About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
February 2005
Be Cool: An Interview with Uma Thurman

Be Cool: An Interview with Uma Thurman

By Wilson Morales

Having played in both "Kill Bill" films, it's refreshing to see Uma Thurman NOT kick anybody's butt anymore. In "Be Cool", Uma plays Edie Athens, a record executive who looks to uphold her business when her husband dies and needs Chilli Palmer (John Travolta)'s help in signing an aspiring artist. For Uma, she gets to dance with John again after doing so almost 10 years ago in "Pulp Fiction". In speaking with blackfilm.com, Thurman talks about her role, working with Travolta and Steven Tyler, and doing the Producers as her last film before she takes a break.

Uma, what is about Elmore's work that appealed to you and made you want to become this character?

Uma Thurman: Well, in general I really like his characters, I think they are incredibly defined and you know they make acting a little easier usually because they are very well filled out, very distinct, very potent kind of reduced characters and it sort of gives you a lot to start with in general and he is sort of the contemporary Damon Runyan, you know, ask kind of person that makes very, very, very defined and full bodied characters. It makes my job easy.

You got into such great shape for Kill Bill and you look great in this movie, have you scaled down your workouts since Kill Bill andwhat do you do now?

Thurman: I scaled my workout down considerably. You know, about ten adorable Chinese men used to work me out every day, six days a week for many, many hours. Swinging at me and I had to defend myself, so yeah I try to work out whenever I can, I don't have a consistent regiment or regime or anything, I just do my best.

Did you do any special preparation?

Thurman: I don't really have time. I try to squeeze some physical thing whenever possible but it is you know, it is hard to take time for yourself when you are juggling a lot of stuff, you feel guilty.

Uma, do you see any parallels between you and this character, do you identify with her in any way or experiences?

Thurman: You know, I think I identify with all characters. That never even occurred to me the idea of there being a parallel. But I guess I don't know. I guess there is a certain kind of vulnerability mixed with a kind of toughness and her swagger which I guess I could relate to which tries to keep it under, keep it hidden that she is actually a softie. But I don't know, I don't really think about characters in any way of them being parallel to me.

You are tough and vulnerable in life?

Thurman: I am, most women would say they were probably.

Uma, This is a reunion of course with John Travolta and one of the highlights here is the dance the two of you do, can you talk about how you approached this project with John was there and did he call you up and say 'I think it would be great if you could do this' kind of thing? And about doing the dance?

Thurman: No he didn't, but you know, I always said about Pulp Fiction that you know, I couldn't possibly pass on the challenge, the thrill, the joy of doing a dance with John Travolta. I am of the Grease age. I was whatever, twelve years old, or eight years old or seven or six, I don't know, I can't remember, some ridiculously small age, when Grease came out, you know, and had that experience, which you know, all girls know what that is, fall in love, John Travolta, and he followed the dance and the music and being, being brought up primarily in Massachusetts, you know, I never saw musicals, musical theatre wasn't... somebody's tape went off? Maybe turned over? Anyway, over here you might want to check out, but so that was a great introduction to that as well which is now one of my great passions, I love musical theatre and dance and song and you know, basically do anything to dance in any movie, it sort of bit me with that fire. I am doing Ulla and so I dance every day now which absolutely beyond overjoyed but in the origin of this movie it seems so sort of tongue-in-cheek and wonderful to get back together and dancing again. Sort of irresistible.

Did you have three weeks of rehearsals with this or did you do it in two days or...?

Thurman: Half an hour [whispers]

Is there are a band that you would ever would have followed to the degree of getting a tattoo from them and what... were you a Aerosmith fan at all?

Thurman: Well, I like Aerosmith a lot, I don't know, I would think and hope that... I actually didn't know this until I saw a documentary on Elvis, how cool he was. And then I watched it and I thought, if I had been, that... I could have got... if I was there then that would have been the bomb for me. I don't know I have been a fan of lots of different rock bands. I started working so young though I don't know, I didn't have that kind of window where everything you get struck like that.

How was working with Steven Tyler?

Thurman: Great, totally great. He is a very nice man. He is completely soft spoken, self deprecating, funny, nice, I mean you will see him today I imagine.

Any tattoos?

Thurman: I don't have a tattoo no.

Uma, the character Edie in the novel and in the screenplay...

Thurman: Is different. Yeah they combined two characters from the novel into a hodge podge to make Edie. Because why have extraneous female characters in the film when you can have more men?

I was wondering if that happened before or after you were cast? Thurman: Oh before.

Is the musical like a last frontier to you in terms of the genre, does the fight wear out quickly, is the dancing easier?

Thurman: I wouldn't say it was the last frontier. That would be bad days, that would be like menopause or something... oh my god, I have crossed my last frontier. How did that happen, what's next? Is there life after death? Sorry, is the musical... yeah, I am totally excited, I can't tell you. I am wild for the experience. It really is so wonderful, I am working with. At the moment I am part of a dance team. It is a little bit more pleasant then being part of the fight team only because there is no fake blood involved. You will get this... attracted to with all that sugar water, but you know, the guys who did the Broadway musical and the director is the director is the director a Broadway musical so the people I am working with right now are all basically the blood and flesh of Broadway and their discipline and their attention to detail in their work ethic is so unlike anybody in the movies. That I really look at them and I go 'boy, you do realize you work very hard. People who make films don't work this hard.' Which is really hard to say because people do work hard in the film, but these people put that to rest. But their heart and their passion for what they do is just... it has been so much fun for me. I can't tell you.

How's singing?

Thurman: I would say I made a poor but hopefully passable singer. They haven't suggested anyone sing for me yet. So I feel like, phew! And when I signed on they said they would have someone if I needed it, you know, but no one has mentioned it so I feel I must be passing, with some tiny check box in the corner of my vocal chart.

Uma, your character spends a lot of time with her wardrobe. I was just wondering if you contributed to the wardrobe?

Thurman: I always do. I think that is a big part of character for me. And usually, depending on the costume director you have, but usually to me I kind of have to really collaborate in that area to fit, it is how I get into the character. Putting their stuff on.

There has been rumors that Kill Bill 3 and question about special edition DVD.

Thurman: I don't know what I didn't contribute to or did, it has been a while since I have done anything additional, but you know it was a very long shoot and I was there every day. I don't know what is going on with their new DVD. I am not sure. In regards to the third one. I don't know, I don't know if I would be in it or not, I am not sure. This whole legacy of his. I don't know what. I know what he was thinking of but I think he is probably going to do something else for a while. Somebody over here...

Will you be working with Quentin again?

Thurman: We don't have any plans to right now. No. Who knows? How about spending time with your children, how hard has it been integrating being a mom, and being there for your kids and working?

Thurman: It is really impossible. It is really, really hard. Actually my husband said to me the other day, my ex-husband said to me, that I clearly was someone who wanted to be a full time mother and still wanted to be an actress and I kept insisting I could do it, but I couldn't. I don't know. I really try, you know, I try to give all of myself, you know. I mean things this year I have been really lucky, well not even lucky, I refuse to read a script that didn't shoot in New York City, I just needed to be home. So whatever jobs, whatever parts I may have played around the world, I don't even know where they were because New York City was the only location I was going to work in this year and I don't know how long I can do that, or what, you know. It is a very difficult balance, do you, I don't know... I have thought about quitting, but then I think I can't quit, because I love what I do so much and it is the wrong signal and now I am a single mother so I also can't quit. But I don't want to quit, I love what I do but I mean... I find it very tumultuous and difficult but I wouldn't want to give up, I wouldn't give up, you know, I don't want to give up, so it is just something I am fighting for, to try to find a way to be a satisfactory state, keep my foot in the business satisfactorily and still be creatively stimulated and take care of my children.

Is there anybody that you see that could do, that has been able to pull this trick off, that has been a like an inspiration?

Thurman: It is hard to say. I think Meryl Strep and I just worked with her, she seems to have very successful home life and obviously more then satisfactory professional career. But I don't know her children. You know it is hard to say because everybody's children are different and each have different needs and they can handle different things and not being in the united... having a broken home puts other challenges and stresses on the situation. Makes it much harder. I don't know, there is no way to compare. I don't know who said it but it is true, to compare is to suffer. But anyway, I don't know. It is the big conundrum of my life. I hope I am not failing as a parent as a result of being a professional woman, but I try hard not to.

What is the Meryl Streep movie?

Thurman: It is called Prime. It is a romantic comedy and it is coming out in the fall.

Can you talk about filming at the Staples Center?

Thurman: It was a ball. All the problems are production problems. John and I decided to ignore people screaming our names but what are you going to do? It was totally you know, it was a really fun sort of... what I like about this movie is it does have a slightly reality show quality to it. You know what I mean, there is this sort of tongue-in-cheek sort of realness of people playing themselves and celebrities being the character with a celebrity who is being themselves in the real room with the real fans with the real people, you know, it has a great sort of unabashed texture to it. That are the really fun things about the movie.

Are you taking a break after Prime?

Thurman: I am taking a little break. I hope to take the summer off.

And so the producers fit in because it is all in New York?

Thurman: And it is a lifelong dream to be a song and dance girl. Pretty much.

How is the Swedish accent going then?

Thurman: I haven't started. All I do is dance. I am ready to start and I am not sure to go on unless I am ready. I have been dancing and dancing and now I am going to start, sorry, singing and accenting...

Is Mel Brooks kind of floating around.

Thurman: Yeah he floats around.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy