Writer-director Quentin Tarantino weighed in this week on the car crash that severely injured actress Uma Thurman during the production of his 2003 film Kill Bill, calling the events surrounding the incident “one of the biggest regrets of my life.”
In a feature article in the New York Times this week, Thurman told columnist Maureen Dowd that she had initially refused to participate in the stunt driving scene out of fear for her safety. Thurman said she’d been told before filming that the road was straight and was safe to drive.
But the actress, now 47, described the car used in the scene as a “deathbox” and had accused Tarantino of “trying to kill [her].”
The New York Times article also included a video of the crash, which Thurman said had been kept from her for more than a decade.
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.
But in a wide-ranging interview with Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. published Tuesday, Tarantino pushed back against claims that he forced Thurman to do the stunt and expressed “total anguish” at the aftermath of the crash. Thurman told Dowd she’d severely injured her neck and knees and suffered a concussion due to the crash.
“None of us ever considered it a stunt. It was just driving. None of us looked at it as a stunt,” the 54-year-old Oscar-winner told Deadline.
“I’m sure when it was brought up to me, that I rolled my eyes and was irritated. But I’m sure I wasn’t in a rage and I wasn’t livid,” he added. “I didn’t go barging into Uma’s trailer, screaming at her to get into the car. I can imagine maybe rolling my eyes and thinking, we spent all this money taking this stick shift Karmann Ghia and changing the transmission, just for this shot.”
The director said he drove down the road himself to make sure the shot would be safe, and to confirm it was indeed a simple, straight road. Tarantino reportedly wanted Thurman to drive between 35 to 40 mph so that the wind would blow back her hair. But when it came time to film the shot, Tarantino said he was informed by his production crew that the lighting would work better if Thurman drove down the road in the opposite direction. But Tarantino hadn’t tested the drive the other way.
“I thought, a straight road is a straight road and I didn’t think I needed to run the road again to make sure there wasn’t any difference, going in the opposite direction,” he explained. “Again, that is one of the biggest regrets of my life. As a director, you learn things and sometimes you learn them through horrendous mistakes.”
Tarantino also said he was “happy” to have been able to provide Thurman the footage of the crash after locating it in a storage warehouse 15 years later.
In the interview, the director also weighed in Thurman’s allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, who worked with the pair on both the Kill Bill films as well as Tarantino’s 1994 smash hit Pulp Fiction. Tarantino had previously said in an interview last year that he had “known enough to do more than I did.”
“I knew [Weinstein] was lying, that everything Uma was saying, was the truth,” he said. “When he tried to wriggle out of it, and how things actually happened, I never bought his story. I said, I don’t believe you. I believe her. And if you want to do Kill Bill, you need to make this right.”
Read the rest of Tarantino’s interview with Deadline here.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum