Uma Thurman hasn’t worked with Quentin Tarantino since the Kill Bill movies, and after her recent interview with Maureen Dowd for The New York Times one could assume it’s because of what happened on that particular set. He crossed a line and spit on her face and choked her with a chain when other characters are supposed to do so in the movie, and then talked her into performing a stunt which almost left her paralyzed, causing neck and knee injuries she’s still dealing with 15 years later. In Dowd’s telling of the story, Tarantino then conspired with the film’s producers to suppress the release of the footage of the on-set accident, only agreeing to show it to Thurman if she signed a legal form forfeiting her right to sue. She refused and was thus never allowed to see the footage until recently when Tarantino finally provided it to her.
Add on top of that Tarantino dragging his feet on confronting Harvey Weinstein about allegedly sexually assaulting Thurman and you get a director-muse relationship which has soured and led to them going their separate ways.
That is true. That is why they stopped working together. However, in the wake of the Times piece something closer to “it was all just a misunderstanding” is emerging from both parties.
Yesterday, Thurman herself took to Instagram to state that the target of her ire with the Kill Bill cover-up is not Tarantino but the film’s producers Lawrence Bender, E. Bennett Walsh and Harvey Weinstein. Of Tarantino, she now clarifies:
Quentin Tarantino, was deeply regretful and remains remorseful about this sorry event, and gave me the footage years later so i could expose it and let it see the light of day, regardless of it most likely being an event for which justice will never be possible. he also did so with full knowledge it could cause him personal harm, and i am proud of him for doing the right thing and for his courage.
Her full statement is below:
Wait. What just happened? Aren’t we supposed to be running Tarantino out of town on behalf of Thurman right now?
Well, as Vox pointed out, while The New York Times is among the most trusted news sources in all of journalism (despite what Trump says) Maureen Dowd is not. The one-time Monica Lewinsky tormenter produced a profile of Thurman that was often confusingly vague and Vanity Fair-esque in its prose. It reads more like a celebrity puff piece than a hard-hitting account of abuse and fills in the blanks for Thurman in ways it shouldn’t.
As I wrote two days ago, Dowd’s story at least introduced the question of accountability. After Tarantino admitted in October he “knew enough to do more than he did” about Harvey Weinstein, should Hollywood have really been lining up just a month later to kiss his ass and give him the best distribution deal of his career for his Manson Family murders movie (which, again, sounds like a truly terrible marriage of filmmaker and material)? Moreover, if he did indeed recklessly endanger Thurman’s life and engage in a cover-up campaign what becomes of his R-Rated Star Trek movie at Paramount and the Manson movie at Sony?
The answers mostly depended on how well Tarantino defended himself, but before he even had the chance to do so Thurman stepped in to forgive him. Still, Tarantino gave an exclusive interview to Deadline about all of this. In Dowd’s piece, it is claimed, “Tarantino did not respond to requests for comment.” However, Tarantino now says, “Part of my job on the piece was to do an interview with Maureen Dowd, and back up Uma’s claims. And we never hooked up. Me and Dowd never hooked up.”
On procuring the footage for Thurman:
Uma and I had talked about it, for a long period of time, deciding how she was going to do it. She wanted clarity on what happened in that car crash, after all these years. She asked, could I get her the footage? I had to find it, 15 years later. We had to go through storage facilities, pulling out boxes. Shannon McIntosh found it. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think we were going to be able to find it. It was clear and it showed the crash and the aftermath. I was very happy to get it to Uma. The thing is, Uma had people she wanted to indict, for that cover-up.
On his reaction to Dowd’s piece:
I read the article and basically it seemed like all the other guys lawyered up, so they weren’t even allowed to be named. And, through mostly Maureen Dowd’s prose, I ended up taking the hit and taking the heat.
On the actual crash:
The idea was for her to drive around 30-45 mph, just to get the hair blowing. With all the foliage on either side, her driving 35 would seem like 60. But there were no obstacles, it was a straight shot.
I came in there all happy telling her she could totally do it, it was a straight line, you will have no problem. Uma’s response was…”Okay.” Because she believed me. Because she trusted me. I told her it would be okay. I told her the road was a straight line. I told her it would be safe. And it wasn’t. I was wrong. I didn’t force her into the car. She got into it because she trusted me. And she believed me.
So, it’s decided she would get in the car. I had not heard about anything about a guy from transpo saying that the car didn’t work. Which would be a strange thing for a guy from transpo to say, because they’re the ones responsible for delivering safe vehicles. If a guy from transpo had something to say about an unsafe car, he should be telling the First AD, the production manager or the producer. Uma goes off to get ready. I go off, after my trip and talking to Uma, to number one, ready for her to show up. I arrive and then a question develops.
Would it be okay if we had the car drive the opposite direction? Because the lighting would be better because it was the end of the day. I’m guessing on this, but let’s say we were going to do the car from east to west? Could we go from west to east? It didn’t affect the shot. I didn’t see how it would affect anything. A straight road is a straight road.
She showed up, in a good mood. We did the shot. And she crashed. At first, no one really knew what happened. After the crash, when Uma went to the hospital, I was feeling in total anguish at what had happened. I walked the road, going the opposite direction. And in walking the road, going in the other direction…I don’t know how a straight road turns into an un-straight road, but it wasn’t as straight. It wasn’t the straight shot that it had been, going the other way. There is a little mini S-curve that almost seemed like it opened up to a mini fork in the road.
That is just not the way it looked, going in the opposite direction.
On Uma misunderstanding his role or lack thereof in the cover-up:
Something else Uma was misunderstood about [in the article], and I don’t think she realized it until last night while we were talking, was she feels that a whole cover-up happened. After the car incident. She feels it’s very possible the car was destroyed, at Harvey Weinstein’s insistence, and at Bennett Walsh and Lawrence Bender’s execution. I didn’t know about any of that, after the fact. Me and Uma weren’t talking about stuff like that, the aftermath of her being in the hospital, coming out and wrapping up the movie. Frankly, I didn’t think about the car, after the crash, one iota.
Because to me, it was an insurance situation after that. Insurance would come in, do an investigation, and if there was something wrong with the car, they would find out and it would be handled. Writer/directors don’t deal with the insurance company; production managers do. Producers, business affairs people at Miramax deal with the insurance company.
Uma thought I had acquiesced to them not letting her see the footage. I didn’t know any of that was necessarily going on. I knew they weren’t letting her see the footage, but I didn’t know she thought I was part of that. She had just told me they hadn’t let her see the footage.
She got in touch with me this year and said, I really do need to see that footage. We need to make this right. I agreed with her and went out on a herculean task, to find the footage.
On the Harvey Weinstein assault allegation:
In the Maureen Dowd article it says, that is when Quentin confronted Harvey? Well, my confrontation was saying, you have to go to Uma. This happened. You have to apologize to her and she has to accept your apology, if we’re going to do Kill Bill together.
naturally, Harvey tried to de-emphasize things and say things weren’t exactly they way they were…”well, she was doing this, and she’s saying that..” But that didn’t work, because I knew she wasn’t lying. There wasn’t another side to this story. There was this story. Harvey was really good at saying, well, the reality is there was this, that or the other thing…and frankly, if you don’t know the people who are being talked about, you could give somebody the benefit of the doubt. I this case, I wasn’t giving Harvey the benefit of the doubt.
These are but tiny excerpts from what is actually an 6,000-word interview. Tarantino goes on to explain the spitting incident (he didn’t trust anyone else to do it right), the choking incident (he says it was actually Uma’s idea for him to be the one pulling on the chain), and voluntarily explains that when he similarly choked Diane Kruger on the set of Inglourious Basterds for the scene when Christoph Waltz’s character does so it was all done with Kruger’s approval. Of the fallout to the Times piece, he says Thurman has been distraught over all the blowback he’s received about it. He mostly blames Maureen Dowd’s shoddy journalism and the internet’s echo chamber. Overall, he doesn’t feel he’s guilty of anything other than endangering his star actress one time years ago.
You can read the full interview here and decide for yourself what to think of it all.