Quentin Tarantino needs to come clean about what happened on the set of “Kill Bill.”
He needs to speak out, to fess up and tell us what, exactly, he was thinking. Because that could be one small yet meaningful step toward repairing what’s sick and broken in our entertainment culture — and our culture, period.
In a recent bombshell interview Uma Thurman talks about what she went through at the hands of Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein: the sexual coercion (hotel rooms, bathrobe, compliant publicists — the whole gruesome Harvey bit) intertwined with threats of career derailment, all of which she bravely resisted.
What's interesting is Thurman’s account of what transpired between her and Tarantino. In Mexico, nine months into the shooting of “Kill Bill” , just four days before the picture was set to wrap, Tarantino, filming a crucial sequence — the heroine’s ride to vengeance — asked Thurman to step into a rickety blue Karmann Ghia and cruise down a sandy rural road at 40 miles per hour. She didn’t want to do it, and said so. A technician on the set had informed her that the car was faulty; the sequence, from every indication, needed a stunt driver. But Tarantino wanted Thurman in the car — he craved the cathartic cinematic realness of it. And once he insisted, she gave in.
She drove and drove, and wound up losing control of the vehicle, which slid off the road and crashed into a palm tree, seriously injuring Thurman’s back and her knees (injuries she suffers from to this day). She considered suing Miramax, but wasn’t able to get hold of the accident footage captured by the camera mounted on the back of the car. Weinstein, the lawyers at Miramax, and — yes — Tarantino knew the footage was actionable, and kept it from her. (They’d relinquish it only if she signed a waiver releasing them from liability.) She has the footage now, though, and has made it public.
So how could it have happened? The answer — or much of it, anyway — resides in Quentin Tarantino’s head. That’s why we need to hear it. And reflect on it. And judge it.
In the four months since the #MeToo revolution was launched on the wave of the original accusations against Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, and others, there hasn’t been a lot of call for men to speak out. The accused, of course, have had nothing to offer beyond limp pro forma apologies and barely contrite silence. Other men have voiced impassioned support and belief in the movement — and, on occasion, they have struggled to reframe the argument, only to learn (as Matt Damon did) that this is a time for listening rather than parsing.
But Tarantino presents a different situation. He’s not accused of sexual harassment — but he was, of course, very close to Harvey Weinstein, so the question of what he knew and when he knew it, and what responsibility (if any) he holds for enabling Weinstein’s behavior, remains relevant. Tarantino has already spoken out on these matters, in an October interview with The New York Times that seemed, at the time, to keep the world at bay. He may now have to say more.
He certainly needs to address the “Kill Bill” car scandal in a far more detailed and confessional manner — because he’s in the murky middle of it, obviously, but also because Tarantino is in a position to shed light on how the vertiginous power dynamics of Hollywood operate, and how they might now change.