thurman described a simple car stunt she had to perform for the film: driving a convertible down a straight piece of road at about 40 miles per hour. Thurman wanted to have a stunt person drive the car because, she said, a teamster had told her that the car might not be working properly. By her account, Tarantino was furious with her request and ultimately persuaded her to do the stunt. Thurman ended up losing control of the car and crashing, injuring her neck and knees. She was not able to acquire footage of the accident until recently, after Tarantino and producer Shannon McIntosh hunted it down and shared it with her; Thurman primarily blamed Weinstein and producers for allegedly covering up her accident for so long. The producers have not responded to her allegations.
“I can’t tell you . . . it was literally my happiest day this year, when Shannon found that footage and sent it over to me and I knew I was going to be able to present it to Uma,” Tarantino told Deadline. He defended himself against characterizations that he was furious with her then for not doing the stunt, saying that he performed the stunt himself to make sure it was safe.
Nevertheless, seeing her crash “was heartbreaking,” Tarantino added. “Beyond one of the biggest regrets of my career, it is one of the biggest regrets of my life . . . It affected me and Uma for the next two to three years. It wasn’t like we didn’t talk. But a trust was broken.”
Tarantino was, however, slightly indignant about the uproar that erupted over him spitting on Thurman during filming. “What’s the fucking problem?” he asked. When it was clarified that the action seemed disrespectful, the director explained that he wasn’t sure actor Michael Madsen, who was supposed to do the spitting, would be able to get it right on the first take: “I didn’t trust him with this kind of intricate work.”
He added that he explained his choice to Thurman, and received her permission to do it two or three times. As for the choking scene, he said that was “Uma’s suggestion” for Tarantino to do it himself, in order to make it look realistic. He later did the same thing to Diane Kruger while filming Inglourious Basterds after the Kill Bill experience, Tarantino said.
“She agreed with it, she knew it would look good and she trusted me to do it,” he said. “I would ask a guy the same thing. In fact, I would probably be more insistent with a guy.”
Tarantino also revealed that Thurman told him about Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment, which led the director to confront the producer and insist that he apologize. “I knew he was lying, that everything Uma was saying, was the truth,” he told Deadline. “When he tried to wriggle out of it, and how things actually happened, I never bought his story.” (Weinstein has released a thorough statement denying Thurman’s allegations.)
Tarantino also remembered being “shocked and appalled” when Sorvino told him of her alleged encounter with Weinstein. (Weinstein has denied allegations of nonconsensual acts.) Back in October, he was one of the first filmmakers to admit that he was well aware of allegations against Weinstein for years, telling The New York Times that he “knew enough to do more than [he] did” and heard “more than just the normal rumors.” In his interview with Deadline, he explained his line of thinking a bit more.
“For some reason that now feels wrong, back in 1999, it was easier to chalk up what he was doing to this mid-60s, Mad Men, Bewitched era of an executive chasing the secretary around the desk,” the director said. “Now, it’s like . . . as if that was ever O.K.! One of the things that has happened in this whole thing is there is a lot of staring in the mirror. And thinking about, how did you think about things during that time? What did you do in that time? What was your feeling about things at that time?”