In a lengthy interview with Deadline published Monday, Quentin Tarantino responded to multiple allegations against him stemming from an interview with his long-time creative partner Uma Thurman, iconic star of Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill." Among the allegations leveled at Tarantino is that he pressured Thurman to do her own stunt driving, which resulted in serious injury to the actress. Thurman also revealed that Tarantino knew about her alleged encounter with Harvey Weinstein in which he tried to force himself on her.
In an article for The New York Times published Saturday, Maureen Dowd details Thurman's accusations against Weinstein as well as her account of the harrowing accident on the set of "Kill Bill." Thurman followed up the article by posting the footage of her accident, which Tarantino recently gave to her, and wrote a partial defense of the director (see below). Amid a growing backlash against the director, Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr gave Tarantino a chance to give his side of the whole tangled mess.
Fleming opens by noting that Dowd's article carries "a connective subtext of male anger" against Thurman, which appeared to apply to not only Weinstein, but Tarantino. "Thurman said she didn’t want to drive the car in that scene after someone told her it wasn’t up to snuff, and then we see that crash footage which is very upsetting," said Fleming. "What was your initial reaction when you read that piece?"
Tarantino said he "knew that the piece was happening" and Thurman had in fact contacted him for help in getting the story straight. The final result, the director suggested, came off far more critical of him than Thurman had intended, which her follow-up post on Instagram appears to confirm. Tarantino stressed that he had retrieved the 15-year-old footage for her and was "very happy to get it to Uma." The director repeatedly insisted that he had nothing to do with the alleged "cover-up" — that was all on Weinstein:
TARANTINO: The thing is, Uma had people she wanted to indict, for that cover-up. Part of my job on the piece was to do an interview with Maureen Dowd, and back up Uma’s claims. And we never hooked up. Me and Dowd never hooked up. I read the article and basically it seemed like all the other guys lawyered up, so they weren’t even allowed to be named. And, through mostly Maureen Dowd’s prose, I ended up taking the hit and taking the heat. ... I figured that eventually it would be used whenever she had her big piece. Also, there was an element of closure. She had been denied it, from Harvey Weinstein, being able to even see the footage. I wanted to deliver it to her, so she could look at it.
Prompted by Fleming, Tarantino detailed what happened with Thurman's accident, something he described as one of his most regrettable decisions of his life. The shot was the last of the day and involved Thurman driving down what he perceived as a "straight" road at 30-45 MPH. He insists that he was told nothing about any problems with the vehicle by the transpo team.
When he learned that she was "trepidatious" about driving the car, Tarantino went out and drove the road himself and came back "all happy telling her she could totally do it, it was a straight line, you will have no problem."
TARANTINO: Uma’s response was…”Okay.” Because she believed me. Because she trusted me. I told her it would be okay. I told her the road was a straight line. I told her it would be safe. And it wasn’t. I was wrong. I didn’t force her into the car. She got into it because she trusted me. And she believed me.
Last second, the director was asked by the AD if, for lighting purposes, Thurman could drive the road in the opposite direction, something he had not test-driven. "I didn’t see how it would affect anything. A straight road is a straight road," he said.
But the change in direction ended up being far more consequential than the director thought it would be. Here's how Tarantino describes the moment:
TARANTINO: She showed up, in a good mood. We did the shot. And she crashed. At first, no one really knew what happened. After the crash, when Uma went to the hospital, I was feeling in total anguish at what had happened. I walked the road, going the opposite direction. And in walking the road, going in the other direction…I don’t know how a straight road turns into an un-straight road, but it wasn’t as straight. It wasn’t the straight shot that it had been, going the other way. There is a little mini S-curve that almost seemed like it opened up to a mini fork in the road. That is just not the way it looked, going in the opposite direction. Maybe the opposite direction there was kind of an optical illusion. This other way, there’s a little bend and if you look at the footage, that’s where she loses control. She’s flying along, and she thinks it’s a straight road and as far as she can see, it is a straight road out her windshield. And then it takes this little S-curve, and she’s not prepared for it. And it throw the car out of control.
Tarantino expressed deep regret for the incident and said it "affected me and Uma for the next two to three years," but they were able to work through it a few years ago.
Asked about his role in helping Thurman come forward with her accusations, Tarantino described himself as "her accomplice" and noted that she believes Weinstein may have tried to cover up the whole incident.
"She feels it’s very possible the car was destroyed, at Harvey Weinstein’s insistence, and at Bennett Walsh and Lawrence Bender’s execution," he said. "I didn’t know about any of that, after the fact. Me and Uma weren’t talking about stuff like that, the aftermath of her being in the hospital, coming out and wrapping up the movie. Frankly, I didn’t think about the car, after the crash, one iota."
The director also addressed his confrontation with Weinstein over his alleged assault of Thurman, which he noted was actually referenced in Dowd's article, but "de-emphasized." Here's the key exchange (formatting adjusted):
TARANTINO: Mira had told me what Harvey had done to her. I couldn’t believe it. We were now boyfriend and girlfriend and he was staying away. And I chalked it up to the idea that Harvey had a big crush on her. That there was this big Svengali moment going on, where she was at the Toronto Film Festival, the toast of the town because of Mighty Aphrodite, everyone is buzzing. And he’s the Flo Ziegfeld, presenting this new star. And that he had an over-inflated sense of his own sexuality. She told me those stories. I was horrified for her and frankly embarrassed for him, that he had to make desperate moves like that. Me and Mira became boyfriend and girlfriend and he backed off, all the way. I figured he was having a big crush on Mira. Then, while we were getting ready to do Kill Bill, Uma tells me that he had done the same thing to her. That was when I realized there was a pattern, in Harvey’s luring and pushing attacks. So I made Harvey apologize to Uma. In the Maureen Dowd article it says, that is when Quentin confronted Harvey? Well, my confrontation was saying, you have to go to Uma. This happened. You have to apologize to her and she has to accept your apology, if we’re going to do Kill Bill together.
DEADLINE: You made that apology a condition of making that movie and continuing your relationship with his studio? Did you discuss it in calm tones, or were you in his face?
TARANTINO: They were insistent tones. They became more insistent because, naturally, Harvey tried to de-emphasize things and say things weren’t exactly they way they were…”well, she was doing this, and she’s saying that..” But that didn’t work, because I knew she wasn’t lying. There wasn’t another side to this story. There was this story. Harvey was really good at saying, well, the reality is there was this, that or the other thing…and frankly, if you don’t know the people who are being talked about, you could give somebody the benefit of the doubt. I this case, I wasn’t giving Harvey the benefit of the doubt. I knew he was lying, that everything Uma was saying, was the truth. 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.
The director also defended his role in some "sadistic" shots for "Kill Bill" with Thurman which Dowd referenced, including spitting in her face and strangling her with a chain. He chose to do it, he said, because he simply did not trust anyone else to do it and wanted to limit the number of takes.
Below is Thurman's partial defense of Tarantino and accusation of a "cover-up":