×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Uma Thurman: ‘It Is Always About Dancing or Fighting for Your Life’

LILLE, France — People were lined up around the block for hours at Lille’s Le Nouveau Siècle theater on Tuesday night, hoping to get into a keynote speech given by Uma Thurman.

She was joined on stage by French journalist Olivier Joyard, where the two discussed highlights from the actress’ blockbuster career as well as her new Netflix Original Series “Chambers,” which bowed later that evening in the festival’s main International Competition.

“When Terry Gilliam cast me in his movie (“The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”), albeit in an ingénue role,” she recalled, “I think that was the pivot that made me realize it was real, that I would dedicate my life to the dramatic arts and work like an animal until I got good at it.”

“Flying to Chichen Izta at 17 and seeing it transformed by his imagination, a true auteur, I realized I wasn’t just cheating out of school, but this was a real art form, and I could be part of it,” she added.

It wasn’t long before Thurman’s turn as Mia Wallace in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” came up, and even she had to admit that some of her scenes will go down as “pure cinema.”

Two such scenes were screened for the audience, her character’s first, where the viewer sees nothing more than her lips and fingers as she navigates a confused Travolta through her stylish L.A. home, and the classic ‘50s diner dance scene, again with Travolta. The two colorful passages were immediately juxtaposed with one of Thurman, buried alive, as The Bride in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1.”

“I think it is always about dancing or fighting for your life,” she said. The words were literal when Joyard used them to describe the scenes, but a bit more philosophical as she repeated them. “I got 12 shades of PTSD watching that. Those were epic experiences.”

Between the two, dancing and fighting, Thurman admitted that dancing was the far more frightening prospect as a young actress. She said that as a child she idolized Doris Day and imagined herself as a song and dance actress, but that her early-age growth spurt and discomfort with her body made that tough.

“I was more afraid of the dancing than almost anything because it was exactly to my total insecurity,” she recalled. “Being big and awkward and still quite young then. But once I started dancing I didn’t wanna stop, so it was a dream come true.”

In the “Kill Bill” films, Thurman’s dialogue is limited, and she admitted missing the “Juicy Tarantino dialogue,” but dispelled the myth that it is always preferable to act with others rather than alone.

“It’s like love. There is nothing better than being with the right person, but you’re better off alone than being with the wrong person,” she mused, evoking a laugh from the audience.

When the conversation inevitably turned to the changing roles of women in Hollywood, Thurman expressed a measured, yet optimistic take.

“I think it’s a long-overdue correction,” she started. “I’m so happy, especially because I have a 20 year old who has given her life to theater, film and TV… I’m glad to see better opportunities for women.”

Beyond just opportunity however, Thurman seemed excited for the quality of work and the environments in which it is being done. She was thrilled that women can now work on a set occupied by many other women, in front and behind the camera..

“Your daughter is in a less lonely world than you were?” Joyard asked.

“I really do hope so,” she replied in her most automatic answer of the evening as a wry smile cracked the corners of her lips.

Eventually the conversation moved on to TV – it was hosted by Series Mania after all – and started with Thurman’s viewing habits.

“When I was younger all we wanted to do was watch TV,” she remembered. “Then I stopped for a while, but in the last maybe 10 years or so I’ve found myself drawn back to it and loved a lot of the work I’ve seen on TV.”

Thurman is now producing and acting in the Netflix Original “Chambers,” which screened later in the evening. The series is a fantastic tale of a teenaged girl who suffers a heart attack, but is saved when a donor heart comes from another young woman who died in an accident. Thurman plays the mother of the deceased girl.

“I think there is a lot of personality in the show that is atypical,” she said, explaining her attraction to the series. “There is a lot of female energy in it, and a lot of heart at the same time as it’s finding its path to entertainment.”

“I feel like a godparent of the show and the characters,” she added. “There are wonderful young people in the show who I think are special talents too.”

“Chambers” can be streamed worldwide on April 26, and if the audience reactions from Lille, admittedly from die-hard Uma fans, are anything to judge by, it should be a hit for Netflix.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun

    Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun Rights

    Viacom has sealed a deal with Sony Pictures Television for the cable rights to “Seinfeld” starting in October 2021. The deal comes on the heels of a blockbuster new deal between Sony and Netflix for the streaming rights to the beloved NBC sitcom that also begins in 2021. “Seinfeld” reruns have been a staple of [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Elite Season 2

    San Sebastian: Spain’s SVOD Players Debate Competition, Brand, Talent

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Executives from HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+ and “Elite” co-creator Darío Madrona took to the stage to field questions on the Global Impact of Spanish Series. Here, briefly, are five takeaways: 1.Spain First “La Casa de Papel” was watched by 34,355,956 Netflix accounts over its first seven days,  after a July 19 [...]

  • Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers

    Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers From Skipping Fox Ad Breaks

    Fox is hoping to knit together the seconds-long divide between a TV program and the commercials that support it. During ad breaks for a few football broadcasts, tomorrow’s run of the Emmys and Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” the network will kick off ad sessions with special show promos that display artistic renderings [...]

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content