Quentin Tarantino Weighs in on the Uma Thurman Crash, Maureen Dowd Article
Let me just say this upfront: Deadline, and specifically Mike Fleming, have lately become a safe haven for men accused of shitty behavior, and anyone who aligns with the MeToo movement is likely going to approach pieces on Deadline with some hostility given their obvious sympathies for some of the accused men (Harvey Weinstein and Michael Douglas seem to be using Deadline as a PR outlet, and their coverage of Woody Allen hasn’t exactly been honest, either). And when you read this line from Mike Fleming ahead of an interview with Quentin Tarantino, I’d understand if you didn’t trust the publication’s motives:
I offered Tarantino the opportunity to clarify because at this moment, stories get written and then picked up across the globe, often getting twisted to suit convenient narratives in this #MeToo moment.
Fuck you, Mike Fleming.
On the other hand, Maureen Dowd — who wrote the original Uma Thurman piece on Sunday — is not exactly a gold-star journalist, either, and she didn’t do any favors to Uma Thurman’s story with what was clearly some sloppy reporting and a lot of unnecessary, detracting details, like this scene setting flourish: Thurman is “stretching out her lanky frame on a brown velvet couch in front of the fire.”
Really Dowd? Really?
So, while I absolutely take issue with Deadline’s characterization of the MeToo movement, and while I — like a lot of people — approached the QT interview with some hesitation, I will concede that QT’s statements align with Uma Thurman’s clarifying Instagram post yesterday, and allow that — despite how Maureen Dowd characterized QT in her interview — Thurman and Tarantino are not at odds here. They’re on the same side.
Dowd left an impression that QT and Thurman were hostile to one another, and that is clearly not true. Thurman does believe that QT was largely responsible for Uma Thurman’s car crash on the set of Kill Bill and their relationship suffered for it for several years. However, Thurman does not hold QT accountable for the alleged cover-up and, in fact, Tarantino — according to both Thurman and Tarantino — has been instrumental in helping Thurman uncover the conspiracy. Thurman, in her Instagram post, holds Lawrence Bender, E. Bennett Walsh, and Harvey Weinstein responsible for the cover-up, and according to Tarantino, she said as much in her interview with Dowd, but that the NYTimes redacted Bender and Walsh’s names.
What Tarantino emphasizes in his interview is that yes, he was absolutely responsible for Thurman’s car crash, that he made a huge mistake, and he considers it his life’s biggest regret. He made some gross miscalculations about the shoot, which resulted in the accident.
Watching her fight for the wheel … remembering me hammering about how it was safe and she could do it. Emphasizing that it was a straight road, a straight road…the fact that she believe me, and I literally watched this little S curve pop up. And it spins her like a top. It was heartbreaking. Beyond one of the biggest regrets of my career, it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. For a myriad of reasons.
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. A trust broken over a year of shooting, of us doing really gnarly stuff. Doing really big stunt stuff. I wanted her to do as much as possible and we were trying to take care of her and we pulled it off. She didn’t get hurt. And then the last four days, in what we thought would be a simple driving shot, almost kills her.
But then, there were the other details, about QT spitting in Thurman’s face for a Kill Bill shot, as well as a shot in which Tarantino is choking Thurman. These details apparently did not come from Thurman, but others who were interviewed for the piece. Tarantino offers his defense of those shots, and you’ll obviously just have to make up your own minds about it:
On the spit take:
We’ve all seen movies where people get spit in the face. I’m assuming if it was a two-shot and Michael Madsen spat in her face, there probably wouldn’t be an issue. But that wasn’t the shot. The shot was, Michael Madsen had snuff juice. And you see him spit out a stream of snuff juice. Cut to Uma’s face, on the ground and you see it hit her.
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.
… In that instance, we did our three takes, and Uma said, if you really need a fourth one, go ahead, do a fourth one.
On the choke:
In the case of the choking, when Gogo [Chiaki Kuryama] throws her chain ball at the bride, and the chain wraps around her neck. And then she’s getting choked by it. Frankly, 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 … I was the one on the other end of the chain and we kind of only did it for the close ups. And we pulled it off. Now, that was her idea.
And as for Thurman and Tarantino’s relationship after Maureen Dowd’s article:
Uma was in turmoil about the uprising against me this whole weekend. She blames me for not talking to Maureen Dowd, saying it’s your own damn fault. She never meant this to roll over onto me. We’ve been talking about it ad nauseum and I feel bad because she has been doing a Broadway play, at the same time. The whole weekend, we’ve been talking. The uproar that happened against me, she was not prepared for. We have a long complicated history. We have been dealing with it for 22 years. We’re both one of the closest people in each other’s lives. So it was rather shocking to read this article, where the headline is about Uma’s anger, and lumping me into her anger about Harvey. As much detail as they went into, no one seemed to care about the Harvey stuff.
Look: I am not suggesting in any way that Tarantino is not a problematic guy, enough now that many of us are doing a lot of soul searching about his films. He has clearly said and done some shitty things, and his movies have aged very poorly in this cultural environment. We take plenty of issue with Quentin Tarantino, and Thurman is absolutely right: He should have responded when Dowd asked him for comment.
However, I am inclined to believe — based on Thurman’s Instagram post and QT’s interview — that at the very least, Thurman and Tarantino are not at odds over any of this, and that Maureen Dowd unfairly characterized their relationship, conflating Thurman’s anger with Weinstein with her relationship with QT. But obviously, the rest of you can look at the whole of the evidence and make up your own minds. Or perhaps it doesn’t even matter because you’ve already written off Tarantino, and I completely sympathize with why you might.
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