Uma Thurman Figures Out ‘Motherhood’

The actress Uma Thurman stars as a harried New York mom in her latest flick.

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By now, Uma Thurman has become associated with a few things: blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and a so-cool-ice-won’t-melt attitude. Such attributes have won her a Lancôme contract, a Louis Vuitton modeling gig and the adoration of legions of Quentin Tarantino devotees. (Not to mention a hunky hedge funder fiancé, Arki Busson, whose previous relationship was with Elle Macpherson).

But for her latest flick, “Motherhood,” out Friday, the 39-year-old actress dyed her hair mousy brown and strapped kids to her back to portray a day in the life of a harried Manhattan mother of two.

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“It’s not my story, but it felt very personal to me,” says Thurman, herself the mother of Maya, 11, and Levon, 7.

“I thought it would be interesting to see her in this part. It’s very different,” says director Katherine Dieckmann, who also penned the comedic, semiautobiographical film. “I always felt she was this intelligent woman who wasn’t always being shown that way.”

Lest any Tarantino fans are worried Thurman is going soft, she is rumored to be coming back for a third turn in the “Kill Bill” franchise. “There is a story to be told there, so we shall see,” she says.

Here, Thurman talks about her new film, fame, motherhood and more.

WWD: What made you want to do this film? It certainly wasn’t for the paycheck.
Uma Thurman: No (laughs). It was a no-brainer. I love to do realistic, natural parts. I also think I’ve always been an extremely family centered person and…[Katherine’s] words spoke to me.

WWD: What made you feel that kinship? Presumably you don’t live in a fourth-floor walk-up.
U.T.: I wish I were living in a rent-controlled apartment; that would be great (laughs). I just felt there was a lot to relate to among women. Most of us recognize some aspect of the circumstances and details of city life in the movie.

WWD: How has your own life been changed by becoming a mother?
U.T.: It’s a transformative experience. It’s a huge invitation of love in your life, and it has its frustrations. All of us would love to be turned magically into a perfect person when we become a parent, so that we could then raise our perfect child, but we still are flawed people. [You] struggle with your issues and try to make things better because you love your kids.

WWD: In the film, your character is struggling to resuscitate her abandoned writing career. How have you managed to carve out space to continue working since having kids?
U.T.: You can’t have everything. They might tell you [that] you can have everything, but you can’t. But I do need to work, for myself, for my family, like any normal person. So it’s a clutch-and-pedal situation. Obviously, it does get better. When the kids were little, it was really stressful, because it’s so overwhelming.

WWD: Also, dealing with fame around children seems overwhelming. Jodie Foster makes a cameo as herself, being besieged by paparazzi at the playground on Bleecker Street. Is that what happens to you and your kids?
U.T.: That has happened to me, in that exact same park.

WWD: How do you explain it to your children?
U.T.: I just try to speak about it honestly with them: ‘That’s how this guy is making a living. And I’m sorry that it’s messing up this moment for us. But it’s just a side effect of a job and let’s just try to let it go.’…That’s part of the price of being a celebrity — and to be willing to pay that price, you better darn well love your job.

WWD: Going back to the film, you essentially wear one costume throughout.
U.T.: Not only did I wear the same dress [by Dosa], but we only had one of them. We tried to get another one, but we couldn’t. So it was like the Queen of Sheba’s dress. If anything happened to it, the entire movie would have been destroyed.

WWD: It was probably treated better than designer gowns you’ve worn. What do you think of how competitive red carpets have gotten?
U.T.: They have kind of taken the fun out of it a little bit. It’s become a bit too intense. But I’m very pleased: I’ve been Best Dressed and I’ve been Worst Dressed. I think you should be able to be both.

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