Topic: Jesus, Quentin.

So, yeah, we never had a thread about the Weinstein thing but this seems a lot closer to home. I always wondered why Uma was never in a big movie after Kill Bill; now we know. In addition to Harvey Weinstein subjecting her to harassment and threatening to end her career, Tarantino subjected her to personal humiliation on the set of Kill Bill and was responsible for a car crash that permanently fucked up her back and knees because he refused to use a stunt double.

The stuff like Tarantino insisting he spit on her and choke her himself isn't limited to this movie either - he did the same thing to Diane Kruger on Inglourious Basterds.

We've known he's an edgelord creep for a while but this crosses a line. If I wanna see his next movie I'm going to have to find a way to avoid paying for it.

With four days left, after nine months of shooting the sadistic saga, Thurman was asked to do something that made her draw the line.

In the famous scene where she’s driving the blue convertible to kill Bill — the same one she put on Instagram on Thanksgiving — she was asked to do the driving herself.

But she had been led to believe by a teamster, she says, that the car, which had been reconfigured from a stick shift to an automatic, might not be working that well.

She says she insisted that she didn’t feel comfortable operating the car and would prefer a stunt person to do it. Producers say they do not recall her objecting.

“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.” (Tarantino did not respond to requests for comment.)

Thurman then shows me the footage that she says has taken her 15 years to get. “Solving my own Nancy Drew mystery,” she says.

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.”

Even though their marriage was spiraling apart, Hawke immediately left the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky to fly to his wife’s side.

“I approached Quentin in very serious terms and told him that he had let Uma down as a director and as a friend,” he told me. He said he told Tarantino, “Hey, man, she is a great actress, not a stunt driver, and you know that.” Hawke added that the director “was very upset with himself and asked for my forgiveness.”

Two weeks after the crash, after trying to see the car and footage of the incident, she had her lawyer send a letter to Miramax, summarizing the event and reserving the right to sue.

Miramax offered to show her the footage if she signed a document “releasing them of any consequences of my future pain and suffering,” she says. She didn’t.

Thurman says her mind meld with Tarantino was rattled. “We were in a terrible fight for years,” she explains. “We had to then go through promoting the movies. It was all very thin ice. We had a fateful fight at Soho House in New York in 2004 and we were shouting at each other because he wouldn’t let me see the footage and he told me that was what they had all decided.”

Now, so many years after the accident, inspired by the reckoning on violence against women, reliving her own “dehumanization to the point of death” in Mexico, and furious that there have not been more legal repercussions against Weinstein, Thurman says she handed over the result of her own excavations to the police and ramped up the pressure to cajole the crash footage out of Tarantino.

“Quentin finally atoned by giving it to me after 15 years, right?” she says. “Not that it matters now, with my permanently damaged neck and my screwed-up knees.”

As she sits by the fire on a second night when we talk until 3 a.m., tears begin to fall down her cheeks. She brushes them away.

“When they turned on me after the accident,” she says, “I went from being a creative contributor and performer to being like a broken tool.”

Thurman says that in “Kill Bill,” Tarantino had done the honors with some of the sadistic flourishes himself, spitting in her face in the scene where Michael Madsen is seen on screen doing it and choking her with a chain in the scene where a teenager named Gogo is on screen doing it.

“Harvey assaulted me but that didn’t kill me,” she says. “What really got me about the crash was that it was a cheap shot. I had been through so many rings of fire by that point. I had really always felt a connection to the greater good in my work with Quentin and most of what I allowed to happen to me and what I participated in was kind of like a horrible mud wrestle with a very angry brother. But at least I had some say, you know?” She says she didn’t feel disempowered by any of it. Until the crash.

“Personally, it has taken me 47 years to stop calling people who are mean to you ‘in love’ with you. It took a long time because I think that as little girls we are conditioned to believe that cruelty and love somehow have a connection and that is like the sort of era that we need to evolve out of.”

Re: Jesus, Quentin.

Well that's a bunch of terrible shit.

We've known he's an edgelord creep for a while but this crosses a line. If I wanna see his next movie I'm going to have to find a way to avoid paying for it.

Speaking of this — if y'all are in the mood, I'd be interested to try hashing our way through a 'separating the artist from their art' conversation; I don't think we've ever seriously taken a swing at it before. Wagner, etc..

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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Re: Jesus, Quentin.

Wow. Just, wow.

And yeah, that is definitely a conversation worth having. At the very least it's something that takes time - if you are going to be able to go back and watch The Cosby Show, for instance, it's probably not going to be while trials are still going on. And that's just one part of it, but really the only part that I'm comfortable leading off the conversation with. There's the gravity of what the artist did, quality of the art, etc. that I feel I may not be the best one to kick things off with.

Boter, formerly of TF.N as Boter and DarthArjuna. I like making movies and playing games, in one order or another.

Re: Jesus, Quentin.

I think there are two dimensions to this conversation—personal appreciation of art and financial support of the artist. In order:

Personal Appreciation
I generally find it relatively easy to continue to like a work of art when I find out its creator has done something fucked up. Chinatown is one of my favorite movies, and Polanski being a rapist doesn't really enter into my enjoyment of it. Which is not to say that what Polanski did isn't horrifically fucked up—there's no excuse for it. But I have a pretty decent ability to view a film as an artifact separate from its director. The same applies to Hitchcock and Kubrick—both were terribly abusive to the actresses under their care, but I can compartmentalize in my head and generally watch their films without having that abuse anywhere but the very back of my mind.

When it comes to actors, though, the situation changes. Because, while I can separate a director from a film in which his handiwork is all off-camera, I can't divorce my knowledge of actors from characters they play. Recognizing a stylistic device that signifies Stanley Kubrick's presence behind the camera is not the same as recognizing "Yep, that's Casey Affleck's face onscreen. The character he's playing is named (x), but that's Casey Affleck on that screen." And because so much of film absolutely depends on performers' ability to make the audience empathize with their characters, that's a problem.

It's harder to watch Manchester by the Sea and empathize with the extraordinary pain that Affleck's character is going through when you associate his face with the sexual abuse of two women. (For that matter, it's harder for me to watch Joaquin Phoenix movies knowing he was present when that abuse happened and never spoke out, though he did at least try to help the women stay away from Affleck according to their testimonies.) Knowing that Bill Murray was accused of physical abuse by his ex-wife makes it much harder to watch Groundhog Day, which depends on your belief that Bill Murray is becoming a morally enlightened being. And, to Boter's point, I don't think it's possible anymore to watch The Cosby Show when so much of it is predicated on the personality and moral example of its titular actor. There are different degrees—I can still watch Affleck and Murray onscreen with some occasional lingering discomfort in the process, whereas I've the feeling I could be nothing but revolted if I tried to watch Cosby now—but the essential empathy disconnect happens in each case.

And that's where I think Tarantino is an interesting example, because he straddles the line. He's not a remote presence behind the camera in the way I perceive most other directors. He's all over his own films. Even if you remove the fact that he acts in every one of them, the fact remains that he can't go longer than like ten minutes without reminding you that you're watching one of his movies (with Jackie Brown being the lone exception). The "dead nigger storage" scene in Pulp Fiction is a perfect example of that. Even if it weren't Tarantino playing Jimmy, you would still feel like it was him delivering the slur. Because that's the whole reason that scene was written: so Tarantino could make Sam Jackson have the word "nigger" said to him over and over again. It's that uniquely childish self-obsession that, I think, makes it impossible for me to separate Tarantino from his film the way I can with other directors—he won't allow that to happen.

When it comes to books and music, I don't have this problem to the same extent. I can listen to Led Zeppelin just fine despite knowing that Jimmy Page kidnapped and raped a fourteen-year-old, I can read Ezra Pound's poetry despite being aware of his fascist tendencies. But there are hypothetical exceptions in the same vein as Tarantino. One of my absolute favorite books, Philip K. Dick's VALIS, casts its author as not one but two of its main characters. I've a feeling that, were I to find out that Dick had raped someone, my ability to enjoy that book would be rapidly eroded. My ability to empathize with the character of Phil Dick would be compromised by my knowledge of what the real Philip K. Dick had done; it wouldn't be a literal example of having to look at his face the way one does with actors, but it'd be very nearly that.

Does my ability to enjoy a work of art in spite of its creator's misdeeds mean that I just dismiss them? No. To do so would be to bury my head in the sand, put artists on a sinless pedestal, and actively damage my ability to analyze their work. (To use a film example, I can emotionally divorce myself from Hitchcock's fixation on blonde leading ladies but I can't pretend that theme doesn't show up again and again in his filmography.) All it means is that, while separating the artist from their art is something that really can't be done in a scholarly sense, it's something I can do emotionally as long as their art doesn't require me to empathize with them directly. When it comes to actors, the worse their offenses the harder it is for me to keep my inner empathy machine wired properly for them.

Financial Support
That being said . . .

Moving forward, I'm endeavoring to be better in this area. I don't want to push my own moral obligations onto anyone else, so this section isn't prescriptive. It's just something I'm trying to do from here on out, especially in light of #MeToo and the last year.

Appreciating a work of art created by or involving an abuser does not mean I can justify my financially supporting said abuser. Do I think Chinatown is still a great, great film? Yes. Can I continue to watch it and find value in it? Yes. Does that mean I'm free to throw money at Polanski so he and the people who fund him are enabled to make his next project? Nope. After he's dead, I'll be able to purchase Blu-Rays of his movies brand-new. Until then, it's picking them up in used-book shops and on eBay.

So if I want to take in art from living individuals who are known abusers, I have to do it with restrictions. Do I want to see it in the theatre? I either pay for another movie and sneak in or just say to myself "Tough shit, you're not going." Do I want to own it on home media? I buy it secondhand. I went to A Ghost Story in the theatre this year because Casey Affleck didn't get paid to star in it—if he had, I'd have just resigned myself to waiting for it to hit Blu-Ray and then buying that Blu-Ray on eBay.

I'm under no illusions that my individual decision to do this will really have any impact whatsoever, but I feel obligated to do it because not doing it makes it way too easy to fall into the mindset of "Sure, he's a shitty person, but he makes great stuff, so who cares?" I have to remind myself that abuse matters and that I can't just be a passive part of enabling it.

There are degrees, to be sure. Nicolas Cage shoved his wife once when he was very drunk and freaking out in public, but I'm still okay with paying to see his stuff because an isolated incident of that happening is orders of magnitude different from Tarantino almost killing Uma Thurman or Marlon Brando raping Maria Schneider. I won't pretend that that distinction couldn't be self-serving—I really love Nicolas Cage. But I do think people are allowed to have made mistakes. When it comes to obvious, premeditated abuse, though, I can't go along with the people who've perpetrated it.

And if, for some reason, Tarantino does end up getting blacklisted for this? (Which he won't.) Sure, I guess it'd be kind of disappointing that we wouldn't get to see further ideas of his put on screen. But I can't pretend that the price other actresses might have to pay to put that art onscreen would be worth it, or that the suffering Uma has gone through is somehow justified because she was in a good movie.

I don't know how well-thought-out or useful any of the above rambling is, especially because I'm still working through this stuff myself. But I figured as long as we're having the conversation I'd put it down.

Last edited by DarthPraxus (2018-02-04 06:16:51)

Re: Jesus, Quentin.

Damn, Prax. That's a hell of a post.

I think I agree with everything you said, but since my brain isn't done thinking about this stuff, let's zoom in and try to trace the underlying impulses. What I'm curious about is the line — not just where it is, but what it is.

But there are hypothetical exceptions in the same vein as Tarantino. One of my absolute favorite books, Philip K. Dick's VALIS, casts its author as not one but two of its main characters. I've a feeling that, were I to find out that Dick had raped someone, my ability to enjoy that book would be rapidly eroded. My ability to empathize with the character of Phil Dick would be compromised by my knowledge of what the real Philip K. Dick had done; it wouldn't be a literal example of having to look at his face the way one does with actors, but it'd be very nearly that.

I think I would have the very same reaction — which seems to be, in a nutshell, 'reflexively withholding the social gift of voluntary empathy.'

Our reaction gives us a clue as to what 'the line' must have been: since the punishment is to reflexively omit future empathy, we apparently see the crime as having been enabled by previous empathy. If 'empathy' is a metaphorical currency, and 'society' is a metaphorical economy, we see a line-crosser as having 'stolen' unearned empathy. As vested co-exchangers in this shared empathy economy, we award various amounts of 'credit' to everyone we encounter based on the empathic examples they provide us with — moral behavior, good works, meaningful art, etc.. If the first empathic examples we're given by a person indicate that they're a piece of shit, we can avoid expending undue empathy in the first place... but, if we're convinced to expend generous empathic affection in someone only to later discover that the examples they 'applied for credit with' were a distortion of their empathic worth, we're forced to reflexively freeze their credit and cut our (non-metaphorical, because that's the point of this metaphor) losses.

When we discover someone has been secretly 'looting' empathy from their even closer investors, we can't ignore that behavior, because we're investors in the same damn thing — and as people who fell for the same con, people who would have invested so much more if only we'd been given the opportunity to get closer to the person, we're forced to conclude that the only thing protecting us from losing so much more was the fact that we never had that opportunity in the first place.

It seems like the primary change 'behind' the #MeToo moment has been for people who wouldn't be victimized by Weinstein, Wagner, or Jefferson — people who aren't women, Jewish, or black — to begin regarding crimes which don't target them personally as 'crimes against humanity' regardless. We've just gotten there.

Which is completely mortifying.

I want to spend ten thousand words exploring this metaphor, but for now I have to run.

Teague Chrystie

I have a tendency to fix your typos.

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