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Quentin Tarantino Shares His Side of the Kill Bill Car Crash Story, and It’s a Little Different From Uma Thurman’s

Quentin Tarantino holds his thumb and index finger together as Uma Thurman stands behind him
Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Quentin Tarantino is now sharing his side of the story regarding the car crash that took place during the filming of Kill Bill, and there are a few differences from Uma Thurman’s account of the same events as she relayed them to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. In a new interview with Deadline, Tarantino called the crash “the biggest regret of my life,” but had a different perspective on the discussion that he had with Thurman beforehand.

Here’s how Thurman described the events leading up to the car crash, which left her with a concussion as well as long-term knee and neck injuries:

She says she insisted that she didn’t feel comfortable operating the car and would prefer a stunt person to do it. Producers say they do not recall her objecting.

“Quentin came in my trailer and didn’t like to hear no, like any director,” she says. “He was furious because I’d cost them a lot of time. But I was scared. He said: ‘I promise you the car is fine. It’s a straight piece of road.’” He persuaded her to do it, and instructed: “ ‘Hit 40 miles per hour or your hair won’t blow the right way and I’ll make you do it again.’ But that was a deathbox that I was in. The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road.”

Here’s Tarantino’s version of events in the Deadline interview:

I start hearing from the production manager, Bennett Walsh, that Uma is trepidatious about doing the driving shot. None of us ever considered it a stunt. It was just driving. None of us looked at it as a stunt. Maybe we should have, but we didn’t. I’m sure when it was brought up to me, that I rolled my eyes and was irritated. But I’m sure I wasn’t in a rage and I wasn’t livid. I didn’t go barging into Uma’s trailer, screaming at her to get into the car. I can imagine maybe rolling my eyes and thinking, we spent all this money taking this stick shift Karmann Ghia and changing the transmission, just for this shot.

[…]

Uma had a license. I knew she was a shaky driver, but she had a license. When I was all finished [driving], I was very happy, thinking, she can totally do this, it won’t be a problem. I go to Uma’s trailer. Her makeup person, Ilona Herman was there. Far from me being mad, livid and angry, I was all … smiley. I said, Oh, Uma, it’s just fine. You can totally do this. It’s just a straight line, that’s all it is. You get in the car at [point] number one, and drive to number two and you’re all good.

Tarantino explained that he had done a test drive before putting Thurman in the car and believed the road was straight, but that when Thurman drove in the opposite direction on the same road, she encountered an S-curve. “Just horrible,” he said of seeing her lose control of the vehicle and strike a tree. “Watching her fight for the wheel … remembering me hammering about how it was safe and she could do it. Emphasizing that it was a straight road, a straight road … the fact that she believe me […] It was heartbreaking.” Tarantino also lamented that it caused a personal and professional rift between him and Thurman for years.

Thurman, for her part, shifted some of the blame away from Tarantino in an Instagram post on Monday, writing that the “circumstances of this event were negligent to the point of criminality” but that she did not believe there was “malicious intent,” instead attacking the film’s producers, including Harvey Weinstein, for allegedly covering up the incident. She also praised Tarantino for releasing the footage of the crash to her, which Tarantino told Deadline was “a herculean task” that required digging it out of storage.

Elsewhere in the interview, Tarantino addressed the criticism of him that followed the Times piece, attributing it in part to the fact that he was unable to “hook up” with Dowd to comment. He also defended his decisions to personally choke and spit on Thurman during filming, both of which Dowd mentioned, citing both realism and personal accountability: “I said, I think I need to do it. I’ll only do it twice, at the most, three times. But I can’t have you laying here, getting spit on, again and again and again, because somebody else is messing it up by missing. It is hard to spit on people, as it turns out.”

You can read the full interview over at Deadline.