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Uma Thurman on Paycheck and Kill Bill


By Paul Fischer - Posted on 14 January 2004

Los Angeles Uma Thurman is reticent on her recent separation from husband Ethan Hawke.

"I think the best way to handle it (media gossip) is to wish everybody well. It's like I've gotten so much out of my career, and my life, who said there's going to be no cost? What's free?" she says philosophically. "It's given me so much, so sure sometimes it's difficult, but I feel that attitude helps me deal with it better than any other attitude."

Paycheck, directed by action aficionado John Woo, is a futuristic thriller in which Ben Affleck plays an electrician who struggles to find clues to his whereabouts for the past three years after his memory has been erased.

Turns out his employer did the evil deed as a security measure, leaving him only with a collection of random objects to help him reconstruct his past, which includes an enigmatic biologist [Thurman]. One of the more compelling aspects of the film is the ability for a machine to predict the future. Thurman believes that the future should remain a mystery.

"I think life is intense enough as it unfolds, so I quite like getting to have one day at a time myself. I wouldn't mind a few clues, if anyone had any great insight or advice for me, but a lot of that is intuitive."

She is far more pragmatic, however, when it comes to equating that philosophy with her own career. Everybody tries to project the future path of their career. But, with the benefit of hindsight, would Thurman have changed anything?

"The temptation of course is to think yes. But really, the way I look at it, the situations that worked out well deliver you one thing, and the situations that didn't, teach you something really crucial," says Thurman.

"They are a fabric: every single director that ever believed in me, has ever given me a chance, every studio head - whatever the process of decisions are - each one of those people are giving me a pearl for my chain. And sometimes a pearl has a big black eye, sometimes maybe it was one that was a different kind of lesson, but you can't really unstring your life and just pick the good moments, because you wouldn't be who you are. It would be much less rich."

Thurman was drawn to Paycheck, she says, because director John Woo's "filmmaking style is masterful."

She still talks with passion about Kill Bill and "surfing the universe with Quentin" adding that having done Kill Bill made Paycheck more fun, "because I got to play the girl, and had a really nice time. Ben did all the heavy lifting, I got to watch John Woo work, see Ben hit people and wasn't covered in blood."

Thurman says that Woo was an early inspiration for Kill Bill with Tarantino arranging a special screening.

"Way back when we started to develop the idea, the first film he took me to, he said, 'You want to see something? I'll take you to something.' He actually got a print and hired a screening room, before the days when he had a screening room, which he likes to brag about, sat down and showed me The Killer and talked me through this moment and that moment. That's why I have long hair, because he wouldn't let me mess with my hair in Kill Bill, since he loved the way in The Killer, the woman's hair would fly in slow-mo. He was like, 'You're not going to take that hair from me.'"

Thurman feels her lifetime of work prepared her for working with Woo even if she wasn't ready for a major role. "It was kind of meant to be. It seemed like I probably wasn't in good enough condition to carry a movie in that moment, but to go work with him, it was almost like a heal. It was like, 'Let me go see that, let me see how he does it.' And that's why it was fun."

Thurman pauses when asked whether anything in her career has helped her in her everyday life.

"It's a complete dance in your own development as a performer, in terms of what you are sharing of yourself, the demands of a new part and what makes you dig in and find those breakthrough moments where you do something that you didn't think was possible."

"I never really was a physically self-confident person. I was much more comfortable in a scene seated at a chair. I felt awkward. Forget it, I could slip into a part like June Miller and become this swaying kind of other person, but it wasn't really natural to me, I'd have to create it for a character."

"What the Master Woo-ping did for me, I was their Lindsay Wagner. I showed up, I was a mess and they basically opened her up and reconnected all those wires that nobody ever got right in the first place. They taught me to be co-ordinated," she says.

"It was really, really hard work, I didn't know if I'd get there, but I couldn't believe what they helped me do. And that sits in my body now in a whole different way, and as a woman that's like someone gave me something huge, someone made me feel strong, someone helped me make myself," she says.

Looking at the 33-year old actress, it's hard to imagine that Thurman has made some 30 films, beginning at age 18, after an early modelling career.

Thurman jokes now that her "mid-life crisis started at thirty, because that was my mid-life, having been professional for half that time."

Part of that crisis of sorts meant reflecting on an unsure future, considering giving it all away, especially following the birth of her daughter.

"I was like: how am I going to do this? This is a huge responsibility for me. I can't be like I was there and do this - I felt completely changed. So it took me a long time to reassemble myself as a woman and feel like I'm still a woman, I'm still an actress, I'm still vital like that and I am this."

She admits finding it tough to balance a professional and personal life as both mother of two and movie star.

"I haven't really felt entitled to work freely. Before you just work because you love to work, and because you need to get out of the house, or you work because you need to live and you live inside your work in a way that you don't live anywhere else. And then everything changes," says Thurman.

"You start looking at everything with this insane amount of scrutiny and you're just conflicted...I was making decisions through a very complicated screen. So I just try to balance it... I just do my best, as any working mother will tell you."

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