- Uma Thurman told The New York Times she was injured on the set of “Kill Bill” after director Quentin Tarantino allegedly made her do a car stunt.
- The actress provided video to the Times of her crashing into a tree, which led to her injuring her knees and suffering a concussion, she said.
- Producer Rebecca Green told Business Insider the accident would never have happened if the movie’s producer had stepped up and stopped Thurman from driving the car.
On Saturday, The New York Times published a piece in which Uma Thurman alleged that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her, adding her voice to the #MeToo movement.
But Thurman didn’t just call out Weinstein. In a shocking twist, she also spoke out against the director she’ll be forever linked to: Quentin Tarantino.
Halfway through the Times story, the narrative shifts from Weinstein to Tarantino, and how the director — who made Thurman a star in his movie, “Pulp Fiction” — allegedly forced her, on the set of “Kill Bill,” to do a scene she wanted a stunt driver to do instead. It led to the actress being injured.
Business Insider spoke to producers in the industry who said what Thurman suffered could (and should) have been stopped.
Thurman thought Tarantino ‘tried to kill me’
In a shot that appears towards the end of “Kill Bill,” The Bride (Thurman) speeds down a dirt road on her way to kill Bill (David Carradine). The shot is taken from the back of the car, so you see the back of The Bride’s head driving the convertible.
According to the Times story, Thurman insisted that a stunt driver do the shot, as she didn’t feel comfortable driving.
“Quentin came in my trailer and didn’t like to hear ‘no,’ like any director,” Thurman said in the story. “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.”
Thurman provided the Times with video from the set of her driving the car. It shows her losing control of the car at one point and crashing into a tree. Her body is thrown violently and she sits there in a daze until the crew, including Tarantino, show up moments later. After getting out of the car and standing on her own, she is carried by a man off camera as she holds her head.
“The steering wheel was at my belly and my legs were jammed under me,” Thurman told the Times. “I felt this searing pain and thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to walk again,’” she said. “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.”
The accident could have been avoided if the producer stepped up
According to numerous producers Business Insider spoke to after the Times ran the Thurman story, this incident could have been avoided, and directors often have to be convinced to rethink their vision for the sake of the health and wellbeing of the cast and crew.
When a director is blinded by his or her vision, it’s the responsibility of the producer, in this case Lawrence Bender (who has produced all of Tarantino’s films), the first assistant director (on this movie it was William Paul Clark), or the stunt coordinator (Keith Adams), to make sure what goes forward is done in a safe manner.
“At some point it became acceptable for directors to push the safety boundaries on set in order to achieve their vision and I believe it’s the producer’s responsibility to intervene when this happens to ensure the safety of all involved,” producer Rebecca Green (“It Follows,” “I’ll See You in My Dreams”) told Business Insider.
“Of course telling your director they can’t have what they want often results in he or she being pissed off at you, but if you can’t tolerate an angry director for the sake of your crew’s safety, then you shouldn’t be producing. What’s more frustrating is that unlike most of us, Tarantino had a budget that afforded him stunt doubles, so there was no reason to pressure Uma into driving the car herself. And what’s even more ridiculous is that the shot was of the back of her head so did she really need to drive the car herself?”
According to entertainment lawyer Domenic Romano, founder and managing attorney of Romano Law, the statute of limitations has likely expired on Thurman taking any action against Tarantino, Bender, or Miramax for the injuries she sustained on set. However, this shocking revelation may hurt Tarantino’s reputation in Hollywood.
“This might make people think twice about working with him,” Romano told Business Insider.
Though directors have always been seen as the dictators on set, whose word is law, Thurman’s revelation has shown that sometimes someone has to step in to be the voice of reason, and not be afraid of upsetting the almighty director.
“The question to ask is, where was Lawrence Bender?” Green said. “On my sets, the assistant director knows that the camera can’t roll on a stunt unless a producer is on set, and had I known Uma was not comfortable doing the stunt herself, I would have stepped in and said ‘no means no,’ and the stunt double would have been used. Either Lawrence Bender wasn’t there, he didn’t care how Uma felt, or he was too worried about pissing off Tarantino.”
On Monday, Thurman posted a portion of the footage she gave the Times on Instagram and included in the caption that “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.”
However, she did blame some, including Bender.
“The cover up after the fact is unforgivable,” Thurman wrote in her post. “For this I hold Lawrence Bender, [“Kill Bill” executive producer] E. Bennett Walsh, and the notorious Harvey Weinstein solely responsible.”
Business Insider contacted Tarantino, Bender, Clark, Adams, and Walsh for comment but did not receive a response.
See a portion of the footage Thurman posted on Instagram on Monday:
i post this clip to memorialize it’s full exposure in the nyt by Maureen Dowd. 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. THE COVER UP after the fact is UNFORGIVABLE. for this i hold Lawrence Bender, E. Bennett Walsh, and the notorious Harvey Weinstein solely responsible. 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. CAA never sent anyone to Mexico. i hope they look after other clients more respectfully if they in fact want to do the job for which they take money with any decency.