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« 1964: Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker | Main | strait-jacketed »
Thursday
Jun052014

Throwback Thursday FYC: Uma in Henry & June (1990)

The Film Experience time travels so consistently between the now, the future, the distant past and the recent past that Throwback Thursday, that grand internet tradition, hasn't meant much. But then a lightbulb - "Throwback Thursday... Oscar Campaigns"

Remember Henry & June (1990)? Oscar and Uma anecdotes after the jump...

Some of you were undoubtedly too young to see the first major English language NC-17 movie, from a major studio no less (Universal) and a lauded director (Philip Kaufmann) with a topic (famous authors) and production values so glorious that it was even kind of awards bait. Or, it would have been had Oscar been hornier and the MPAA and newspapers and television stations and videochains and whatnot not been so prudish about the new "adult" rating. That year the Academy wasn't having anything too outré, though. They were in a very mainstream conservative mood, what with paying homage to an old winning crime franchise that had seen better days, dancing with wolves in a long dead genre, and shedding one photogenic tear for a supernatural blockbuster.

In the end the film only received one nomination, for Philippe Rousselot's sensuous cinematography but if it were up to me the rich costume design and Uma Thurman for Supporting Actress would have also been nominated. Movieline called Uma "fascinating" and the New Yorker said

Uma Thurman is sexy and touching... powerfully erotic in the best way"

Uma came in second place at the National Society of Film Critics and first place in my then-just-blooming actresexual heart. She enters with such vivid force (it's seriously one of the film images that's most implanted in my brain) that when she disappears for a long stretch of the movie, which would more accurately be called Henry & Anaïs (Fred Ward & Maria de Medeiros as the famous authors in question), you keep willing her to return.

People have long since forgotten that Uma married Gary Oldman back in 1990. Just a few days before Henry & June premiered.

Two Anecdotes!
Kevin Spacey is also in this movie but he wasn't yet famous enough to be listed under the FYCs. One of my favorite film books ever is Richard E Grant's "With Nails:The Film Diaries of Richard E. Grant" in which he sounds off his films from the 80s and 90s and on many of his co-stars but in a clever and amiable enough way that he didn't kill his career. 

Kevin Spacey back in the supporting trenches days

On Kevin, who he tries to spend time with during rehearsal so he can get his American accent right:

Spacey steadies my derailed nerves with a trot down his very vivid Memory Super Information Highway. He names names: who did what to whom and when and how, and did you know what a fucker this name was and what a doll that one was. Actor yak.

Kevin is waiting to play leads in movies, having done them in the theater including Broadway. His when-will-it-be-me? kvetch receives scant support from me. My nerves are all too grateful just to be enjoying a dose of fresh air.

Grant talks about Uma at length in the book: her bravery during read throughs when she's the only one trying an accent "full-pelt," her fussiness with the hair and makeup team. And he even obsesses over that same cinematic entrance of hers, the one forever imprinted on my brain.

a photograph of Uma as "June Miller" used in the film

Later once the shot is set up, Uma emerges again from her caravan as though she had just bust out of her chrysalis, such is the transformation. At something around six foot tall in heels, hair coiled and waved close to her head, vamp makeup with blood-red lips, and body poured into a sheath of black satin, she is nothing short of a Venus Coca-Cola bottle! Such is the potent effect of her silent entrance, that you can hear the collective jaw-drop of the cast and crew - fifty of them!

My jaw certainly dropped. I wish Oscars had, too.

previous fyc: Diahann Carroll in Claudine (1974)

 

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Reader Comments (13)

who are your 90 suppporting ladies!

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

mark - UMA, ANNETTE and...???

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This was an underrated film and certainly one that was beautiful to look at as well as being very sensual.

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Wiest (Edward Sissorhands)? Marcia Gay Harden (Miller's Crossing)?

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

1994 Supporting Actress:

1. Faye Wong, Chungking Express
2. Virna Lisi, Queen Margot
3. Kate Winslet, Heavenly Creatures (although, it's been a while, is she a lead?)
4. Rachel Griffith, Muriel's Wedding
5. Charlotte Colman, Four Weddings And A Funeral

Biggest blind spot being Dianne Weist and Jennifer Tilly in Bullets Over Broadway, both of whom I'm sure could easily be my winner.

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

whoops, wrong year! well. Uma factored in 94 too lol.

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Never caught up with this one - I find that 1981-1996 or so, or from when I was born to when I turned 15 - is one of my biggest cinematic blind spots. So many great or interesting movies (by reputation at least) that I still haven't caught up with. Anyway, thanks for the reminder that this is one of them. And those anecdotes are great. Never heard of that book - another one to search for.

June 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Roark -- oh, it's great (that book). The following movies get whole chapters with tons of details on actors, directors, auditions, filming...

WITHNAIL AND I
HENRY AND JUNE
L.A. STORY
HUDSON HAWK
THE PLAYER
BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
PRET A PORTER

Failed auditions for The Last of the Mohicans and Far and Away... small bits on Spice World and Portrait of a Lady and a whole bit on hanging out with Sandra Bernhard and Madonna (who loves Henry & June) I just love the book.

June 6, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

maclaine,bening,bedelia,close,goldberg for 90/

June 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

mark - MACLAINE. of course. ugh how could i forget.

June 6, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel-I mean, the Academy did, so you should be excused as well...one of those truly bizarre and unexplainable snubs.

June 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I saw Henry & June last summer when I was checking out Best Cinematography-nominated movies. It was one of the few that seemed to stick with me over time as compared to others I watched from that period like The Lover, Hoffa, and Blaze. Maria de Madeiros was particularly memorable, possibly because this is the only other film of hers I've seen besides Pulp Fiction. She has the innocent look down, but with a sexual curiosity behind her eyes that was perfect for Henry & June.

June 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

Kevin Spacey has always been a prick.

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