Usually a celebrity on the red carpet only has to answer questions about their movies, or their co-stars, or what designer they’re wearing. But suddenly, after a major sexual abuse scandal shook Hollywood to its core, it was different. Media outlets at film premieres took the opportunity to ask people, especially women, how they felt about it. Actress Uma Thurman was one of the stars asked for her thoughts on what had happened, and her response was very revealing.
In early October 2017 a major news story broke. Film producer Harvey Weinstein, a very powerful figure in the movie industry, was accused of sexual assault and misconduct by several women. The story, published in The New York Times, alleged that Weinstein had preyed on female actresses and employees for decades.
From there, things got even worse. Weinstein was then accused of not just misconduct, but rape. Several women, some of whom wished to remain anonymous, said the producer had forced himself on them. One of the loudest voices was actress Rose McGowan, who posted her own claims about Weinstein on Twitter.
British newspaper The Observer uncovered an interview with McGowan that had been recorded in January 2017. In it, the actress explained that she had been advised by criminal lawyers not to report the alleged attack to police. She also said she had been blacklisted by Hollywood higher-ups “because I got raped.”
Weinstein denied all rape claims against him. His spokespeople released a statement in response to the accusations. “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein… Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path.” The statement ended with the hope for “a second chance.”
However, the denial did little to stop more accusations coming. As Weinstein’s wife filed for divorce and criminal investigations began to open up, the outpouring of anger caused a domino effect. Twitter users began using the hashtag #MeToo to share their own stories of sexual harassment or abuse. Then, more allegations were made against the powerful and famous.
Megastar Kevin Spacey was the next big name to be accused of something very serious. Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp alleged that Spacey had laid him on his bed and climbed on top of him when Rapp was just 14. Other people soon came out making similar claims of sexual assault. As a result, Spacey was fired from the Netflix show House of Cards and removed from the movie All the Money in the World.
Suddenly, more and more powerful figures in the entertainment industry were accused of sexual misconduct. It was the sort of all-encompassing scandal that had not been seen for many years. Comedian Louis C.K. was accused of exposing himself to multiple women; he admitted in a statement that the allegations were true.
As the messy, painful affair dragged on and on, the media began quizzing popular celebrities for their thoughts. One of these of course was Uma Thurman, star of the Kill Bill films and Pulp Fiction, all of which were directed by Quentin Tarantino but released by Weinstein’s production company. Access Hollywood interviewed her on October 18, 2017.
Thurman was on the red carpet for her new play The Parisian Woman at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway. The interviewer asked her, “What are your thoughts about women speaking out about inappropriate behaviour in the workplace?” Thurman considered her answer carefully before replying.
“I think it’s commendable,” she said. But then she continued on, picking out every word carefully. “I don’t have a tidy soundbite for you, because I’ve learned… I’m not a child, and I’ve learned that when I’ve spoken in anger I usually regret the way I express myself. So I’ve been waiting to feel less angry. And when I’m ready, I’ll say what I have to say.”
It was a small statement, but it had a big impact. On November 4, a few weeks after the interview had been conducted, Huffington Post journalist Yashar Ali posted it on Twitter. “Uma Thurman’s response when asked about the flood of sexual misconduct allegations….wow,” he captioned it. It quickly began to go viral.
A few people posted gifs from the Kill Bill movies beneath the post. In the films, of course, Uma Thurman’s character goes on a rampage of revenge against the people who wronged (and, in one case, raped) her. Others, meanwhile, stated their feelings more openly. “You can absolutely tell she is seething with rage. I really hope nothing terrible happened to her,” one said.
One of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers, actress Asia Argento, also retweeted the interview clip. “Dear #UmaThurman may peace be with you and your soul. We need your strong voice, it truly is commanding,” she wrote. Media outlets picked up on the story and began writing about it. The Independent dubbed Thurman’s words “a powerful response.”
A few publications brought up what Thurman’s long-time friend and collaborator, Quentin Tarantino, had admitted after the Weinstein revelations came to light. The Pulp Fiction director said that he was aware of some of the producer’s behavior. “I knew enough to do more than I did,” Tarantino confessed to The New York Times in October 2017.
There’s also a chance the Thurman/Tarantino films may end up being tainted by association now, at least a little. Weinstein’s name was all over them. When Tarantino was asked in the interview about whether public perception of his own films was likely to change, he apparently paused in thought. “I hope it doesn’t,” he said.
Unfortunately, then, Uma Thurman has plenty of things to be angry about. Plus, not only has she worked closely with Harvey Weinstein, she’s also teamed up with Kevin Spacey. In 1990 she and Spacey both appeared in the film Henry & June, and in 2007 she hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo alongside him.
Thurman has also spoken out before about the culture of sexual harassment in Hollywood. In a Rolling Stone interview from 1989, given when she was just 19 years old, she described how it felt to be constantly hit on. Sylvester Stallone, she said, had asked for her phone number even though she’d already seen him with a girlfriend. At the end of the interview, she described herself as “prey.”
Thurman has also been the victim of stalking. From 2004 all the way up to 2011, she was harassed by a man called Jack Jordan. Though her own testimony saw him put him on probation for three years, Jordan later broke a restraining order by attempting to contact her again. He was subsequently jailed. It was clearly a terrible experience for Thurman to have to go through.
So Thurman knows, absolutely, the sort of terrible things that are often levelled against famous women. Her cold, angry statement left lots of people feeling empowered, but it remains to be seen what (if anything) will happen next. However, one thing is clear: over the past few months, the whole world has observed the dangers of not listening to victims. Hopefully that will change – and soon.