Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino: A great cinematic partnership with a dubious, murky underbelly

Gautam Chintamani

Feb,06 2018 18:25:38 IST

Uma Thurman’s recent testimony on what she underwent at the hands of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, which included sexual coercion and threats of career derailment, is the latest in an ever-growing list of women that Weinstein has allegedly harassed.

But what she said of Quentin Tarantino’s involvement is the bigger clog in this revelation. In an article published in The New York Times, the actress told Maureen Dowd that Tarantino nearly risked her life in the course of filming a stunt for Kill Bill after she made him aware of Weinstein’s predatory actions. Tarantino has responded to Thurman’s article and while he did not comment on Weinstein, he did say that the crash was “the biggest regret” of his life.

A few months ago, when the #MeToo campaign saw many actresses coming out and sharing details of their harassment at the hands of Weinstein, Thurman was confronted by a journalist at a red-carpet event to give a comment. Even though it had been almost a month the actress was visibly shaken when she said, ”I don't have a tidy soundbite for you." She paused and then continued, "because ... I've learned that when I have spoken in anger, I usually regret the way that I have expressed myself. So I've been waiting to feel less angry. And when I'm ready, I'll say what I have to say."

American director Quentin Tarantino jokes with his actress Uma Thurman as they arrive at the festival palace to attend the screening of their film "Kill Bill Vol.2" being shown out of competition at the 57th International film festival in Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 16, 2004. Tarantino heads the jury of the 57th international film festival. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)

Quentin Tarantino jokes with Uma Thurman at Cannes Film Festival 2004. (AP Photo)

What Thurman has said now is something that many people might have suspected, but what she said about Tarantino’s compliance suggests that it’s people like the much-celebrated filmmaker who fuel the likes of Weinstein.

Back in October 2017 when the #MeToo campaign gathered momentum Mira Sorvino shared her experiences with Weinstein in a story that was written by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker. The actress, who once dated Tarantino, mentioned how she never thought Weinstein using “business-related situations to try and press himself sexually” on her, “a young woman in his employ” even qualified as sexual harassment. With regard to Weinstein’s alleged misconduct Tarantino said: ‘I Knew Enough to Do More Than I Did’ and then added that it wasn’t until Thurman told him about her own alleged assault at the hands of Weinstein that he realised what had happened to Sorvino was “a pattern” to Weinstein’s “luring and pushing attacks.”

Such was the power that Weinstein wielded that Peter Jackson even admitted to blacklisting Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino under pressure from Weinstein.

Uma Thurman expressed that the most complicated feeling she had about Weinstein was how she might have been responsible for inspiring young girls to pursue acting because of Kill Bill. She is of the opinion when a film that symbolises female empowerment had Weinstein as an executive producer “all these lambs walked into slaughter because they were convinced nobody rises to such a position who would do something illegal to you, but they do.”

Tarantino is globally one of the most influential filmmakers whose actions are emulated by millions. His idiosyncrasies, his demanding nature – such as putting Uma Thurman to drive a car instead of a stunt artist - have been pardoned, even found to be inspiring or endearing for the sake of art, but reading how he actually spat in Thurman’s face to show her fellow-actor, Michael Madsen, how it was done or allegedly choking her with a chain in the scene changes the way you see this collaboration between the artist and the muse.

As a cinephile, this writer always found Tarantino’s cinema to be hovering on the border of extreme sadistic flourishes and much of this is visible in Kill Bill. Perhaps the screen credit of ‘Q & U” (Quentin and Uma) that was acknowledged as the vision behind Kill Bill made one feel this: what was Tarantino’s intense homage to Asian cinema was also in a way Thurman’s expression of female empowerment. Little did one know the horrible truth behind what was considered one of the greatest contemporary cinematic partnerships.

Looking at the manner in which things have come to light, shouldn’t the writer-director be held responsible for his participation? 

Tarantino attracts some of the biggest names in the business and nearly every actor in the universe would merrily give an arm to feature in ‘a Quentin Tarantino Movie’ but the way actors have been questioned for their decision to feature in a Woody Allen film, or their association with a Brett Ratner, perhaps it’s time to ask the same of the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, who has reportedly agreed to do Tarantino’s upcoming Charles Mason film.

Tarantino claims he made doing Kill Bill with Miramax conditional on Weinstein apologising to Thurman but as Henry David Thoreau once said, “the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it,” Tarantino couldn’t have been unaware of what he was doing. He also said, “I knew he [Weinstein] was lying, that everything Uma was saying was the truth.”

Considering that Miramax, one of the most influential film studios in the world, was nicknamed “the house that Quentin built” thanks to the super-success of Pulp Fiction (1994), Weinstein would have readily ‘apologised’ to Thurman but when Tarantino continued to work with latter despite knowing what he knew, and then nearly putting Thurman’s life in danger not only sanctioned his actions but also somewhere urged him on.

Updated Date: Feb 06, 2018 18:25 PM