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Why Uma Thurman Was Never The Same After Kill Bill

Uma Thurman has been an established member of Hollywood's A-list for decades, ever since she made a huge splash with her supporting role as Mia Wallace in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction. Over a large span of her career, Thurman continued working with Tarantino behind the scenes and in between her other projects, and eventually, the two of them created one of Thurman's most important characters: Beatrix Kiddo, better known as the Bride, a deeply wronged woman who took on the titular mission of both Kill Bill films. Over two volumes, the Bride — a former assassin left for dead by her lover Bill (David Carradine) and their shared, roving gang of killers — exacts revenge upon her scattered associates, ending with Bill, who has secretly been fathering their child in the years since her attempted murder.

Though her performance as the Bride has been hailed as her best thus far, Thurman, much like her character, has carried trauma and scars with her in the aftermath of playing Beatrix Kiddo. Here's why Uma Thurman was never the same after Kill Bill.

The Kill Bill accident that changed Uma Thurman forever

Though Tarantino never made a secret out of how much he adored Thurman, practically worshipping her during the press tour for Kill Bill: Volume 1, it turns out that the venerated director put Thurman in an incredibly dangerous situation during the filming of Kill Bill. The incident shook Thurman so deeply that it took the actress years to open up about it. 

During a February 2018 interview with The New York Times' Maureen Dowd, Thurman detailed her numerous struggles with Tarantino. The actress explained that she tried to speak with Tarantino about her horrible experiences with disgraced former film producer Harvey Weinstein, who has faced dozens of allegations of sexual abuse and was convicted of rape in May 2018, and received no help from him. 

Beyond that, Tarantino also required Thurman to perform a driving stunt on the set of Kill Bill: Volume 2 that nearly killed her. Thurman requested a stunt double for the dangerous sequence — she, an actress not professionally trained in stunt work, felt uncomfortable performing it herself — but Tarantino reportedly wasn't happy with that appeal.

As Thurman told Dowd, "Quentin came in my trailer and didn't like to hear no, like any director. He was furious because I'd cost them a lot of time. But I was scared. He said: 'I promise you the car is fine. It's a straight piece of road. Hit 40 miles per hour or your hair won't blow the right way and I'll make you do it again.' But that was a deathbox that I was in. The seat wasn't screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road."

As it turned out, the car was far from fine, and Thurman was unable to control it while performing the scene. The actress finally acquired footage of the stunt gone wrong in 2018, and the video, featured in the Times article, certainly isn't for the faint of heart. While slightly turning the steering wheel as the road twisted, Thurman had to wrestle with the vehicle, which veered off the road and slammed into a palm tree. Thurman's torso was "heaving helplessly" before crew members arrived to "pull her out of the wreckage." 

In the video, Tarantino is seen coming to Thurman's aid as well, giving her a bottle of water and speaking with her. In Thurman's own words, the conversation wasn't pleasant. Describing the accident and her resultant injuries to Dowd, Thurman said, "The steering wheel was at my belly and my legs were jammed under me. I felt this searing pain and thought, 'Oh my God, I'm never going to walk again.' When I came back from the hospital in a neck brace with my knees damaged and a large massive egg on my head and a concussion, I wanted to see the car and I was very upset. Quentin and I had an enormous fight, and I accused him of trying to kill me. And he was very angry at that, I guess understandably, because he didn't feel he had tried to kill me." 

Thurman also shared that she suffered permanent damage to both her neck and knees as a result of the accident.

Thurman doesn't feel Tarantino had any "malicious intent"

In February 2018, Thurman forgave Tarantino in a public Instagram post where she revealed the accident footage. She wrote in the caption, "The circumstances of this event were negligent to the point of criminality. I do not believe though with malicious intent. 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."

Thurman then placed blame on producers "Lawrence Bender, E. Bennett Walsh, and the notorious Harvey Weinstein" for covering up the Kill Bill accident, writing, "They lied, destroyed evidence, and continue to lie about the permanent harm they caused and then chose to suppress. The cover up did have malicious intent, and shame on these three for all eternity."

Prior to this moment, though, Thurman and Tarantino remained at odds for years — and it's easy to understand why. The Kill Bill director put his lead actress in serious danger, and Thurman also said he took it upon himself to perform some of the film's more sadistic stunts himself — including a choking scene and a moment where a villain spits in Beatrix's face. (Though Tarantino isn't visible in either shot, Thurman maintains that he was just off camera.)

Thurman faced yet another challenge on both Kill Bill sets, however, that was only tangentially related to Tarantino. The actress was one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein, the powerful former studio head whose true nature as a sexual abuser was one of the revelations that kicked off the #MeToo movement, and described in her conversation with Dowd a harrowing interaction with the magnate that she also relayed to Tarantino. Due to his loyalty to Weinstein (who was the driving force behind most of his films), Tarantino didn't speak out about Thurman's claims at the time. In the years since, he has, thankfully, admitted his own wrongdoing in keeping Weinstein's secrets.

What Uma Thurman has been doing since Kill Bill

After the Kill Bill films were released in 2003 and 2004, Thurman went on to appear in projects like Lars von Trier's NymphomaniacMy Super Ex-Girlfriend, the NBC series The Slap, and more. But mostly, she has laid low and focused on raising her three children — two with actor Ethan Hawke and one with French financier Arpaud Busson. Thurman's daughter with Hawke, Maya, recently continued her on-screen legacy on the third season of Stranger Things as well as Once Upon a Time in Hollywoodthe July 2019 comedy-drama written and directed by — wait for it — Quentin Tarantino. 

Thurman, who has finally opened up about some of her career's most upsetting moments, seems to be entering a new phase of honesty that must feel fairly refreshing after years of silence. Still, the Kill Bill films left a serious impact upon the actress — and though they hold up as two of Tarantino's best movies, it's important to know the ups and downs of the process behind them.