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The growing Quentin Tarantino controversy, explained

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Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 8:25 PM
Director of the film “Kill Bill: Volume 1,” Quentin Tarantino, left, and actress Uma Thurman arrive at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles in 2003. Tarantino has expressed sorrow for the car crash that injured Uma Thurman during shooting of “Kill Bill,” calling it the biggest regret of his life. He said he had test-driven the route himself and believed it to be safe, and persuaded Thurman she could drive it.

The “Kill Bill” script called for Uma Thurman to be spit on by co-star Michael Madsen, but Quentin Tarantino was the one who did it. He didn’t trust anyone else to spit right.

“I’m the director, so I can kind of art direct this spit,” Tarantino told Deadline on Monday. “I know where I want it to land. I’m right next to the camera. So, boom! I do it.”

The director has come under fire since Thurman told The New York Times that he mistreated her on set. Tarantino responded to those allegations in the Deadline interview, much of which deals with Thurman’s near-fatal car crash on the set of “Kill Bill,” as seen in the shocking footage published by the Times. But he also admits to actually choking Thurman on set, something he repeated years later with Diane Kruger while filming “Inglourious Basterds.” (Kruger wrote on Instagram that she sympathized with Thurman, but that her personal work experience with Tarantino was “pure joy.”)

Amid the controversy, there’s been no indication that Tarantino’s planned 2019 film about the Manson family murders – which would prominently feature another female character faced with violence, Sharon Tate, who was one of the victims – is not still underway.

Thurman said Tarantino persuaded her to drive the blue convertible in the famous scene when her character, The Bride, sets out to kill Bill out of revenge for him trying to murder her years earlier. Though producers remember otherwise, according to the Times, she held that she initially objected to doing so after hearing that the car, converted from a stick shift to an automatic, might not have been in tiptop shape.

“Quentin came in my trailer and didn’t like to hear no, like any director,” Thurman said. “He was furious because I’d cost them a lot of time. But I was scared. ... The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road.”

Thurman came back from the hospital “in a neck brace with my knees damaged and a large massive egg on my head and a concussion,” she said, adding that she and Tarantino then had a fight, during which she accused him of trying to kill her. Both agreed in their respective accounts that their relationship was strained for a few years after the crash, though Tarantino remembers the actual incident differently.

Tarantino said a production manager told him Thurman was nervous about driving, so he approached her and said “she could totally do it, it was a straight line, you will have no problem. Uma’s response was ... ‘OK.’ Because she believed me.” The road ended up taking “this little S-curve,” he continued, which Thurman had not been prepared for. While he accepted that he was wrong in that regard – “that is one of the biggest regrets of my life” – he denied ever hearing about the car being unsafe. And he said he “didn’t force her into the car.”

Fifteen years later, Thurman asked to see the footage from the crash so she could solve her “Nancy Drew mystery.” She told the Times that Tarantino had refused to let her see the footage after the incident, but he blamed Miramax for keeping the footage from her. He went on what he called a “herculean task” to find it and get it to her.

“Uma thought I had acquiesced to them not letting her see the footage,” Tarantino said. “I didn’t know any of that was necessarily going on. I knew they weren’t letting her see the footage, but I didn’t know she thought I was part of that.”

When Thurman shared a portion of the footage on Instagram on Monday, she wrote in her caption that the director gave her the footage so she could “expose it and let it see the light of day.”

“He also did so with full knowledge it could cause him personal harm, and I am proud of him for doing the right thing and for his courage,” Thurman wrote. She says she holds producers Lawrence Bender, E. Bennett Walsh and “the notorious Harvey Weinstein solely responsible” for covering up the crash. The Post has reached out to Walsh and Bender, a frequent Tarantino collaborator, for comment.

And the choking? Tarantino claims it was Thurman’s idea to have the chain – which in the movie is thrown at The Bride by Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama) – actually wrap around her neck and choke her.

“Not forever, not for a long time,” he said of how he did it. “But it’s not going to look right (without really doing it). I can act all strangle-ey, but if you want my face to get red and the tears to come to my eye, then you kind of need to choke me.”

Tarantino’s upcoming film is set in 1969 Los Angeles during the summer of the Manson murders. His “Django Unchained” star Leonardo DiCaprio signed on to play an aging actor in the film, but the news was quickly overshadowed by reports that Roman Polanski would be a central character. The director, charged with raping a minor in the ’70s, was married to Tate at the time of her murder.

In 2003, Jezebel pointed out, Tarantino defended Polanski’s assault while speaking on Howard Stern’s radio show. Stern asked the director why Hollywood continued to support “this mad man, this director who raped a 13-year-old,” to which Tarantino replied: “It was statutory rape ... he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape. To me, when you use the word rape, you’re talking about violent, throwing them down – it’s like one of the most violent crimes in the world.”

After being reminded that the drugged child could not consent, he added, “Look, she was down with this.”

It remains to be seen if recent revelations will affect plans for the film, which Sony is distributing. (The Post reached out to the company for comment.) Bonnie Bruckheimer, a film producer and professor at the University of Southern California, said it’s unlikely Sony will face external pressure from fans.

“I don’t know if they’re going to stop and say, I’m not going to see this movie because of how (Tarantino) behaved toward Uma Thurman,” she said. “He’s a great filmmaker, but his films are very violent.”

Throughout his career, Tarantino consistently had the backing of Harvey Weinstein, but needed a new partner after the producer’s sexual misconduct allegations. Sony fought hard for the rights to the Tate film, beating out bidders like Warner Bros. and Paramount. If the company wants to compete with merging giants, said J.D. Connor, a USC professor of cinema and media studies, being seen as the “new Tarantino studio” could be key.

“Disney (merging with Fox), NBCUniversal-Comcast and AT&T-Time Warner are our mega players,” Connor said. “Sony is clearly not one of those – they are in a bit of a scramble. Having a regular house auteur wouldn’t be a bad way to go.”

But it could be a risky move to continue, given the growing #MeToo and Time’s Up movements’ focus on how women are treated in Hollywood, he said. As to how that’ll affect Tarantino’s reputation, “We don’t know – this could become part of a long unwinding.”

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