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Uma Thurman Bio
Uma Thurman (born April 29, 1970) is an American actress and model. She has performed in leading roles in a variety of films, ranging from romantic comedies and dramas to science fiction and action movies. Following early roles in films such as Dangerous Liaisons (1988), she rose to international prominence in 1994 following her role in Quentin Tarantino‘s Pulp Fiction for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe Award. She starred in several more films throughout the 1990s such as The Truth About Cats & Dogs, Batman & Robin, Gattaca and Les Misérables.
She won a Golden Globe Award for the miniseries Hysterical Blindness (2002). Her career was revitalized when she reunited with director Quentin Tarantino to play the main role in both Kill Bill films (2003/2004) which brought her an additional two Golden Globe Award nominations with a BAFTA Award nomination.
1985–89: Early work
Thurman began her career as a fashion model at age 15, and signed with the agency Click Models. Her early modeling credits included Glamour and the December 1985 and May 1986 covers of British Vogue. She made her movie debut in 1988, appearing in four films that year. Her first two were the high school comedy Johnny Be Good and teen thriller Kiss Daddy Goodnight. She had a small role in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, playing the goddess Venus alongside Oliver Reed‘s Vulcan; during her entrance she briefly appears nude, in an homage to Botticelli‘s The Birth of Venus. The most acclaimed of these first four films was Oscar-winning drama Dangerous Liaisons, in which Thurman’s character of Cecile de Volanges is seduced by the manipulative Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich). At the time, insecure about her appearance, she spent roughly a year in London, during which she often wore loose, baggy clothing. Malkovich said of her, “There is nothing twitchy teenager-ish about her, I haven’t met anyone like her at that age. Her intelligence and poise stand out. But there’s something else. She’s more than a little haunted.”
1990–93: Career prominence
In 1990, Thurman appeared with Fred Ward and Maria de Medeiros in the sexually provocative drama Henry & June, the first film to receive an NC-17 rating. Partly because many American newspapers refused to advertise films with the new rating, it did not get wide release in the United States, but the film won her some good notices. The New York Times wrote: “Thurman, as the Brooklyn-accented June, takes a larger-than-life character and makes her even bigger, though the performance is often as curious as it is commanding.”
In 1993, she was for the first time the main star in Gus Van Sant‘s 1993 adaptation of Tom Robbins‘ novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. It was a critical and financial disappointment; Thurman was nominated for a Worst Actress Razzie. The Washington Post described her acting as shallow, writing that, “Thurman’s strangely passive characterization doesn’t go much deeper than drawling and flexing her prosthetic thumbs”. She also starred opposite Robert De Niro in the drama Mad Dog and Glory, a box office disappointment that received positive reviews. Later that year, Thurman auditioned for Stanley Kubrick while he was casting for his eventually unrealized project Wartime Lies.
1994–98: Continued success
After Mad Dog and Glory, Thurman auditioned for the Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction, which grossed over $107 million on a budget of only $8 million. The Washington Post wrote that Thurman was “serenely unrecognizable in a black wig, [and] is marvelous as a zoned-out gangster’s girlfriend.” Thurman was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar the following year. She became one of Tarantino’s favorite actresses to cast; he told Time magazine in 2003 that she was “up there with Garbo and Dietrich in goddess territory.”
1996 would see Thurman in two moderately successful films, the first of which was Beautiful Girls, where she played the female lead and love interest of Timothy Hutton and was supported with a high-profile cast (for that time) of Mira Sorvino, Martha Plimpton, and Natalie Portman. The film was well received by the critics for the script and acting, particularly that of Hutton and Portman. It performed moderately well at the box office. Thurman also starred opposite Janeane Garofalo in the moderately successful 1996 romantic comedy The Truth About Cats & Dogs as a ditzy blonde model. In 1997, she starred opposite her future husband Ethan Hawke in the science fiction film Gattaca. Although Gattaca was not a success at the box office, it drew many positive reviews and became successful on the home video market. Some critics were not as impressed with Thurman, such as The Los Angeles Times, which wrote that she was “as emotionally uninvolved as ever.”
Her next role was Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin, the fourth of the series. Thurman’s performance in the campy film received universal critical and fan acclaim, in which people regarded her as the only reason to watch this film. The New York Times wrote in a positive review, “like Mae West, she mixes true femininity with the winking womanliness of a drag queen”. A similar positive comparison was made by the Houston Chronicle: “Thurman, to arrive at a ’40s femme fatale, sometimes seems to be doing Mae West by way of Jessica Rabbit”. In addition, the San Francisco Chronicle points out “Poison Ivy is the film’s best creation. She’s a radical environmentalist who gets bitten by snakes and buried in vines only to rise up, gorgeous and redheaded, like Botticelli’s Venus. Like America’s original femme fatale, Beatrice in Hawthorne’s ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter,’ Ivy has a poisonous kiss. Like Dietrich in ‘Blonde Venus,’ she shows up at a ritzy affair in a gorilla suit.” She has won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for ‘Best Actress – Sci-Fi’ in her role as Poison Ivy, and was also nominated for Favourite Movie Actress in the Kids’ Choice Awards, only to have lost to her co-star Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl The next year brought The Avengers, another major financial and critical flop. CNN described her as “so distanced you feel like you’re watching her through the wrong end of a telescope.” She received Razzie Award nominations for both films. She closed out 1998 with Les Misérables, a film version of Victor Hugo‘s novel of the same name, directed by Bille August, in which she played Fantine. On his review of the film, Roger Ebert said that “Thurman’s performance is the best element of the movie.”
After the birth of her first child in 1998, Thurman took a break from acting to concentrate on motherhood. Her next roles were in low-budget and television films, including Vatel, Tape, in which she appeared with then husband Ethan Hawke and for which she was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female, and Chelsea Walls, directed by Hawke.
She would win a Golden Globe award for her acting in HBO cable movie Hysterical Blindness; she was also one of the executive producers. Thurman played a New Jersey woman in the 1980s searching for romance. The San Francisco Chronicle review said, “Thurman so commits herself to the role, eyes blazing and body akimbo, that you start to believe that such a creature could exist—an exquisite-looking woman so spastic and needy that she repulses regular Joes. Thurman has bent the role to her will.”
In 2000, she narrated the John Moran opera Book of the Dead (2nd Avenue) at New York’s Public Theater.
It would be Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill which relaunched her career. She played assassin Beatrix Kiddo, out for revenge against her former lover. Tarantino wrote the part specifically for her. He cited Thurman as his muse while writing the film, and gave her joint credit for the character, whom the two conceived on the set of Pulp Fiction from the sole image of a bride covered in blood. Production was delayed for several months after Thurman became pregnant and Tarantino refused to recast the part. The film took nine months to shoot, and was filmed in five different countries. The role was also her most demanding, and she spent three months training in martial arts, swordsmanship, and Japanese. It was originally set to be released as one film. However due to its over 4-hour running time, it was ultimately released in two parts and became a cult classic and scored highly with critics. Thurman was nominated for a Golden Globe for both entries, plus three MTV Movie Awards for Best Female Performance and two for Best Fight. Rolling Stone likened her to “an avenging angel out of a 1940s Hollywood melodrama”.
The inspirations for The Bride were several B-movie action heroines. Thurman’s main inspiration for the role was the title character of Coffy (played by Pam Grier) and the character of Gloria Swenson from Gloria (played by Gena Rowlands). She said that the two characters are “two of the only women I’ve ever seen be truly women [while] holding a weapon”. Coffy was screened for Thurman by Tarantino prior to beginning production on the film, to help her model the character.
By 2005, Thurman was commanding a salary of $12.5 million per film. Her first film of the year was Be Cool, the sequel to 1995’s Get Shorty, which reunited her with her Pulp Fiction castmate John Travolta. In the film, she played the widow of a deceased music business executive. The film received poor reviews, and came in below expectations at the box office. In 2005, she starred in Prime with Meryl Streep, playing a woman in her late thirties romancing a man in his early twenties. Thurman’s last film of the year was a remake of The Producers in which she played Ulla, a Swedish stage actress hoping to win a part in a new Broadway musical. Originally, the producers of the film planned to have another singer dub in Thurman’s musical numbers, but she was eager to do her own vocals. She is credited for her songs in the credits. The film was considered a bomb at the box office, but many praised Thurman’s efforts, including A. O. Scott of The New York Times who said: “Uma Thurman as a would-be actress is the one bit of genuine radiance in this aggressively and pointlessly shiny, noisy spectacle.”
With a successful film career, Thurman once again became a desired model. Cosmetics company Lancôme selected her as its spokeswoman. It also named several shades of lipstick after her, though they were sold only in Asia. In 2005, Thurman became a spokeswoman for the French fashion house Louis Vuitton. On February 7, 2006, she was also named a knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France for outstanding achievement in the field of art and literature.
In May 2006, Thurman bought the film rights to the Frank Schätzing novel The Swarm, which is in development and due for release in 2015. When the film remake The Women was in pre-production in 2006, Thurman was cast as Crystal Allen, alongside Annette Bening, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Lisa Kudrow and Anne Hathaway, being directed by James L. Brooks, but the director was changed and Thurman was no longer part of the cast. In July 2006, she starred opposite Luke Wilson in My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Thurman portrayed a superhero named “G-Girl” who is dumped by her boyfriend and then takes her revenge upon him. She received $14 million for the role, but the film flopped. Once again she was well-received, but the film was not.
In February 2008, she starred opposite Colin Firth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Accidental Husband, a romantic comedy about a woman who finds herself married while engaged to another man. It seems like archetypal Hollywood contrivance, but according to Thurman, a similar situation happened in New York. Also in 2008, she starred as Elsa in the British film My Zinc Bed, in which she plays a cocaine addict, starring opposite Paddy Considine and Jonathan Pryce. In 2010, her movie Motherhood garnered just £88 on 11 tickets on its opening weekend. In the United States it earned $93,388 in three weeks of release.
In 2011, Thurman was a member of the jury for the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival. In December 2011, James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly reported Thurman had joined the cast of NBC‘s Smash as Rebecca Duvall. Thurman appeared in five episodes of the drama series. Her performance as Duvall received mostly positive reviews and she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.