- Uma Karuna Thurman
April 29, 1970 (age 51)
- Actor, Model
- Ethan Hawke
- Robert Thurman, Nena von Schlebrügge
Uma Karuna Thurman (born April 29, 1970) is an American actress and model. She has performed in leading roles in a variety of films, ranging from romantic comedies and dramas to science fiction and action movies. Following early roles in films such as Dangerous Liaisons (1988), she rose to international prominence in 1994 following her role in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe Award. She starred in several more films throughout the 1990s such as The Truth About Cats & Dogs, Batman & Robin, Gattaca and Les Misérables.
She won a Golden Globe Award for the miniseries Hysterical Blindness (2002). Her career was revitalized when she reunited with director Quentin Tarantino to play the main role in both Kill Bill films (2003/2004) which brought her an additional two Golden Globe Award nominations with a BAFTA Award nomination.
Thurman was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her forename Uma, Sanskrit उमा, meaning "splendour, light", is a name of Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love and fertility. Her father, Robert Alexander Farrar Thurman, is a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies; an academic and writer, he lived as an ordained Buddhist monk for three years. Her mother, Nena von Schlebrügge, was a noblewoman of Baroness virtue and a high-fashion model, discovered in Stockholm, who moved to New York at the age of 17 to join the Ford Modelling Agency. Thurman's mother was born in Mexico City, Mexico, of German, Swedish and Danish descent, while Thurman's father was born in New York, and has English, Scottish and Irish ancestry. Thurman received a Buddhist upbringing, and spent altogether around two years in the Indo-Himalayan town of Almora. She now considers herself to be an agnostic. She grew up mostly in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she went to Amherst Regional Middle School, then moved to Woodstock, New York. She has three brothers, Ganden (b. 1968), Dechen (b. 1973), and Mipam (b. 1978), and a half-sister named Taya (b. 1960), from her father's previous marriage. Thurman's first cousin, once removed, is Swedish football player Max von Schlebrügge.
Thurman is described as having been an awkward and introverted girl who was teased for her tall frame, angular bone structure, enormous feet and unusual name (sometimes using the name "Uma Karen" instead of her birth name). When Thurman was 10 years old, a friend's mother suggested a nose job. As a child, she suffered bouts of body dysmorphic disorder. She attended Amherst Public Schools. In the eighth grade she discovered her love for acting. Talent scouts noticed her performance as Abigail in a production of The Crucible and offered her the chance to act professionally. Thurman attended Northfield Mount Hermon School, a preparatory school in Massachusetts, before dropping out to pursue a career in acting.
Thurman began her career as a fashion model at age 15, and signed with the agency Click Models. Her early modeling credits included Glamour and the December 1985 and May 1986 covers of British Vogue. She made her movie debut in 1988, appearing in four films that year. Her first two were the high school comedy Johnny Be Good and teen thriller Kiss Daddy Goodnight. She had a small role in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, playing the goddess Venus alongside Oliver Reed's Vulcan; during her entrance she briefly appears nude, in an homage to Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. The most acclaimed of these first four films was Oscar-winning drama Dangerous Liaisons, in which Thurman's character of Cecile de Volanges is seduced by the manipulative Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich). At the time, insecure about her appearance, she spent roughly a year in London, during which she often wore loose, baggy clothing. Malkovich said of her, "There is nothing twitchy teenager-ish about her, I haven’t met anyone like her at that age. Her intelligence and poise stand out. But there's something else. She's more than a little haunted."
In 1990, Thurman appeared with Fred Ward and Maria de Medeiros in the sexually provocative drama Henry & June, the first film to receive an NC-17 rating. Partly because many American newspapers refused to advertise films with the new rating, it did not get wide release in the United States, but the film won her some good notices. The New York Times wrote: "Thurman, as the Brooklyn-accented June, takes a larger-than-life character and makes her even bigger, though the performance is often as curious as it is commanding."
In 1993, she was for the first time the main star in Gus Van Sant's 1993 adaptation of Tom Robbins' novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. It was a critical and financial disappointment; Thurman was nominated for a Worst Actress Razzie. The Washington Post described her acting as shallow, writing that, "Thurman's strangely passive characterization doesn't go much deeper than drawling and flexing her prosthetic thumbs". She also starred opposite Robert De Niro in the drama Mad Dog and Glory, a box office disappointment that received positive reviews. Later that year, Thurman auditioned for Stanley Kubrick while he was casting for his eventually unrealized project Wartime Lies.
After Mad Dog and Glory, Thurman auditioned for the Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction, which grossed over $107 million on a budget of only $8 million. The Washington Post wrote that Thurman was "serenely unrecognizable in a black wig, [and] is marvelous as a zoned-out gangster's girlfriend." Thurman was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar the following year. She became one of Tarantino's favorite actresses to cast; he told Time magazine in 2003 that she was "up there with Garbo and Dietrich in goddess territory."
1996 would see Thurman in two moderately successful films, the first of which was Beautiful Girls, where she played the female lead and love interest of Timothy Hutton and was supported with a high-profile cast of Mira Sorvino, Martha Plimpton, and Natalie Portman. The film was well received by the critics for the script and acting, particularly that of Hutton and Portman. It performed moderately well at the box office. Thurman also starred opposite Janeane Garofalo in the moderately successful 1996 romantic comedy The Truth About Cats & Dogs as a ditzy blonde model. In 1997, she starred opposite her future husband Ethan Hawke in the science fiction film Gattaca. Although Gattaca was not a success at the box office, it drew many positive reviews and became successful on the home video market. Some critics were not as impressed with Thurman, such as The Los Angeles Times, which wrote that she was "as emotionally uninvolved as ever."
Thurman met actor Gary Oldman on the set of State of Grace; they married in 1990 and divorced two years later.
On May 1, 1998, she married actor Ethan Hawke, whom she met on the set of their 1997 film Gattaca. Hawke's novel Ash Wednesday is dedicated to "Karuna", Thurman's middle name. She acknowledged that they had married because she was pregnant – seven months at their wedding. The marriage produced two children: daughter Maya Ray, born in 1998, and son Levon, born in 2002. The couple separated in 2003, and the divorce was finalized in August 2005. When asked on The Oprah Winfrey Show whether the break-up involved betrayal, she said, "There was some stuff like that at the end. We were having a difficult time, and you know how the axe comes down and how people behave and how people express their unhappiness." In a 2004 Rolling Stone cover story, Thurman and director Quentin Tarantino denied having had a romantic relationship, despite Tarantino once having told a reporter, "I'm not saying that we haven’t, and I'm not saying that we have."
Thurman began dating London-based French financier Arpad Busson in 2007, and they announced their engagement in June 2008. In late 2009, they called off their engagement, but reconciled soon after. Thurman and Busson have a daughter together, Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson (nickname Luna), born in 2012. The couple reportedly called off the engagement for the second time in April 2014.