Uma Thurman Recounts Harrowing Karmann Ghia Crash On Kill Bill Set That Left Her 'Broken'

Illustration for article titled Uma Thurman Recounts Harrowing Karmann Ghia Crash On Kill Bill Set That Left Her 'Broken'

Since the outpouring of incidents of sexual assault and harassment by movie producer Harvey Weinstein sparked a massive backlash against the abuse of women in Hollywood, one of the most anticipated voices has been that of actress Uma Thurman, who worked with Weinstein on a number of high-profile movie projects. And today in the New York Times, Thurman recounts not only her own abuse at Weinstein’s hands, but also a horrifying car crash during one of the most iconic moments in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series.


Among other topics in a wide-ranging interview, Thurman’s account to Maureen Dowd covers a serious crash in the blue Volkswagen Karmann Ghia during the last days of the Kill Bill shoot in Mexico. Until this story was published today, the tale of the crash was not widely known, and it sheds light on Thurman’s 15-year fight to get a copy of the footage from it.

Everyone remembers that scene, and that car, from the beginning and end of Kill Bill Vol. 2. It’s what Uma Thurman’s Bride is driving when she announces she’s on her way to finally get revenge on Bill, her ex-lover who killed her fiancée and left her for dead. It’s also what she and her daughter drive off in triumphantly at the film’s end.

But here’s what happened to Thurman in that car, behind the scenes.

With four days left of shooting the 2003 and 2004 films, Thurman told Dowd she was asked to drive the Karmann Ghia herself down a winding Mexican country road, something she wasn’t comfortable since the car reportedly wasn’t working correctly. She also said she was not trained as a stunt driver.

Tarantino reportedly insisted, according to the story.

“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.”

But a video from a camera mounted in the Volkswagen shows Thurman lost control on that road, crashed into a tree at speed, and slammed her head on the back of the car. Video of the crash isn’t online or embedabble but it can be seen here.

NYT video screencap
NYT video screencap

More from the story:

It’s from the point of view of a camera mounted to the back of the Karmann Ghia. It’s frightening to watch Thurman wrestle with the car, as it drifts off the road and smashes into a palm tree, her contorted torso heaving helplessly until crew members appear in the frame to pull her out of the wreckage. Tarantino leans in and Thurman flashes a relieved smile when she realizes that she can briefly stand.

“The steering wheel was at my belly and my legs were jammed under me,” she says. “I felt this searing pain and thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to walk again,’” she says. “When I came back from the hospital in a neck brace with my knees damaged and a large massive egg on my head and a concussion, I wanted to see the car and I was very upset. Quentin and I had an enormous fight, and I accused him of trying to kill me. And he was very angry at that, I guess understandably, because he didn’t feel he had tried to kill me.”


Due to her injuries, Thurman said she sought the footage to sue Miramax, but they would only give it to her if she agreed to release them from legal consequences of pain and suffering and so she did not, the story said. After that she said the studio “turned on her,” and that she went from “being a creative contributor and performer to being like a broken tool.” She said the wreck left her with a permanently damaged back and knees. It also drove a wedge between her and Tarantino that lasted years, she said.

Indeed, Thurman alluded to this incident—and her experience with Tarantino and Weinstein—with a photo of her driving the Karmann Ghia last Thanksgiving.


The newly unearthed crash definitely casts a different and new light on one of the most famous scenes in modern films, and in how the series’ star was treated by the people she worked with and trusted.


The rest of the story delves into Thurman’s account of how Weinstein attacked her, exposed himself and threatened to derail her career—something that at this point is overwhelmingly documented as the powerful and now disgraced producer’s M.O. After that, Thurman was “skittish” around him, despite having to appear around him at various promotional events and parties, including for Kill Bill. (Weinstein is currently in “therapy” in Arizona, the story reveals. He is also the subject of several criminal investigations.)

It is all pretty awful, but worth a read in full.

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What a stupid thing for Tarantino to argue with his star actress over. He should have flown in a well-qualified vintage VW mechanic and his/her crew to have that car checked over and repaired to Thurman’s satisfaction before asking her to drive it at speed.

Also, after watching the crash video, that is a pretty damn sketchy road to ask an amateur, non-enthusiast driver to take even a perfectly operating Karmann Ghia up to 40mph on.