The New York Times recently published Uma Thurman’s personal account of the emotional and physical trauma that she suffered while working with Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino. The piece detailed her sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein, but the true bombshell of the Maureen Dowd-conducted profile were startling allegations involving the Kill Bill saga. Namely, this involved the car crash that occurred after Thurman expressed trepidation about driving the famous blue convertible, along with the details about Tarantino personally spitting in her face and choking her during those respective scenes. The director has now spoken to Deadline at length to both express remorse for the crash and (somewhat uncomfortably) address the rest.
The interview is uneven in tone, but Tarantino responds directly to the NY Times profile by blaming “mostly Maureen Dowd’s prose,” which he says resulted in him “taking the hit and taking the heat.” He does describe the crash as “the biggest regret of my life, getting her to do that stunt.” However, he also denies that (as Thurman told Dowd) he was “furious” over her hesitation to drive the car, which she’d heard might be faulty. Tarantino claims that the road was straight when he test-drove the car in one direction, but when they reversed directions for lighting purposes, there was an unanticipated S-curve:
“I thought, a straight road is a straight road and I didn’t think I needed to run the road again to make sure there wasn’t any difference, going in the opposite direction. Again, that is one of the biggest regrets of my life. As a director, you learn things and sometimes you learn them through horrendous mistakes. That was one of my most horrendous mistakes, that I didn’t take the time to run the road, one more time, just to see what I would see.
“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. Maybe the opposite direction there was kind of an optical illusion. This other way, there’s a little bend and if you look at the footage, that’s where she loses control. She’s flying along, and she thinks it’s a straight road and as far as she can see, it is a straight road out her windshield. And then it takes this little S-curve, and she’s not prepared for it. And it throw the car out of control.”
As for the “spitting” and “choking” portions of the interview, things get awkward. Thurman’s revelations prompted many to revisit how Tarantino also personally did the choking during Diane Kruger’s Inglourious Basterds strangling scene. However, Tarantino maintains that it was Thurman’s idea that he should do it:
“I wasn’t sure how we were going to shoot that scene. Wrap a chain around the neck, you’ve got to see choking. I was assuming that when we did it, we would have maybe a pole behind Uma that the chain would be wrapped around so it wouldn’t be seen by the camera, at least for the wide shot. But then it was Uma’s suggestion. To just wrap the thing around her neck, and choke her. Not forever, not for a long time. But it’s not going to look right. I can act all strangle-ey, but if you want my face to get red and the tears to come to my eye, then you kind of need to choke me.”
Tarantino addresses the spitting by asking, “[W]hat’s the f*cking problem?” He then launches into a discussion of how he didn’t trust Michael Madsen to properly pull off the “intricate work” of spitting on Thurman:
“Naturally, I did it. Who else should do it? A grip? One, I didn’t trust Michael Madsen because, I don’t know where the spit’s going to go, if Michael Madsen does it. I talked to Uma and I said, look. I’ve got to kind of commit to doing this to you. We even had a thing there, we were going to try and do it with a plunger and some water. But if you add snuff juice to water, it didn’t look right. It didn’t look like spit, when it hit her when we tried that. It needed to be that mix of saliva and the brown juice. So I asked Uma. I said, I think I need to do it. I’ll only do it twice, at the most, three times. But I can’t have you laying here, getting spit on, again and again and again, because somebody else is messing it up by missing. It is hard to spit on people, as it turns out.
“Now, I love Michael, he’s a terrific actor, but I didn’t trust him with this kind of intricate work, of nailing this.”