According to experts who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, actress Uma Thurman's life was genuinely endangered when she crashed on the set of Kill Bill. Thurman's crash has been heavily scrutinized in the weeks since she described the incident in an interview with the New York Times.
A spokesperson for the SAG-AFTRA union said the circumstances leading to the crash "would be a likely safety violation."
"In general, only stunt professionals should perform stunts with guidance from a stunt coordinator to ensure a correct and safe performance," the spokesperson added.
In her interview with Maureen Dowd, Thurman recounted having to drive a car for the movie that, according to a teamster she spoke with on set, wasn't functioning properly. Quentin Tarantino, who directed her in the movie, insisted she drive the car anyway.
"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," Thurman said.
Tarantino later gave his own account of the crash to Deadline. According to the director, the road in the shot was straight — in one direction. But after some deliberation, he switched the direction of drive.
"I’m guessing on this, but let’s say we were going to do the car from east to west? Could we go from west to east? It didn’t affect the shot. I didn’t see how it would affect anything. A straight road is a straight road," Tarantino explained, giving his thought process on the day of the accident. But, going in the other direction, there was a small swerve in the road that caused Thurman to lose control of the car. After the accident, Tarantino said, they discovered a number of factors that might have caused the crash. He said the road had more sand in it than anticipated. And, by mounting a heavy camera on the back of the car, a renovated Karmann Ghia, the car's balance had been disrupted.
Andy Armstrong, a stunt coordinator who worked on Thor and The Amazing Spider-Man, told THR that what happened was "irresponsibility on a mega level."
"That could have been a death by decapitation. The car could easily have rolled over [or] the camera could have flown forward," he said. Armstrong added that he'd spoken with Keith Adams, the stunt coordinator for Kill Bill. Adams was not on set that day, according to Armstrong, a detail that looks suspicious given the context of Thurman's interview.
Speaking to Dowd, Thurman expressed a suspicion that the crash was part of a conspiracy to make Thurman feel threatened. Given Ronan Farrow's in-depth reporting on Harvey Weinstein's army of spies, conspirators, and bullies, this is not all that far-fetched.
Lawrence Bender, the producer of Kill Bill, told THR that though he regrets that the accident occurred, he never "hid anything" from Thurman.
"The safety of the professionals who work on the movies I produce is vital to me and I never want to let anyone down," he said.
Thurman struggled for years to get footage of the crash, which she eventually gave to the New York Times, where you can watch it today. The footage is harrowing — Thurman swerves, and before you know it, she's tossed against her dashboard. Thurman told the Times that her neck is "permanently damaged" because of it.
"It’s the biggest regret of my life, getting her to do that stunt," Tarantino told Deadline.
Refinery29 has reached out to representation for Thurman for comment.
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