MOTW: Uma Thurman: From Model to Actor

Photo Credit: Miramax Films
August 23rd, 2013

MOTW: Uma Thurman: From Model to Actor

The name Uma Karuna Thurman sounds like it belongs to someone from an exotic land, but Uma was actually born in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 29, 1970. Her father, Robert, was the first American to become a Buddhist monk and is the professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University. He named Uma after the Indian goddess of light and beauty in keeping with his Buddhist beliefs. He married Uma's mom, Nena, and gave his three sons equally unique names: Mipam, Dechen, and Ganden.

Thurman's family moved quite a bit when she was a child. Always being the new girl at school made it hard for her to make friends. Add to that the fact that she grew to her full height of five feet, eleven inches at the age of thirteen, and it is easy to see why she had a very awkward and occasionally lonely childhood. Luckily, her statuesque height would serve her well; at the age of fifteen, she became a fashion model. Soon she would begin getting tiny roles in films like "Johnny Be Good" and "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen." It wasn't until her role in the 1988 Oscar-nominated "Dangerous Liaisons" that producers began to take her seriously as an actor.

Two years later, Thurman made cinematic history by appearing in "Henry & June," the first movie ever to earn the NC-17 rating. It was around this time that she married British actor Gary Oldman. The marriage didn't last very long, and by 1992, she was divorced from Oldman and ready to tackle more movie roles.

Thurman appeared in several mainstream movies like "Jennifer Eight" and "Final Analysis," opposite Richard Gere. She then turned to indie fare, appearing in director Gus Van Sant's "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." In 1994, she was cast in the film that would take her career to the next level, appearing as brunette bombshell Mia Wallace in "Pulp Fiction." The part, which saw Thurman dancing with "Staying Alive" actor John Travolta, earned her an Oscar nomination. Though she didn't win the award, Thurman's place in Hollywood as a serious actor was cemented.

She followed up her Oscar nom with "Beautiful Girls" and "The Truth About Cats & Dogs," showing that she could do comedy along with all the dramatic roles she had previously taken. She returned to drama in 1997 in "Gattaca," which featured Ethan Hawke as her onscreen love interest. Since life often imitates art, the two fell in love off-screen as well, and they married a year later. Thurman was already seven months pregnant on her wedding day with daughter Maya Ray. The couple had another child, a son named Levon, who was born in 2002. A year after Levon's birth, the couple separated, though they continue to raise their children together.

Thurman didn't let her personal heartbreak stop her red-hot movie career, and just a few months after her divorce, she began promoting the epics "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," which reteamed her with her "Pulp Fiction" director, Quentin Tarantino. The films garnered her rave reviews and proved that Thurman could handle action in addition to her abilities in comedy and drama.

In 2005, she had another "Pulp Fiction" reunion, this time teaming up with former dance partner Travolta in "Be Cool," the sequel to his hit "Get Shorty." The two danced again in homage to "Pulp Fiction," and the film became a critical and box office success. Thurman continued to act steadily in both indie fare like "Motherhood" and mainstream movies like "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief."

In 2007, she met and became engaged to French businessman Arpad Busson, though they would later call off their engagement. They reconciled in 2009 and in 2012, Thurman gave birth to her third child, a daughter named Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson. Luckily, the happy couple nicknamed her Luna.

Though she has been acting for over twenty years, Thurman's career has never really waned, and she remains a big name with great box office draw. She currently has four films in the can that will be released soon, including "Eloise in Paris" and "Foolproof." She can next be seen in the much-anticipated Lars Von Trier film "Nymphomaniac," which is due out in the winter of 2013.