Between blockbusters and indies, Razzie nominations and an Oscar nomination, gigantic hits and equally gigantic flops, Uma Thurman has had a checkered career. Her biggest and best roles belong to Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill movies, but she’s managed to elude typecasting by hopscotching around genres, from The Truth About Cats & Dogs to The Avengers to, more recently, The Producers and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.
Thurman is just as elusive when it comes to talking about motherhood, since she makes it a policy not to publicly discuss her kids – Maya, nine, and Levon, six – from her marriage with ex-husband Ethan Hawke. Nevertheless, we sat down with Thurman to talk about parenting under duress, her upcoming foray into family flicks, and her current film, The Life Before Her Eyes. In the movie, she plays a mother haunted by a school shooting from her childhood. Still traumatized, she revisits the days leading up to the violent event. The story wraps up with a twist ending that will leave you scratching your head. – Mina Hochberg
I love movies that leave stuff up to the audience to figure out. Is there a direct answer to what actually transpired?
I think there’s a direct answer if you’re talking about the gimmick of the story, but why [boil it down] to that? It’s a beautiful sort of reverie on being alive. I read the script a couple years ago and I really was very moved by it, but I didn’t wanna make it at that time. Two years later it came back and I was like, “Oh no, that bugger, couldn’t somebody else have gotten that made?” I had been impacted by reading it, I just really loved the tone of the writing, so then I got stuck making it.
This is one of those films where I’m sure people will be telling you what their own interpretation was.
I think this is the kind of movie that people will not forget. One of the wonderful things I can’t help but think is that there’ll be so many teenagers who’ll watch this movie, and the conversations they have as a result – or the things they reveal to their parents, reacting to one piece or another of this movie – could be really helpful.
Your character showed a lot of vulnerability in front of her child, and I wondered if you thought that was a healthy thing.
Well, I think that people probably don’t have much of a choice to be who they are. If you try to lie to your child or anybody else, they’ll sense it and it’ll cause them just as much insecurity and confusion. I think if parents are sobbing and hysterical or screaming and angry, it’s an issue. But just being a vulnerable human being, I don’t know what [can be] expected.
While filming, did the emotions take a toll on you physically?
No, I think there’s something wonderfully cathartic about messing yourself up to find the right moment. It depends on the person, but I usually feel exhausted and relieved.
I read a quote from Vadim [Perelman, the director], saying that since you’re a mother, you were better informed in a way to play this role. Did you feel that way?
I’m sure if I didn’t have children, I could have played this role. I think many women who don’t have children deeply understand what it feels like to love children and to be passionately attached to protecting them. I’m sure that there are many women who haven’t had kids, by choice or by circumstance, that could have played this role beautifully.
I like the moments in the movie where you swear under stress, and your daughter calls you out for swearing. In your own family-
Oh, I try not to talk about my kids and my family life in the public, just because it violates their space.
This movie seems like a 180 from your last film, My Super Ex-Girlfriend. After doing comedy, were you ready to take on something a little more serious?
I love drama. I just can’t find very many dramas. And I love comedy, so, you know. They’re hard to find, intimate movies like this. And they’re really hard to get made.
What’s the next film that you’re working on?
I’m working on this wonderful independent movie called Motherhood. Totally excited about it, I can’t tell you. And then I’m very excited to take a couple months off and start Eloise in Paris. So that’ll make my first official children’s movie. I loved the books myself as a child and have enjoyed them since then. It’s a classic.
So you’ve covered most of the genres. Are there any other ones you’d like to tackle?
Genre-wise, I’ve kind of gotten over my obsession with just trying to do every genre. Maybe because I did them all. I like to just keep doing what I love, exploring new characters, new worlds and lives.