Quentin Tarantino Breaks Silence on Uma Thurman Crash

Quentin Tarantino attends the Sundance NEXT FEST Opening Night - Getty-H 2018
Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

The director addressed the controversy surrounding him following a recent New York Times report.

Quentin Tarantino drew criticism over the weekend following a New York Times article in which Kill Bill star Uma Thurman shared a story of a car crash and subsequent injuries she suffered while filming the 2003 action movie. Thurman claims that the accident resulted in a concussion and damaged knees.

The footage of the crash, which Tarantino provided to Thurman, shows the actress crashing into a palm tree. In a recent interview with Deadline, Tarantino said he knew the Times story was coming and was contacted by both Thurman and Maureen Dowd, the author of the Times piece. "I knew that the piece was happening. 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," Tarantino said. 

The director went on to say that he never met up with Dowd and "ended up taking the hit and taking the heat" when the article published. "I figured that eventually it would be used whenever [Thurman] had her big piece," Tarantino said of the footage. "Also, there was an element of closure. She had been denied it, from Harvey Weinstein, being able to even see the footage." 

Tarantino recalled the day of the scene, saying that he "none of us ever considered it a stunt. It was just driving." Thurman, however, said she voiced trepidations to Tarantino about operating the vehicle on a sandy road. "I’m sure I wasn’t in a rage and I wasn’t livid. I didn’t go barging into Uma’s trailer, screaming at her to get into the car," the director said. 

The issue, he said, happened when they decided to film the scene of Thurman driving in the opposite direction than they had tested and an unforeseen "mini S-curve" caused the crash. "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," he said. "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."

The crash affected their relationship, said Tarantino: "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." He added, however, that they "weren’t estranged," though he said it took a few years for the “Quentin and Uma” double act to return to what it was before. Tarantino also added that if they were as estranged as had been reported, he would not have helped her with the Times story.

On the subject of Harvey Weinstein, who was a frequent producer of Tarantino's films (including Kill Bill) and who Thurman claims sexually assaulted her, Tarantino said he was "absolutely being her accomplice" when the actress told the Times of her assault. 

Tarantino, who has said that he wished he had taken responsibility upon hearing of Weinstein's actions in the past — in particular, his sexual harassment of Tarantino's ex-girlfriend Mira Sorvino in the 1990s — addressed Thurman's claims, saying,  "While we were getting ready to do Kill Bill, Uma tells me that [Weinstein] had done the same thing to her [as he had to Sorvino]." He said that's when he "realized there was a pattern, in Harvey’s luring and pushing attacks. So I made Harvey apologize to Uma." Tarantino then said he gave Weinstein an ultimatum: Apologize or he wouldn't do the film. The director said he wasn't present for the apology. 

When asked about particular scenes in the film where Thurman was spit on and choked with a chain, Tarantino responded to controversies around himself personally performing the actions off-camera. In regards to the spitting scene, Tarantino said he didn't trust star Michael Madsen to perform the take, so the director did it himself. "Who else should do it? A grip?" he said.

In the scene where Thurman is choked by a chain, the director said it was the actress' suggestion to actually be seen in the scene, 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," said Tarantino, adding that their stunt man monitored the scene. "But then it was Uma’s suggestion. To just wrap the thing around her neck, and choke her." The filmmaker confirmed he was the one on the "other end of the chain" in the scene and that they "pulled it off."

Tarantino compared the experience to when he stepped in to film the scene where Diane Kruger is strangled in Inglourious Basterds. In both instances, he said he asked his female stars for their permission to commit to the scene, and that they agreed.

"[Diane] even said on film in an interview, it was a strange request but by that point I trusted Quentin so much that, sure," he said. "We did our two times, and then like Uma with the spitting thing, Diane said, okay, if you need to do it once more, you can. That was an issue of me asking the actress, can we do this to get a realistic effect. And she agreed with it, she knew it would look good and she trusted me to do it. I would ask a guy the same thing. In fact, I would probably be more insistent with a guy."

On Tuesday, Kruger waded into the conversation to say that her experience with Tarantino "was pure joy." She wrote in a social post, "He treated me with utter respect and never abused his power or forced me to do anything I wasn't comfortable with." She also said her "heart goes out to Uma and anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual assault and abuse." Adding, "I stand with you."

In an Instagram post earlier on Monday, Thurman had said Tarantino did the "right thing" by taking responsibility and sharing the footage. She said the "real perpetrators" are Weinstein and fellow producers Lawrence Bender and E. Bennett Walsh. Tarantino said that "Harvey and Lawrence and Ben lawyered up and [they] seemed to keep themselves from being named in the piece," leaving the director "representing everybody." 

Tarantino added that, despite having to shoulder the responsibility, he felt like he'd "been honest here and told the truth, and it feels really good after two days of misrepresentation, to be able to say it out loud. Whatever comes of it, I’ve said my piece. I’ve got big shoulders and I can handle it."

Feb. 6, 8 a.m. Updated with Kruger statement.