Uma Thurman Biography

Uma Thurman Biography on Monsters and Critics


"Uma Karuna Thurman" (born April 29 1970) is an Academy Award-nominated American actress. She performs predominantly in leading roles in a variety of films, ranging from romantic comedies and dramas to science fiction and action thrillers. She is best known for her films directed by Quentin Tarantino. Her most popular films include "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988), "Pulp Fiction" (1994), "Gattaca" (1997) and the two "Kill Bill" movies (2003-04).

She is currently the 'face' of Virgin Media in the United Kingdom and along with Scarlett Johansson, models handbags and other fashion items for clothes designer Louis Vuitton.


Family and early life

Thurman was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Nena Birgitte Caroline von Schlebrügge (b. 1941), was a fashion model who was born in Mexico City, Mexico, to German nobleman Friedrich Karl Johannes von Schlebrügge and Birgit Holmquist, who was from Trelleborg, Sweden. Birgit Holmquist, Thurman's grandmother, had stood model in 1930 for the statue of a nude woman that still stands overlooking the harbor of Trelleborg. Thurman's father, Robert Alexander Farrar Thurman, was born in New York City to Elizabeth Dean Farrar, a stage actress, and Beverly Reid Thurman, Jr., an Associated Press editor and U.N. translator. Thurman's mother was briefly married in 1964 to LSD guru Timothy Leary after the two were introduced by Salvador Dalí; she married Thurman's father in 1967.

Thurman's father, who would later become a recognized scholar and professor at Columbia University of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies, was the first westerner to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He gave his children a Buddhist upbringing: Uma is named after an Uma Chenpo (in Tibetan; Mahamadhyamaka in Sanskrit, meaning 'Great Middle Way?). She has three brothers, Ganden (b. 1971), Dechen (b. 1973) and Mipam (b. 1978), and a half-sister named Taya (b. 1960) from her father's previous marriage. She and her siblings spent extended amounts of time in Almora, India as children, and the Dalai Lama would sometimes visit their home.

Since Professor Thurman moved between various universities, the family often relocated when Uma was a child. She grew up mostly in Amherst, Massachusetts and Woodstock, New York. Thurman is described as having been an awkward and introverted young girl who was frequently teased as a child for her tall frame, unique angular bone structure, unusual name (sometimes

using the name 'Uma Karen? instead of her birth-name), and size 11 feet (Thurman's famously large feet would later be lovingly filmed by Quentin Tarantino in the films he made with her). Even friends made a point of highlighting her unusual features - when she was ten years old, a friend's mother suggested she receive a nose job.

Although these unique physical attributes would later make her beauty iconic, these childhood attentions may have led to her bouts with body dysmorphic disorder, a syndrome involving a disturbed body image, which she discussed in an interview with "Talk" magazine in 2001.

Thurman attended Northfield Mount Hermon, a college preparatory boarding school in Northfield, Massachusetts, where she received her first acting experiences in school plays. She was unathletic and earned average grades in school, but excelled in acting from a young age. It was after performing in a production of "The Crucible" that she was noticed by talent scouts, and was persuaded to act professionally. Thurman left her high school to pursue an acting career in New York City and to attend the Professional Children's School where she dropped out before graduating.


Early works, 1987-1989

Thurman began her career as a fashion model at the age of 16, when she was discovered at a Stockholm playground. She signed with the agency Elite Model Management. Uma followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, who were also fashion models. Standing six feet tall with a naturally lanky frame, Thurman was an immediate success, and her modeling credits included Glamour Magazine and Vogue. In 1989, she appeared on the cover of "Rolling Stone" magazine, for the annual 'Hot issue?.

Thurman made her movie debut in 1988, appearing in a total of four films that year. Her first two were the high school comedy "Johnny Be Good" and the teen thriller "Kiss Daddy Goodnight" at the age of seventeen, but both films were only marginally successful and failed to gain her notice. Thurman's next role was in the film "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen", playing the goddess Venus alongside Oliver Reed's Vulcan. During her entrance Thurman briefly appears nude in a homage to Botticelli's painting "The Birth of Venus". With a budget of $46 million USD and box office receipts of only $8 million, the film was a commercial failure, although is now considered to be an artistic triumph and has gained an enthusiastic cult following.

Her fourth role, as Cecile de Volanges in "Dangerous Liaisons", was her breakthrough role, which brought Thurman to the attention of the film industry and the general public. Actresses Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer earned Oscar nominations for their performances, and Thurman drew an inordinate amount of attention for a topless scene in which she appeared. Garnering the lion's share of attention proved too much for the shy, insecure 19-year-old who thought she was funny-looking, and she fled to London for almost a year, during which she wore only loose, baggy clothing.

Soon after the release of "Dangerous Liaisons", magazines and other media outlets were eager to profile the actress. Thurman received praise for her professionalism from her co-star John Malkovich, who 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?.

Major works, 1990-1993

In 1990, the 19-year-old Thurman co-starred with Fred Ward in the sexually provocative drama film "Henry & June", the first film to receive an NC-17 rating. Because of the film's restrictive rating, it never played in a wide release but would attract more attention to Thurman's career. Critics embraced her in her first leading role, "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?.

Thurman's first starring role in a major production was 1993's "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (directed by Gus Van Sant), although the film was a misstep for her being a critical and financial disappointment (Thurman was even 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?. Thurman also starred opposite Robert De Niro in the crime drama "Mad Dog and Glory", another box office disappointment. Later that year, she auditioned for Stanley Kubrick while he was casting a movie to be called "Wartime Lies", which was never produced. She described working with him as a 'really bad experience?.


After "Mad Dog and Glory", Thurman auditioned for Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction". Tarantino originally had no intention of casting her, after seeing her performance in "Glory", but ultimately decided to cast her after having dinner with her: 'And Uma and I were doing that scene. We were living the movie, all right? I left thinking... God, she could be Mia!? "Pulp Fiction" would become one of the most successful cult hits of all time when it grossed over $107 million on a budget of only $8 million USD. The "Washington Post" wrote that Thurman was 'serenely unrecognizable in a black wig, and is marvelous as a zoned-out gangster's girlfriend?. Thurman was also nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar the following year. "Entertainment Weekly" claimed that, 'of the five women nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category this year, only Thurman can claim that her performance gave the audience fits?. Thurman also became one of Tarantino's favorite actors to cast, whom he described in a 2003 issue of "Time": 'Thurman's up there with Garbo and Dietrich in goddess territory?.

Films of varying quality and success followed "Pulp Fiction". She starred opposite Janeane Garofalo in the moderately successful 1996 romantic comedy "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" as a ditzy blonde supermodel. In 1998, she starred opposite her future husband Ethan Hawke in the dystopian science fiction film "Gattaca". Although "Gattaca" was not a major success at the box office, it drew many positive reviews and became successful on the home video market. Some critics were not as impressed with Thurman, such as the "Los Angeles Times" which stated she was 'as emotionally uninvolved as ever?.

The two biggest film flops of Thurman's career came in 1997 and 1998. She played Poison Ivy in "Batman & Robin", the fourth film of the popular franchise. "Batman & Robin" became one of the largest critical flops in history. Thurman's performance in the campy film received mainly mixed reviews, and critics made comparisons between her and actress Mae West. "The New York Times" wrote, 'like Mae West, she mixes true femininity with the winking womanliness of a drag queen?. 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?. The next year brought "The Avengers", another major financial and critical flop. CNN described Thurman as, 'so distanced you feel like you're watching her through the wrong end of a telescope?. She received Razzie Award nominations for both films. She closed out 1998 with the powerful tale "Les Misérables", a film version of Victor Hugo's classic novel of the same name, directed by Bille August, in which she played the role of Fantine.

Hiatus, 1998-2002

After the birth of her first baby in 1998, Thurman took a rest from major roles to concentrate on motherhood. Her next roles were in low-budget and television films, including "Tape", "Vatel", and "Hysterical Blindness". In 2000 she narrated a theatrical work by composer John Moran titled, 'Book of the Dead (2nd Avenue)' at The Public Theater. She won a Golden Globe award for "Hysterical Blindness", a film for which she also served as executive producer. In the film she played an excitable New Jersey woman in the 1980s searching for romance. The "San Francisco Chronicle" review wrote, '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?.


After a five-year hiatus from any major film roles, Thurman returned in 2003 in John Woo's film "Paycheck", followed by her next collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, "Kill Bill". "Paycheck" was only moderately successful with critics and at the box office, but "Kill Bill" relaunched her career.

In "Kill Bill" she played one of the world's top assassins, out on a revenge quest against her former lover. She was offered the role on her 30th birthday from Tarantino, who wrote the part specifically for her. He also cited Thurman as his muse while writing the film, and also gave her a formal joint credit for the character of Beatrix Kiddo, 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. The film reportedly took nine months to shoot, and was filmed on location in five different countries. The role was also her most demanding to date, and she spent three months training in martial arts, swordsmanship, and Japanese. The two-part action epic became an instant cult classic and scored highly with critics. The film series earned Thurman Golden Globe nominations for both entries, and three MTV Movie Awards for Best Female Performance and twice for Best Fight. "Rolling Stone" likened Thurman to 'an avenging angel out of a 1940s Hollywood melodrama?. In the same article, she was quoted as saying the training was so difficult, and the harm done to her character before she recovers and sets out on her vengeance quest was so vicious, 'It should have been called "Kill Uma!"

The main 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?. "Coffy" was screened for Thurman by Tarantino prior to beginning production on the film, to help her model the character.

By 2005, Thurman had become one of Hollywood's highest paid actresses, commanding a salary of $12.5 million USD 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. Later in 2005 she starred in the film "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, however it has not been confirmed if she performs all of the vocals in the film. She is credited for her songs in the credits. The film was widely 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.'

With a successful film career, Thurman once again became a desired model. Cosmetics company Lancôme selected her as their spokeswoman, and named several shades of lipstick after her (these were only sold in Asia). In 2005, she became a spokeswoman for the French fashion house Louis Vuitton.

On February 7,2006, Thurman was 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 now in development and due for release in 2008.

In July 2006 Thurman starred opposite of Luke Wilson in "My Super Ex-Girlfriend". Thurman starred as a super-heroine named 'G-Girl' who is dumped by her boyfriend and then takes her revenge upon him. Thurman received a reported 14 million dollars for the role, but the film flopped. Once again Thurman was well-received, yet the film itself was not.

Bollywood director Vishal Bharadwaj has announced his interest in Thurman to star in his latest film venture opposite Hrithik Roshan, in a biographical film of the life of actress Nadira. The film is still in its pre-production stage.

Personal life

Relationships and family

While living in London to avoid the "Dangerous Liaisons" hype, she began dating director Phil Joanou, who had just produced U2's movie "Rattle and Hum" in 1988. While visiting the set of his latest project, "State Of Grace", she met English actor Gary Oldman. The two hit it off immediately and were married in 1990, but the marriage only lasted two years, reportedly caused by the little time they spent together due to their busy acting schedules.

On May 1, 1998, she married actor Ethan Hawke, after the two met at the set of "Gattaca"; he subsequently dedicated his novel ('To Karuna'), to her. Prior to their engagement, Hawke had proposed twice before she accepted. Thurman herself acknowledged that they married early on because she had become pregnant; at the time of their wedding she was seven months along. The couple have two children, daughter Maya Ray (b. July 8, 1998) and son Levon Roan (b. January 15, 2002).

In 2003, Thurman and Hawke separated, and in 2004 they filed for divorce. Many news outlets reported that the cause of the divorce was because Hawke had cheated on Thurman with Canadian model Jen Perzow. Hawke denied that the cause of the divorce was infidelity, saying that it was caused by their busy work schedules. In a 2004 "Rolling Stone" cover story, Thurman and Quentin Tarantino denied ever having 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?.

When asked on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" if there was 'betrayal of some kind? during the marriage, Thurman 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?.

She currently resides in Hyde Park, New York. In 2004, she began dating New York hotelier Andre Balazs. At one point, they lived in a loft apartment in New York City's SoHo neighborhood, down the street from Balazs's Mercer Hotel. Thurman also owns a townhouse in the New York neighborhood of Greenwich Village. In March 2006, Thurman's publicist announced that the couple had split. However, they continued dating on-and-off afterwards but split finally in March 2007.

In October 2007, Thurman was said to be engaged to Arpad Busson, supermodel Elle Macpherson's former husband, who she had been dating since summer 2007. However, contrary to these reports, Thurman's rep has confirmed that Thurman and Busson are not engaged and currently have no marriage plans.

Politics and opinions

Thurman dedicates herself to a variety of political and social causes and interests. She is a supporter of the United States Democratic Party, and has made donations to the campaigns of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joseph Driscoll. She is a strong supporter of gun control laws, and in 2000, she participated in Marie Claire's 'End Gun Violence Now? campaign. She also participated in Planned Parenthood's 'March for Women's Lives? to support the legality of abortion. Thurman is also a board member of the New York- and Boston-based organization Room to Grow, a charitable organization providing aid to families and children born into poverty. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Tibet House.

In 2007, Thurman will host the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo together with Tommy Lee Jones.

Further reading

AEC One Stop Group, Inc (Biography) "Uma Thurman biography". Retrieved 5 January 2006.

Jamie Russell (Interview) "Uma Thurman interview - Kill Bill Vol. 1". October 2003. Retrieved 5 January 2006.

Anwar Brett (Interview) "Uma Thurman interview - Kill Bill Vol. 2". April 2004. Retrieved 5 January 2006.

Paul Fischer (Film Monthly) "For Ms. Thurman, Life is More than Just a Paycheck". 22 September 2003. Retrieved 5 January 2006.

Roxanna Bina (Independent film quarterly) "Interview with Uma Thurman". 8 December 2003. Retrieved 5 January 2006.

(Independent Online) " Uma Thurman: Pulp friction". Retrieved 5 January 2006.

Erik Hedegaard (Rolling Stone magazine) "A Magnificent Obsession" by Erik Hedegaard. 29 April 2004. Retrieved 6 January 2005.

Sean Chavel (UGO) "Uma Thurman interview". October 2003. Retrieved 6 January 2006.

The Real Dick Hollywood (Uma Thurman on...) Retrieved 1 February 2006.

External links

( - Uma Thurman)


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article about Uma Thurman.