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Uma: 40 and still kicking butt

With 40 films in 40 years, stunning Uma Thurman is going great guns. In a freewheeling chat with tabloid!, the Kill Bill actress talks about turning 40, working with Quentin Tarantino, fame and her Indian connection

Uma Thurman
Image Credit: Rex Features
Uma Thurman
Tabloid

Uma Thurman looks thoughtful, only for a brief second, before announcing she doesn't want her daughter to become an actress.

It's a surprising revelation given that Thurman has portrayed two of the most iconic characters in recent film history. As gangster's wife Mia Wallace in the 1994 smash-hit Pulp Fiction, she adorned thousands of teenage bedroom walls in a black wig while posing seductively with a cigarette and a revolver.

Fast forward almost a decade later and, thanks to her close friend Quentin Tarantino, she donned a yellow tracksuit as The Bride/Black Mamba in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 and another symbolic image was born.

But Thurman, in Abu Dhabi last week for the closing of the capital's film festival, said she doesn't want her daughter Maya Ray Thurman-Hawke, from her marriage with actor Ethan Hawke, to follow in her footsteps because being an actress "is a difficult life".

"My daughter, who is 12 years old, is an incredibly artistic and talented girl. She plays the guitar and she writes beautiful songs and poems. She wants to be a writer. She's far too bright to waste her life in cinema or modelling," Thurman told tabloid! at Emirates Palace.

Thurman's acting, however, has certainly gained her daughter's curiosity, especially when she's starring alongside some of Hollywood's up-and-coming young heartthrobs such as Twilight enigma Robert Pattinson and Michael Angarano.

"She asked me: ‘Why are you acting in movies with these young boys' and I replied: ‘Honey, at least I don't do it in real life'! My daughter met Robert [Pattinson] but she was so blasé about it," Thurman said.

"Frankly, I look at some of the teen movies being made and I don't think [youngsters] are getting good roles. With Dangerous Liaisons, I felt so fortunate as a teenager to be working with that level of talent. I do think there is a new crop of really talented actors out there, which is exciting, and I think they're much better at dealing with fame than me; any advice I have wouldn't be welcome.

"The downside of fame is that it makes people not treat you for who you are but who they think you are. The upside is that you get to make movies and that's a great upside. I don't think there is an actual cure for not letting fame get to your head; except failure, that helps a lot!"

Thurman, who turned 40 earlier this year, hints that another instalment of the popular Kill Bill franchise is in the pipeline and slated for release in 2014. She remains tight-lipped when asked about the plot but says it "is a good idea" and that Tarantino has not started officially writing the script.

"I would say Quentin [Tarantino] is the director who knows me best as we have literally spent hundreds and hundreds of hours together," Thurman said.

"Every director is very, very unique. For instance, Woody Allen's style is to tell you exactly the right instruction and [he literally speaks] for one second. Quentin loves to talk, he loves to shoot and he gets excited; he changes his mind but keeps going whereas Allen picks his shot and does it exactly how it's planned in his mind. They are both great directors with totally different styles."

No regrets

"I don't think Quentin ever thought he would become the distinction of a post-modern director. If he was aware it would be disingenuous and it wouldn't have worked. You can't contrive these things; they have to happen organically. His creativity comes from a very unfiltered place in his mind. It's the rawness of the expression, whether it's in the brutality or the freshness of his ideas. He's not trying to be intellectual, there's something really rough and real about him and you don't come by that through school. I have taken great pleasure in analysing his work."

According to Thurman, it has never been about the big roles. As she enters her 40s, she says she is "less tolerant with nonsense" and has no regrets about the choices she has made throughout her career. "I have made at least 40 films in 40 years. I never look at individual movies; it's always been about getting a body of work with a huge amount of diversity," she said.

"I was a tall, gangly girl who took some acting lessons and did some modelling aged 16 years old. I wanted to be like Meryl Streep but I was not treated like I was going to be. I had a lot to overcome to be taken seriously. I had to work very hard and not take those very lucrative offers to play Hollywood sirens. In a way my long career is a gift for not being too greedy, to be too big of a star too fast."

Great benefit

"I preferred to play ensembles with great directors than go and make a lot of money in some Hollywood movie where I had to put on a lot of make-up, move around and be glamorous. Turning 40 has one great benefit in that I am definitely less tolerant with nonsense. I am looking forward to the 40s with some optimism as I found the 30s difficult. I hope the 40s are a culmination of who you are as a person."

Thurman says she is beginning to look for new challenges and that could include a potential role in a Bollywood movie. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but spent time in India during her childhood.

"If I see a script for one that makes sense, it would be an absolute thrill for me. I lived in India for the first year of my life and the 10th year of my life; it feels like home for me," she said.

"My relationship with the East began during my early years in India. I feel completely comfortable in Delhi; it's part of my heart.

"I got the name Uma because my father is a Sanskrit scholar and a Tibetologist. When I was born, he was at Harvard University getting his PhD. So I got Uma, which means ‘may she not suffer'."

"I've met the Dalai Lama several times and he is the most beautiful man I've ever met; he is very peaceful and very loving. When I've seen him lately, he seems more sad with the greater unrest [in the world] and the failure to find a peaceful negotiation [between Tibet and China]. He seems to be growing very sad but that's just my projection."

Being an actress might be a "difficult life" but when Maya Ray sees her mother's encounters with spiritual leaders and teen heartthrobs it might be a difficult task to convince her not to follow a similar path.

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