Uma Thurman Biography
Uma Karuna Thurman Hawke better known as Uma Thurman, is an American actress. She performs predominantly in leading roles in a variety of films, ranging from romantic comedies and dramas to science fiction and action thrillers. She is best known for her work under the direction of Quentin Tarantino. Her most popular films include Dangerous Liaisons (1988), Pulp Fiction (1994), Gattaca (1997) and Kill Bill (2003–04).
She is the face of Virgin Media in the United Kingdom and, along with Scarlett Johansson, has modeled handbags and other items for French brand Louis Vuitton.
Early life and family
Thurman's mother, Nena Birgitte Caroline von Schlebrügge was a fashion model born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1941, to German Friedrich Karl Johannes von Schlebrügge, and Birgit Holmquist, from Trelleborg, Sweden. In 1930, Birgit Holmquist, Thurman's grandmother, modeled for a nude statue that stands overlooking the harbor of Smygehuk. Thurman's father, Robert Alexander Farrar Thurman, was born in New York City to Elizabeth Dean Farrar, a stage actress, and Beverly Reid Thurman, Jr., an Associated Press editor and U.N. translator. Thurman's mother was introduced to LSD guru Timothy Leary by Salvador Dalí; and married Leary in 1964; then wed Thurman's father in 1967.
Thurman's father, Robert, a scholar and professor at Columbia University of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies, was the first westerner to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He gave his children a Buddhist upbringing: Uma is named after an Dbuma Chenpo (in Tibetan, "db" is silent; Mahamadhyamaka in Sanskrit, meaning "Great Middle Way") and pronounced /umə/ in General American, not /jumə/. She has three brothers, Ganden (b. 1971), Dechen (b. 1973) and Mipam (b. 1978), and a half-sister named Taya (b. 1960) from her father's previous marriage. She and her siblings spent time in Almora, India as children, and the Dalai Lama sometimes visited their home.
Thurman grew up mostly in Amherst, Massachusetts and Woodstock, New York. She is described as having been an awkward and introverted girl who was teased for her tall frame, angular bone structure, unusual name (sometimes using the name “Uma Karen” instead of her birth name) and size 11 feet (Thurman's large feet would later be filmed by Quentin Tarantino in the films he made with her). When she was 10 years old, a friend's mother suggested a nose job.
As a child, she suffered bouts of body dysmorphic disorder, which she discussed in an interview with Talk magazine in 2001.
Thurman attended Northfield Mount Hermon, a college preparatory boarding school in Northfield, Massachusetts, where she was earned average grades, but excelled in acting. Talent scouts noticed her performance as Abigail in a production of The Crucible, and offered her the chance to act professionally. Thurman moved to New York City to pursue acting and to attend the Professional Children's School, but she dropped out before graduating.
Early works, 1987–1989
Thurman began her career as a fashion model at age 15. She signed with the agency Click Models. Her modeling credits included Glamour Magazine. In 1989, she appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine's annual Hot issue.
Thurman made her movie debut in 1988, appearing in four films that year. Her first two were the high school comedy Johnny Be Good and the teen thriller Kiss Daddy Goodnight.. Thurman appeared in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, playing the goddess Venus alongside Oliver Reed’s Vulcan. During her entrance Thurman briefly appears nude in a homage to Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus. With a budget of $46 million and box office receipts of only $8 million, the film was a commercial failure.
Her breakthrough came in her role as Cecile de Volanges in Dangerous Liaisons. Actresses Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer earned Oscar nominations for their performances, and Thurman drew attention for her topless scene in the film. At the time, she was insecure about her appearance, and fled to London for almost a year, during which she wore only loose, baggy clothing.
Soon after the release of Dangerous Liaisons, the media were eager to profile Thurman. She was praised by her co-star John Malkovich, who 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.”
Major works, 1990–1993
In 1990, Thurman co-starred with Fred Ward in the sexually provocative drama Henry & June, the first film to receive an NC-17 rating. Because of the rating, it never played in a wide release but critics embraced her; 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”.
Thurman’s first starring role in a major production was Gus Van Sant's 1993 adaptation of Tom Robbins' 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”. Thurman also starred opposite Robert De Niro in the drama Mad Dog and Glory, another box office disappointment. Later that year, she auditioned for Stanley Kubrick while he was casting a movie to be called Wartime Lies, which was never produced. She described working with him as a “really bad experience”.
After Mad Dog and Glory, Thurman auditioned for Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, which would become one of the most successful cult hits of all time, grossing over $107 million on a budget of only $8 million USD. The Washington Post wrote that Thurman was “serenely unrecognizable in a black wig, is marvelous as a zoned-out gangster’s girlfriend”. Noted SA J. Sidebottom was behind Uma's hairstyle and was at first very much opposed to the use of a wig to conjure the iconic look he sought. After a brief departure from the film's crew, Sidebottom was ultimately convinced by Tarantino that the faux-nature of the wig was consistent with the motif of the film. Thurman was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar the following year. Entertainment Weekly claimed that, “of the five women nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category this year, only can claim that her performance gave the audience fits”. Thurman also became one of Tarantino’s favorite actresses to cast, stating in a 2003 issue of Time: “Thurman’s up there with Garbo and Dietrich in goddess territory”.
She starred opposite Janeane Garofalo in the moderately successful 1996 romantic comedy The Truth About Cats & Dogs as a ditzy blonde supermodel. In 1998, she starred opposite her future husband Ethan Hawke in the dystopian 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 stated she was “as emotionally uninvolved as ever”.Her next role was Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin, the fourth film of the popular franchise. Batman & Robin became one of the largest critical flops in history, though it did garner nearly $100 million over it's production budget in box office reciepts making it a finacial success . Thurman’s performance in the campy film received mixed reviews, and critics compared her with actress Mae West. The New York Times wrote, “like Mae West, she mixes true femininity with the winking womanliness of a drag queen”. A similar 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”. The next year brought The Avengers, another major financial and critical flop. CNN described Thurman 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.
After the birth of her first baby in 1998, Thurman took a rest from major roles to concentrate on motherhood. Her next roles were in low-budget and television films, including Tape, Vatel, and Hysterical Blindness. In 2000 she narrated a theatrical work by composer John Moran entitled Book of the Dead (2nd Avenue) at The Public Theater. She won a Golden Globe award for Hysterical Blindness, a film for which she also served as executive producer. In the film she played a New Jersey woman in the 1980s searching for romance. The San Francisco Chronicle review wrote, “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”.
After a five-year hiatus, Thurman returned in 2003 in John Woo's film Paycheck, followed by Tarantino's, Kill Bill. Paycheck was only moderately successful with critics and at the box office, but Kill Bill relaunched her career.
In Kill Bill she played assassin Beatrix Kiddo, out for revenge against her former lover. Tarantino wrote the part specifically for her. He also cited Thurman as his muse while writing the film, and also 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, as 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. The two-part action epic became an instant cult classic and scored highly with critics. The film series earned Thurman Golden Globe nominations for both entries, and three MTV Movie Awards for Best Female Performance and twice for Best Fight. Rolling Stone likened Thurman 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 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 one of Hollywood's highest paid actresses, 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 their spokeswoman, and named several shades of lipstick after her, though they were sold only in Asia). In 2005, she became a spokeswoman for the French fashion house Louis Vuitton.
On February 7, 2006, Thurman was 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 2008. 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 Thurman starred opposite Luke Wilson in My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Thurman portrayed a super-heroine named "G-Girl" who is dumped by her boyfriend and then takes her revenge upon him. Thurman received a reported $14 million for the role, but the film flopped. Once again Thurman was well-received, yet 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.
Thurman starred as "Elsa" in the British telefilm My Zinc Bed, in which she plays a cocaine addict, starring opposite Paddy Considine and Jonathan Pryce.
She finished filming Motherhood, an indie comedy, about the challenging of a mother preparing her son's birthday, Uma dyed her hair of brunette for this role.
She will star in the film version of the 1950s books Eloise In Paris, playing the role of Nanny, this film is to be directed by Charles Shyer.
Thurman also agreed to star in the new Muppets movie, playing a ticket clerk.
Bollywood director Vishal Bharadwaj has announced his interest in Thurman to star in his latest film venture opposite Hrithik Roshan, in a biographical film of the life of actress Nadira. The film is still in its pre-production stage. Uma thurman has shown interest in playing either Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo.
Activism and charity work
Thurman supports the United States Democratic Party, and has given money to the campaigns of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joseph Driscoll. She supports gun control laws, and in 2000, she participated in Marie Claire’s “End Gun Violence Now” campaign. She also participated in Planned Parenthood’s “March for Women’s Lives” to support the legality of abortion. Thurman is a member of the board of the New York- and Boston-based organization Room to Grow, a charitable organization providing aid to families and children born into poverty. She serves on the board of the Tibet House.
In 2007, Thurman hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway with actor Kevin Spacey.
Thurman owns a townhouse in New York's Greenwich Village, but lives in Hyde Park, New York. Though raised as a Buddhist, she considers herself agnostic.
Thurman is engaged to marry London based Franco-Swiss financier Arpad Busson, supermodel Elle Macpherson's former partner, whom she began dating in late 2007. Prior to becoming engaged to Arpad, Uma dated Andre Balazs from 2004 -2006. People magazine confirmed on June 27, 2008 that Thurman and Busson are engaged.
While living in London after shooting Dangerous Liaisons, she began dating director Phil Joanou. On the set of State Of Grace, she met English actor Gary Oldman. They were married in 1990, but the marriage ended in 1992.
On May 1, 1998, she married actor Ethan Hawke, whom she met on the set of Gattaca; his novel Ash Wednesday is dedicated to "Karuna", Thurman's middle name. Thurman acknowledged that they had married because she was pregnant; at their wedding she was seven months along. The marriage produced two children, daughter Maya Ray Thurman-Hawke (b. July 8, 1998) and son Levon Roan Thurman-Hawke (b. January 15, 2002).
In 2003, Thurman and Hawke separated, and in 2004 they filed for divorce. When asked on The Oprah Winfrey Show if there was “betrayal of some kind” during the marriage, Thurman said, “There was some stuff like that at the end. We were having a difficult time, and you know how the axe comes down and how people behave and how people express their unhappiness”. Director Quentin Tarantino has described Thurman as his "muse." However, in a 2004 Rolling Stone cover story, Thurman and Tarantino denied having had a romantic relationship, despite Tarantino once having told a reporter, “I’m not saying that we haven’t, and I’m not saying that we have”.