Craig here, asking you all (on her 40th birthday): where is Uma at?
Ah, Uma. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. And despite actually being Tarantino's Bride twice last decade. What is it about Uma? She's widely known and adored by many, yet never seems to (quite) make it to the top of the A-list. The likes of Helen Hunt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Renée Zellweger, Jennifer Connelly, Angelina Jolie and Hilary Swank - all peers and contemporaries - have bagged themselves Oscars in the last thirteen-or-so years. The simple question is: where's Uma's gold?
She's one of the most uniquely beautiful actresses working, but nowadays, more so than in the early '90s, she doesn't often tend to get the recognition come awards season, or even appear on any of those Sexiest Hollywood Stars lists that crop up year-on-year anymore (although, is this really a fair indication of a star's Tinseltown standing anyway?). She has a singular talent and is open and vibrant with her on-screen persona: sultry, yet unafraid to play silly; refined, but willing to be raffish. There aren't many stars who have her particular mix of versatility and charm. And I'm sure some of her peers would have killed to have played Beatrix Kiddo.
Venus Rising: Uma in her first major role, in Baron Munchausen
Her florid introduction to the silver screen came in 1988 in the shapely form of the Goddess Venus (as an homage to Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus') in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It's an entrance comparable to (although it came six years before) Cameron Diaz's similar blond siren walk-on in 1994's The Mask (the year Uma got her first and, to date, only Oscar nomination, for Pulp Fiction). She was newly established and well on the rise back then, but how to define her career since?
Diaz made cartoon Jim Carrey's eyes pop out - and so, too, the cinema-going public's - and has gone on to be one of Hollywood's top female earners. Uma's salary doesn't quite reach Diaz's heights, but she's gained a solid and singular reputation for her - sometime fun, sometimes frank - body of work all the same; and when she's on top form she's often unmatchable. (Diaz may pull in bigger crowds, but she's rarely as risky or as resourceful as Uma: it ain't all about the money!) But since Kill Bill Vol. 2 six years ago - and despite some recent game attempts at more commercial rom-com fare - she hasn't set the film world on fire as once she did. With a whole host of rising stars strutting the red carpet year-on-year where does this leave a talent like hers?
Many a year she's dipped her toes in a variety of genre pools (and there are few genres that Uma hasn't tried and tested). Let's take stock and get an overview here: era-hopping period drama (Dangerous Liaisons, Les misérables, Vatel, The Golden Bowl, Henry & June, Sweet and Lowdown); adaptations of contemporary plays (Tape, Chelsea Walls, Hysterical Blindness, My Zinc Bed); an array of rom-coms (The Truth About Cats & Dogs, Prime, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, The Accidental Husband, Motherhood); fantastical sci-fi (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Gattaca, Paycheck, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief); a pair of franchise-ending flops (Hey, they all have 'em) with The Avengers, Batman & Robin; and a couple of true genre-defying oddities thrown in for good measure (Where the Heart Is, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues).
Left: does Uma get a massive thumbs up from you?
She's played the villainous vamp, the demure ingénue, the good-hearted girl and swift-footed samurai - and a multitude of lead and supporting ladies in between. She has the cool-handed knack for boldly trying out all those different cinematic genres (still a decision to be applauded in today's movie world - especially when many big-name actors all too often stick to the safety of their particular genres of choice).
She's had a fair share of notable roles - the high profile one-two punch of the Kill Bill double, closely backed up by her dance-and-drugs dealings with Travolta in Pulp Fiction (to name two obvious ones), but why is it that when she's either killing Bill or pulping fiction she only seems to gets the high praise? I think it's about time for her to be given the chance to re-shine on the silver screen, to remind us that there's still a vast and varied career path after 40 just around the corner.
But maybe the over-abundance of variety has resulted in her career so far not entirely finding its own groove. Has the wide variety of roles made her an all-too indefinable screen presence? Or has the genre indecision left Uma slightly adrift? She's tried almost everything: where for a girl to go next. Either way, it's a big birthday for Uma. Let's hope the roles keep getting just as big.
So, today on her 40th, if you were a director with a free pick of projects, what gift of a role would you give Ms. Thurman?