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Ethan Hawke Said He "Had No Business" Marrying Uma Thurman

The actors were married for seven years and share two children.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke were one of Hollywood's A-list couples. After meeting on the set of 1997's Gattaca, the couple got married in 1998 and welcomed two children together, Maya (of Stranger Things fame) and Levon. But, in 2003, the pair separated and then went through a divorce amid tabloid rumors. Both actors have spoken out about their split in interviews, including Hawke saying that he "had no business" marrying Thurman in the first place. Read on to find out why Hawke thinks he should have known better and for more details about their breakup.

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Hawke later said he wasn't ready for marriage.

Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman at the 2000 Oscars
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

In a 2013 interview with Elle, Hawke opened up about getting married to Thurman at age 27 and how, in hindsight, he feels he wasn't ready for that sort of commitment because he was coming to terms with his fame at the same time.

"Success when you're young is really overwhelming," he said. "The world felt out of control. And I wanted to stop it from spinning so fast. I thought marriage would decrease my variables or something. I was absolutely wrong."

The Before Sunrise star continued, "There was this discovery that the male brain isn't done until 28. I definitely think my frontal lobe was not finished. I had no business taking vows that would last more than two weeks."

Hawke also talked about how his divorce affected him.

Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke photographed in 2001
Kurt Krieger/Corbis via Getty Images

In a 2018 interview with GQ, Hawke reflected on his split from Thurman took place around the same time as a high point in his career: his Oscar nomination for Training Day in 2002.

"In a lot of ways, it could have been the beginning of something. It was the best moment of my career," he told the magazine. "Like, Maybe, maybe, you could be commercially viable. But I got divorced and my personal life fell apart. I don't know if you feel this way, but when you're depressed, it's really easy to see everything that is fake about other people and life, and I just started seeing all that. How phony celebrity was, how phony everything is."

He said that his kids helped him through this time. "That's the wonderful thing about children is they just need you every day. It gives your life balance. Meaning your whole life isn't just about yourself," he said. The actor also shared that filming the sequel Before Sunset helped him heal. "That was the height of my marriage falling apart, and getting to spend that summer with Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater, reconnecting with a part of myself that was more…what's the right word? Idealized. A cleaner self. That was a great summer. And it really helped me put myself back together."

Thurman told Oprah that she felt fully responsible.

In a 2005 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Thurman spoke at length about how she was feeling following her divorce, which had recently been finalized.

"Our marriage failed. I should take full responsibility for the failure of my own marriage," Thurman said. Winfrey suggested that there's "never just one thing," and Thurman continued, "And blaming anybody doesn't make you feel better. And when you have two children, I think that's such a priority to protect them and to never lose sight of the fact that even if you're going to fight or even if things are going badly, it's in their best interest that everybody comes out okay."

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Both actors moved on to new relationships.

Ryan Shawhughes and Ethan Hawke at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2022
Li Yang/China News Service via Getty Images

Hawke married Ryan Shawhughes in 2008. Shawhughes had been his children's nanny, and there were rumors that he had cheated on Thurman with her. "I know people imagine some kind of Sound of Music-type love affair, but the truth is by the time Ryan and I were falling in love, it had been a long while since I had employed her," Hawke told The Guardian in 2009. The couple have now welcomed two children together: Clementine and Indiana.

As for Thurman, until 2014, she was in a lengthy relationship with businessman Arpad Busson, with whom she welcomed daughter, Luna.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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