Uma Thurman

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Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman 2014 (cropped).jpg
Thurman at the Nymphomaniac premiere at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival
BornUma Karuna Thurman
(1970-04-29) April 29, 1970 (age 44)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationActress, model
Years active1985–present
Spouse(s)Gary Oldman (m. 1990–92)
Ethan Hawke (m. 1998–2005)
Partner(s)Arpad Busson (2007–14)
ParentsNena von Schlebrügge
Robert Thurman
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Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman 2014 (cropped).jpg
Thurman at the Nymphomaniac premiere at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival
BornUma Karuna Thurman
(1970-04-29) April 29, 1970 (age 44)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationActress, model
Years active1985–present
Spouse(s)Gary Oldman (m. 1990–92)
Ethan Hawke (m. 1998–2005)
Partner(s)Arpad Busson (2007–14)
ParentsNena von Schlebrügge
Robert Thurman

Uma Karuna Thurman (born April 29, 1970)[1] 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 and a BAFTA Award nomination.

Early life[edit]

Thurman was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father, Robert Alexander Farrar Thurman, a New York-born professor, is a Buddhist writer and academic. Her mother, Nena von Schlebrügge, is a model who was born in Mexico City, Mexico, of German, Swedish and Danish descent. During her childhood, Thurman and her siblings spent time in the Himalayan town of Almora, Uttarakhand, India, where the Dalai Lama, to whom Robert Thurman has long been close, once visited their home.[2] She grew up mostly in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she went to Amherst Regional Middle School, then moved to Woodstock, New York. While her father gave his children a Buddhist upbringing, she has one of the Hindu goddess Parvati's alternative names, "Uma", which means "light" in Sanskrit.[3][4] Regarding religion, she now calls herself agnostic.[5] She has three brothers, Ganden (b. 1968), Dechen (b. 1973), and Mipam (b. 1978), and a half-sister named Taya (b. 1960), from her father's previous marriage. Thurman's first cousin, once removed, is Swedish football player Max von Schlebrügge.[6]

Thurman is described as having been an awkward and introverted girl who was teased for her tall frame, angular bone structure, enormous feet and unusual name (sometimes using the name "Uma Karen" instead of her birth name).[citation needed] When Thurman was 10 years old, a friend's mother suggested a nose job.[2] As a child, she suffered bouts of body dysmorphic disorder, which she discussed in an interview with Talk magazine in 2001.[7] She attended Amherst Public Schools. In the eighth grade she discovered her love for acting. Talent scouts noticed her performance as Abigail in a production of The Crucible[8] and offered her the chance to act professionally. Thurman attended Northfield Mount Hermon School, a preparatory school in Massachusetts, before dropping out to pursue a career in acting.[2][9]


1985–89: Early work[edit]

Thurman began her career as a fashion model at age 15,[10] and signed with the agency Click Models. Her early modeling credits included Glamour and the December 1985 and May 1986 covers of British Vogue.[11] 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.[11] 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."[12]

1990–93: Career prominence[edit]

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".[13]

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".[14] She also starred opposite Robert De Niro in the drama Mad Dog and Glory, another box office disappointment. Later that year, Thurman auditioned for Stanley Kubrick while he was casting for the unmade film Wartime Lies. Her agent said she described working with Kubrick as a "really bad experience."[15]

1994–98: Continued success[edit]

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.[16] The Washington Post wrote that Thurman was "serenely unrecognizable in a black wig, [and] is marvelous as a zoned-out gangster's girlfriend."[17] 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."[18]

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.[19] Some critics were not as impressed with Thurman, such as The Los Angeles Times, which wrote that she was "as emotionally uninvolved as ever."[20]

Her next role was Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin, the fourth of the series. Her performance received mixed reviews, and critics compared her to Mae West. The New York Times wrote, "like Mae West, she mixes true femininity with the winking womanliness of a drag queen."[21] 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."[22] 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."[23] 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."

Thurman at Cannes, 2000

1998–2002: Hiatus[edit]

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."[24]

In 2000, she narrated the John Moran opera Book of the Dead (2nd Avenue) at New York's Public Theater.


In 2003 Thurman co-starred in John Woo's Paycheck, which was only moderately successful with critics and at the box office.

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, as Tarantino refused to recast the part.[25] 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.[26] 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[27] 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".[28]

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".[29] Coffy was screened for Thurman by Tarantino prior to beginning production on the film, to help her model the character.[25]

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.[30] 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."[31]

Thurman with Quentin Tarantino attending Pulp Fiction's 20th anniversary tribute at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival

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.[32] 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.[citation needed] In July 2006, she 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. She received a reported $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.[33] 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 garnering just £88 on 11 tickets on its opening weekend.[34] In the United States it earned $93,388 in three weeks of release.[35]

In 2011, Thurman was a member of the jury for the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival.[36] In December 2011, James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly reported Thurman had joined the cast of NBC's Smash as Rebecca Duvall.[37] Thurman appeared in five episodes of the drama series.[37] 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.

Personal life[edit]

Thurman in 2011 at Cannes Film Festival


Thurman met actor Gary Oldman on the set of State of Grace; they married in 1990 and divorced two years later.[38]

On May 1, 1998, she married actor Ethan Hawke, whom she met on the set of their 1997 film Gattaca. Hawke's novel Ash Wednesday is dedicated to "Karuna", Thurman's middle name.[39] She acknowledged that they had married because she was pregnant – seven months at their wedding.[40] The marriage produced two children: daughter Maya Ray, born in 1998, and son Levon, born in 2002. The couple separated in 2003,[41] and the divorce was finalized in August 2005.[42] When asked on The Oprah Winfrey Show whether the break-up involved betrayal, she 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."[42] In a 2004 Rolling Stone cover story, Thurman and director Quentin 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."[15]

Thurman began dating London-based French financier Arpad Busson in 2007, and they announced their engagement in June 2008.[43] In late 2009, they called off their engagement,[44] but reconciled soon after.[45] Thurman and Busson have a daughter together, Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson (nickname Luna), born in 2012.[46] The couple reportedly called off the engagement for the second time in April 2014.[47]

Activism and charity work[edit]

Thurman has been involved in various philanthropic and activist causes. She supports the United States Democratic Party, and has given money to the campaigns of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joseph R. Driscoll.[48] She supports gun control laws, and in 2000, she participated in Marie Claire’s “End Gun Violence Now” campaign.[49] She is a member of the board of Room to Grow, a charitable organization providing aid to families and children born into poverty.[50] She serves on the board of the Tibet House.[51] In 2007, she hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway with actor Kevin Spacey.[52]

In 2011, Thurman was one of a few celebrities attached to USAID and Ad Council's FWD campaign, an awareness initiative tied to that year's East Africa drought. She joined Geena Davis, Chanel Iman and Josh Hartnett in TV and internet ads to "forward the facts" about the crisis.[53]


1987Kiss Daddy GoodnightLaura
1988Johnny Be GoodGeorgia Elkans
1988Adventures of Baron Munchausen, TheThe Adventures of Baron MunchausenVenus/Rose
1988Dangerous LiaisonsCécile de Volanges
1990Where the Heart IsDaphne McBain
1990Henry & JuneJune Miller
1991Robin HoodMaid MarianTelevision film
1992Final AnalysisDiana Baylor
1992Jennifer 8Helena
1993Mad Dog and GloryGlory
1994Even Cowgirls Get the BluesSissy Hankshaw
1994Pulp FictionMia Wallace
1995Month by the Lake, AA Month by the LakeMiss Beaumont
1996Beautiful GirlsAndera
1996Truth About Cats & Dogs, TheThe Truth About Cats & DogsNoelle
1996Duke of GrooveMayaShort film
1997Batman & RobinDr. Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy
1997GattacaIrene Cassini
1998Misérables, LesLes MisérablesFantine
1998Avengers, TheThe AvengersEmma Peel
1999Sweet and LowdownBlanche
2000VatelAnne de Montausier
2000Golden Bowl, TheThe Golden BowlCharlotte Stant
2000Great BooksNarratorTV series; episode: "Les Miserables"
2001TapeAmy Randall
2001Chelsea WallsGrace
2002Hysterical BlindnessDebby MillerTelevision film; also executive producer
2003Kill Bill Volume 1The Bride
2003PaycheckDr. Rachel Porter
2004Kill Bill Volume 2Beatrix Kiddo/The Bride
2005Nausicaä of the Valley of the WindKushana (voice)English version
2005Be CoolEdie Athens
2005PrimeRafi Gardet
2005Producers, TheThe ProducersUlla
2006My Super Ex-GirlfriendJenny Johnson/G-Girl
2007Life Before Her Eyes, TheThe Life Before Her EyesDiana McFee (adult)
2007Naked Brothers Band: The Movie, TheThe Naked Brothers Band: The MovieHerself
2008Accidental Husband, TheThe Accidental HusbandEmma LloydAlso producer
2008My Zinc BedElsa QuinnTelevision film
2008Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, AA Muppets Christmas: Letters to SantaJoyTelevision film
2009MotherhoodEliza Welsh
2010Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning ThiefMedusa
2012Bel AmiMadeleine Forestier
2012SmashRebecca DuvallTV series; 5 episodes
2012Playing for KeepsPatti
2013Movie 43Lois LaneSegment "Super Hero Speed Dating"
2013NymphomaniacMrs. H
2014Jump!WendyShort film
2014American Dad!Gwen Ling (voice)TV series; episode: "Now and Gwen"
2015Untitled John Wells projectIn post-production


1993Cognac Festival du Film PolicierJury "Coup de Chapeau"Jennifer 8Won
1995Razzie AwardsRazzie Award for Worst ActressEven Cowgirls Get the BluesNominated
1995Academy AwardsAcademy Award for Best Supporting ActressPulp FictionNominated
1995BAFTA AwardsBAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading RolePulp FictionNominated
1995Golden Globe AwardsGolden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion PicturePulp FictionNominated
1995MTV Movie AwardsMTV Movie Award for Best PerformancePulp FictionNominated
1995Screen Actors Guild AwardsScreen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting RolePulp FictionNominated
1995Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics AssociationBest Supporting ActressPulp FictionNominated
1995Chicago Film Critics AssociationBest Supporting ActressPulp FictionNominated
1998Kids' Choice AwardsKids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie ActressBatman & RobinNominated
1998Razzie AwardsRazzie Award for Worst Supporting ActressBatman & RobinNominated
1999Razzie AwardsRazzie Award for Worst ActressAvengers, TheThe AvengersNominated
1999Razzie AwardsRazzie Award for Worst Screen Couple (with Ralph Fiennes)Avengers, TheThe AvengersNominated
2001Gotham AwardsBest ActressWon
2002Independent Spirit AwardsIndependent Spirit Award for Best Supporting FemaleTapeNominated
2003Golden Globe AwardsGolden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television FilmHysterical BlindnessWon
2003Screen Actors Guild AwardsScreen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television MovieHysterical BlindnessNominated
2004Saturn AwardsSaturn Award for Best ActressKill Bill Vol. 1Won
2004BAFTA AwardsBAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading RoleKill Bill Vol. 1Nominated
2004Empire AwardsEmpire Award for Best ActressKill Bill Vol. 1Won
2004Golden Globe AwardsGolden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture DramaKill Bill Vol. 1Nominated
2004International Cinephile Society AwardInternational Cinephile Society Award for Best ActressKill Bill Vol. 1Won
2004MTV Movie AwardsMTV Movie Award for Best PerformanceKill Bill Vol. 1Won
2004Online Film Critics Society AwardsOnline Film Critics Society Award for Best ActressKill Bill Vol. 1Nominated
2004Irish Film and Television AwardsAudience Award for Best International ActressKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2004Teen Choice AwardsTeen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actress – Drama/Action AdventureKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2005Saturn AwardsSaturn Award for Best ActressKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2005Broadcast Film Critics Association AwardsCritics Choice Award for Best ActressKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2005Empire AwardsEmpire Award for Best ActressKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2005Golden Globe AwardsGolden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture DramaKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2005MTV Movie AwardsMTV Movie Award for Best PerformanceKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2005Online Film Critics Society AwardsOnline Film Critics Society Award for Best ActressKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2005Satellite AwardsSatellite Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture DramaKill Bill Vol. 2Nominated
2005Italian Online Movie AwardsItalian Online Movie Award for Best Ensemble CastKill Bill Vol. 2Won
2005People's Choice AwardsPeople's Choice Award for Favorite Female Action Movie StarNominated
2007People's Choice AwardsPeople's Choice Award for Favorite Female Action Movie StarNominated
2012Primetime Emmy AwardsPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama SeriesSmashNominated
2014Bodil AwardsBest Supporting ActressNymphomaniacNominated
2014Bambi AwardBest International ActressWon


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