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Uma brings reel grit to real life

London, Oct. 19: Last weekend, Uma Thurman’s new film, the Quentin Tarantino-directed Kill Bill, opened in the number one spot in America, taking in over $22 million. Critics agreed the movie, where Thurman plays a sword-wielding Samurai on a mission of revenge, is dominated by the actress.

But for Thurman, the opening figures were little satisfaction. “It was probably the worst weekend of my life,” she explained when we met this week. “I did what I had to do. I finished the movie and made it through the premiere and then...” She stopped and gazed down into her cardboard cup of tea. “And then Monday was better. I really shouldn’t complain.”

In the past few weeks, Thurman has been on a wild media ride to promote Kill Bill, which has just opened nationwide in Britain. Today, she flew to Japan for 24 hours to answer yet more questions about the 30lb she lost for the role, or her reaction to its violence. But there is another question inevitably on the agenda: how is she coping with the discovery that Ethan Hawke, her husband of five years and father of her two children, has left her for a 22-year-old'

What is striking is how uncomplaining and positive she has been. “All of it, the good things and the bad things, they’re all part of your life,” she says. “If you’re lying around and moaning, it’s a day stolen from your life. I’ve had too many of those and I don’t want any more.”

Thurman even seems to have made peace with what she calls “the absurd reality show that is being an actor,” arguing that the attention is completely irrelevant. “That’s the trade you make. You never get the disclaimer paper when you become a public person, no one ever explains what’s going to happen. But your legal status in the universe shifts. In exchange, if you love what you do, you get a beautiful life.”

There was a time, back when the world was just beginning to admire Thurman, when she hated the attention and “fought against it with my life”. In particular, she hated the critics’ obsession with her flashes of nudity in Dangerous Liaisons, arguing the “movie is about a lot more than my body”.

That was 1988. Fast forward 15 years and Thurman is now starring in a film dominated by shots of her fierce body leaping, kicking or flying across screen.

“I don’t mind being objectified anymore,” Thurman says. She hated it in the old days, when she was a model wanting to be taken seriously as an actress. “But now it’s a privilege”.

Getting into shape for Kill Bill required a massive amount of physical training and learning “three styles of kung fu, two styles of sword throwing and hand-to-hand combat” — just three months after giving birth. “It nearly killed me,” she confesses. The work paid off. Thurman owns Kill Bill. She is its heart and soul, and her physicality anchors the whole film.

But the fierce concentration extends to her life. “Right now, I’m just trying to see the good. It might be obscured and one might have to try very hard to see it, but I am trying. Just as long as I don’t have to stay where I am forever,” she says. “Then I will be very grateful indeed.”

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