And A with ] UMA THURMAN

[ Q

FYI: pop culture news

January 08, 2004|By Barry Koltnow | Barry Koltnow,Knight Ridder / Tribune

Uma Thurman needs to get this interview started as soon as possible so she can catch a flight home. Two hundred flights already have been canceled because of an East Coast snowstorm, and she's worried that she won't be able to get back to New York City to see her two children.

But she is willing to answer a few questions before she leaves.

Her new movie, Paycheck, the John Woo-directed thriller, opened a couple of weeks ago. She plays a biologist opposite Ben Affleck, a computer whiz whose memory is erased. With Thurman's help, he must start remembering the events of the past three years before he is killed. Thurman has a much bigger role in the Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill: Vol. 1, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe, and reprises that role in Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

Between puffs on her cigarette and periodic checks with a friend who is keeping close tabs on the airline situation, Thurman, 33, discusses her screen career, and is willing to reveal her feelings about the very public breakup with her husband, actor Ethan Hawke.

Has [your career] been the career you hoped for in the beginning?

It has. There's always more you could have done, but I've worked with the people I respect most in the industry. Could I have had more starring roles? Sure, I would have loved that.

You would?

Sure, but there were drawbacks to that. You get the starring role with the less-great director, or you get the weird part with the great director. When I was faced with that choice, I would choose to be a part of the smaller project with the better director.

Was there an element of fear of success in your decisions?

It was a fear of a certain kind of a success that made me uncomfortable. It was being a movie star. I didn't know how to do that. I wanted to be other people. I didn't like myself enough to be a movie star. I needed a character to hide behind.

Do you still feel that way?

No, I'm much more comfortable with myself.

Do you understand that you have something that drives some men crazy?

It's a thing that people have gotten over 10 times, and each time it comes back differently. It's an unpredictable thing. I feel much better in my own skin now. I was very uncomfortable with myself for a 6-foot blonde who wanted to be in the movies. I was very shy.

But was there really any other choice for someone who looked like you? I can't picture you in accounting.

I never finished school. I started working as a model at 15.

Was Kill Bill a lot of fun?

It was hard work. It was like a lifetime feat. The rest of your life, you look back and realize that it was a defining moment of effort.

It certainly seemed like a defining moment for you.

That was Quentin's goal, to push me to the top of my game, to give me something that would tap every muscle. It was cool.

How are you dealing with suddenly being the kind of star whose personal life is fodder for the tabloids?

The only thing that upsets me is that my husband has gotten such a bum rap. I know that probably hurts him. He's just a person who's trying to figure out how to be happy. He's confused and unhappy, and maybe that's partially my responsibility, too.

But the media sees him as a guy who hurt the woman we love.

I saw him try for seven years to be a happily married man, to be a good husband. He was young. I wanted to have kids. I put a lot on him. Underneath it all, he's a good person, but it's just a marriage that's troubled.

You're being kind.

Well, he's the father of my children. He needs to be in good shape. It's in my best interest for him to be in good shape.

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