Thurman explained to her interviewer that her early work on Pulp Fiction with Tarantino and Weinstein meant a lot to her, as she felt like a collaborator, not just a performer. She helped Tarantino conceive the character of Beatrix Kiddo, the “bloody bride” in the Kill Bill series. Tarantino has acknowledged their partnership frequently, identifying Thurman has his muse.
However, after nine grueling months filming Kill Bill, Thurman says that Tarantino knowingly put her in danger, and possibly even aided in a plot to have her killed — knowingly or unknowingly.
Kill Bill was the first movie Thurman made with Tarantino and Weinstein after Weinstein’s alleged attempt to rape her. She described how the incident happened in a London hotel room, how Weinstein and his staff tried to fool her into believing she’d imagined it, then coerce her into keeping quiet about it.
Thurman also explained how furious Tarantino was when he learned about the attack, and how the two of them had confronted Weinstein at the Cannes Film Felstival in 2001. Weinstein apologized — a rarity for the disgraced producer — and Thurman hoped that it was all behind them.
She wanted to make the remaining movies she had slated at Mirimax and get out, but she thinks arrangements were made to ensure that Kill Bill would be her last movie.
It was final week of the shoot, according to Thurman, and they’d already been at work for nine months. In the climactic scene where Beatrix drives the blue convertible to her final confrontation with Bill, Thurman says she was asked to do the stunt driving herself.
However, Thurman says that a teamster had led her to believe that the car might not be in optimal working order. She says that it had been hastily reconfigured from a stick-shift to an automatic, and she didn’t feel comfortable operating it on the winding, sandy roads.
“Quentin came in my trailer,” she recalls, “and didn’t like to hear no, like any director. He was furious because I’d cost them a lot of time. But I was scared. He said: ‘I promise you the car is fine. It’s a straight piece of road.’” She says that he talked her into doing the stunt, adding “‘Hit 40 miles per hour or your hair won’t blow the right way and I’ll make you do it again.’ But that was a deathbox I was in. The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road.”
Thurman spent 15 years trying to acquire the footage of the botched stunt, which The New York Times has now published. It’s filmed on a camera mounted on the back of the car. It shows Thurman fighting to keep control of the vehicle around sandy turns until she finally plows into a palm tree and goes limp.
In the video, Thurman lies helpless until crew members arrive to help pull her out of the ruined vehicle. Tarantino is there, shakily opening a bottle of water for her and patting her shoulder reassuringly. Thurman manages a grimace as she stands on her own legs for just a moment, but ultimately a crew member carries her out of frame.
“The steering wheel was at my belly and my legs were jammed under me,” she told her interviewer. “I felt this searing pain and though, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to walk again.’ When I came back from the hospital in a neck brace and with knees damaged and a large massive egg on my head and a concussion, I wanted to see the car and I was very upset.
"Quentin and I had an enormous fight, and I accused him of trying to kill me. And he was very angry at that, I guess understandably, because he didn’t feel like he had tried to kill me.”
Ethan Hawke, then Thurman’s husband, says that he admonished Tarantino for allowing the accident to happen, and the director was at least somewhat ashamed of himself.
Still, Thurman’s demands to see the footage were brushed off. Finally, lawyers from Mirimax offered to show her the footage if she would sign a contract “releasing them of any consequences of my future pain and suffering.” She didn’t sign.
Thurman says that her arteur-muse relationship with Tarantino was broken. They fought throughout the promotion of the movie, with Thurman repeatedly demanding a copy of the footage.
After the Me Too movement gained steam, Thurman says she renewed her attempts to get the footage.
“Quentin finally atoned by giving it to me after 15 years, right?” she said. “Not that it matters now, with my permanently damaged neck and my screwed-up knees.”
Tarantino and Thurman haven’t worked together since, though Tarantino went on to work with Thurman’s stunt double, Zoe Bell, in several projects. Tarantino has said since 2015 that he’d like to make a Kill Bill Vol. 3, though it’s unclear if Thurman would be involved.