Uma Thurman: Wonder woman

Uma Thurman's latest screen role is as a light-hearted superhero. Finally, the actress has been typecast, says Gill Pringle
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"It's hard to get a date as a famous woman," declares Uma Thurman. If one of the most lusted-after actresses in the world today can't get a date, you're probably thinking, then the rest of the female population may just as well give up now. She persists with her theory, having clearly given it much serious consideration. "It's true. Because who would bother with it? Any half-bright guy who could have a normal, nice good-looking woman or a famous one - wouldn't you be smart and pick the nice, normal one? It's a pain in the neck to be involved with a famous person. I mean, it really costs people something sometimes. Some of the times they might want something but generally I think it can much more interfere with your life than enhance your life, I guess depending on what position you're sitting in," continues the 36-year-old actress.

Briefly wed to British actor Gary Oldman in the early 1990s, Thurman went on to marry Ethan Hawke in 1998, her co-star in futuristic thriller Gattaca. They separated almost three years ago and have since been involved in a long and painful divorce.

Today the actress finds herself single once more, presently in the "off" cycle of her two-and-a-half-year on-off relationship with the up-market New York hotelier Andre Balazs. But if it's not easy dating when you're famous, then it's equally difficult dating when you're a superhero, as Thurman scarily demonstrates in her new comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend, co-starring Luke Wilson and Eddie Izzard. With obvious zeal, the actress portrays a jilted woman reeking revenge on her faint-hearted ex, employing an extensive range of secret superpowers. If it may be viewed as a dream role for any woman who has ever been dumped, Thurman refuses to rise to the bait as to whether it was a cathartic role, bearing in mind her own real-life experience with Hawke.

I ask her if it's a pro-male or anti-male film. "That's a really good question because I don't know the answer," she says. "Think about it this way - it's written by a man, directed by a man and produced by a bunch of men - then there's me. So I feel like we're all equally represented. Me against seven of them. So is it a male nightmare? Is it a female cathartic revolution to sort of go completely crazy and let him have it? I think it's both, interestingly enough. I think that Don Payne in his script is reliving whatever unpleasant relationship he had with probably some dynamic woman, and at the same time he's giving her her due. And then by casting me I think he's really giving it a chance because I'll never do anything that's not pro-women - at least in my own actions."

I ask her if it's difficult being a single mother. "It's challenging. But I think it's the same as any working woman because it's hard to do it all. I feel very lucky just that my children seem to be so wonderful and I can't really take credit for it but I'm proud of them," she replies modestly. "I don't know any different at this point. I think it's such a privilege to have family. I'm so grateful to have them so I don't see it as hard. I know no different. I'm very grateful that I'm not wondering if I'll ever have children. They're wonderful people and they're very easy, too."

Chatting in a stifling New York hotel where a blistering heatwave has caused the air conditioning to break down, Thurman remains radiant and elegant although not at all the cool, untouchable ice princess version of herself which has been so well documented over the 18 years since she first rose to fame, at the age of 18, with break-out roles in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Dangerous Liaisons.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend is directed by Ivan Reitman ( Ghostbusters, Animal House and Old School), who was impressed by the comedic skills she displayed in the supporting role of Ulla in last year's The Producers. "Who else could play the part?" he asks. "Uma is a special effect in real life. She's a wonderful actress, gorgeous, and she has done rigorous stunt work before in [Quentin Tarantino's] Kill Bill films."

After so much dramatic angst - both professionally and privately - Thurman admits that she is relishing the opportunity finally to prove herself in comedy. "I've been trying to do it [comedy] for 20 years and nobody would give me a job. I've always known I would be good at it if anybody would let me do it. I read scripts and I wanted to do them but they wouldn't consider me - only other people that you know who do those kinds of movies all the time. I couldn't even get auditions for certain things. So this is very exciting for me and I'm hoping that I can do more like this. Because actually this is much more fun for me and much closer to me and I've more to draw from playing quirky crazy girls obsessed with relationships than I do women who carry samurai swords," says Thurman.

Ask her why she thinks it's taken so long for her to break into comedy, she says thoughtfully: "I think for a lot of reasons. One, I think probably I was very intense when I was younger. Intense and tense and sort of enamoured with dark things and wanting to be real, wanting to be serious. And desperate to not be disregarded as some fluffy bimbo du jour. And I was so hell-bent on that and so I think it made my choices a little different and I had less fun. I wasn't that confident. And also I wanted to be a character actor, so I thought, so I didn't feel I was ready for certain roles. I wound up getting pigeon-holed and then it's hard to get out of anything.

"I also think I looked very classical and I was tall. I spoke too clearly. Too many things, I think, just took me out of the American film market and into Europe and here and there and then, you know, exotica galore, and that's how it went," says Thurman, whose previous films also include The Golden Bowl, Les Misérables, Beautiful Girls, Final Analysis, Henry & June and Pulp Fiction.

It's difficult to imagine that such an established player as Thurman would ever be thwarted in pursuing - and winning - any movie role she chose. "I never felt that," she argues. "I've had a very touch-and-go career. I don't feel 'power'. I work for directors who are crazy artists and look for writers that get inspired or are moved by somebody that resembles me enough that I can play them. It's such a miracle to find the right part."

'My Super Ex-Girlfriend' opens on 4 August