Uma Karuna Thurman, daughter of Robert Thurman and Nena Thurman, was born in Boston, Massachuseets, on April 29, 1970. Uma grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, where her father worked at Amherst College. She left boarding school at just 15, already determined to become an actress. She moved to New York to follow her dream.
A breakthrough role for the tall, blonde actress came when she played Cecile de Volanges in Dangerous Liaisons (1988). More attention came with the NC-17 rated Henry & June (1990), but it was Thurman's role in the Quentin Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction (1994) that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Donning a short black wig to play femme fatale Mia Wallace opposite John Travolta's hitman Vincent Vega, Thurman earned a place in film history.
After roles in The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996) and the Ted Demme film Beautiful Girls (1996), Thurman met her future husband Ethan Hawke on the set of Gattaca (1997).
Thurman returned to smaller films after playing the villainess Poison Ivy in the reviled Joel Schumacher effort Batman & Robin (1997) and Emma Peel in a remake of The Avengers (1998). She worked with Woody Allen and Sean Penn on Sweet and Lowdown (1999), and starred in Richard Linklater's drama Tape (2001) opposite Hawke. Thurman also won a Golden Globe award for her turn in the made-for-television film Hysterical Blindness (2002) (TV), directed by Mira Nair.
A return to the mainstream spotlight came when Thurman redeemed with Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), a revenge flick the two had dreamed up on the set of Pulp Fiction (1994). She also turned up in the John Woo cautioner Paycheck (2003) that same year. The renewed attention was not altogether welcome because Thurman was dealing with the break-up of her marriage with Hawke at about this time. Thurman handled the situation with grace, however, and took her surging popularity in stride. She garnered critical acclaim for her work in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) and was hailed as Tarantino's muse. Thurman reunited with Pulp Fiction (1994) dance partner John Travolta for the Get Shorty (1995) sequel Be Cool (2005) and landed a role in The Producers (2005) after Nicole Kidman backed out of the project.
Mini Biography By:
Uma Thurman was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1970 into a highly unorthodox and Eurocentric family -- her mother is a European socialite and former model, her father one of the nation's foremost Buddhist scholars. As a result, hers was a household in which the Dalai Lama was an occasional guest; she and her siblings all have names deriving from Buddhist mythology; and Middle American behavior was little understood, much less pursued.
And so it was that the young Thurman confronted childhood with an odd name and eccentric home life -- and nature seemingly conspired against her as well. Currently six feet tall, from an early age she towered over everyone else in class. Her famously large feet would soon sprout to size 11 -- and even beyond that -- and although they would eventually be lovingly filmed by director Quentin Tarantino, as a child she generally wore the biggest shoes in class, which only provided another subject of ridicule. Even her long nose moved one of her mother's friends to helpfully suggest rhinoplasty -- to the ten-year-old Thurman. To make matters worse yet, the family constantly relocated, making the gangly, socially inept Thurman perpetually the new kid in class. The result was an exceptionally awkward, self-conscious, lonely and alienated childhood.
Unsurprisingly, the young Thurman enjoyed making believe she was someone other than herself, and so thrived at acting in school plays -- her sole successful extracurricular activity. This interest, and her lanky frame, perfect for modeling, led the 15-year-old Thurman to New York City for high school and modeling work (including a layout in Glamour Magazine) as she sought acting roles. The roles soon came, starting with a few formulaic and forgettable Hollywood products, but immediately followed by Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) and Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons (1988), both of which brought much attention to her unorthodox sensuality and performances that intriguingly combined innocence and worldliness. The weird, gangly girl became a sex symbol virtually overnight.
Thurman continued to be offered good roles in Hollywood pictures into the early '90s, the least commercially successful but probably best-known of which was her smoldering, astonishingly-adult performance as June, Henry Miller's wife, in Henry & June (1990), the first movie to actually receive the dreaded NC-17 rating in the USA.
After a celebrated start, Thurman's career stalled in the early '90s with movies such as the mediocre Mad Dog and Glory (1993). Worse, her first starring role was in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993), which had endured a tortured journey from cult-favorite book to big-budget movie, and was a critical and financial debacle. Fortunately, Uma bounced back with a brilliant performance as Mia Wallace, that most unorthodox of all gangster's molls, in Tarantino's lauded, hugely successful Pulp Fiction (1994), a role for which Thurman received an Academy Award nomination.
Since then, Thurman has had periods of flirting with roles in arty independents such as A Month by the Lake (1995), supporting roles in which she has lent some glamorous presence to a mixed batch of movies such as Batman & Robin (1997), and the occasional starring role now and then, such as her role as a martial arts assassin in Tarantino's controversial Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), a grueling stretch for Thurman which proved her game for virtually any acting challenge.
Thurman had been briefly married to Gary Oldman, from 1990 to 1992. In 1998, she married Ethan Hawke, her co-star in the offbeat futuristic thriller Gattaca (1997). The couple had two children, Levon and Maya. Hawke and Thurman filed for divorce in 2004.
Mini Biography By:
Northfield Mount Herman School Northfield, Massachusetts
Amherst Regional Junior High School Amherst, Massachusetts
Professional Children's High School New York, New York
Nominated for Oscar.