Actress Uma Thurman lost her zen demeanor — expressing frustration, annoyance, some anger and even pain — as she testified Friday about her stormy decade-old relationship with the French financier who is the father of her youngest child.
Questioned during a Manhattan custody trial by her own lawyer, Thurman was matter of fact when she described meeting Arpad Busson in 2007 and his proposal the following year.
"He got down on one knee, pulled a ring out of his pocket and asked me to marry him. I said yes," she recalled, looking at down at the floor.
However, she got increasingly agitated as she recalled how Busson got "angry" and "meaner" over the following year as the world economy tanked and his business came under increasing pressure, particularly as a result of the Bernie Madoff scandal.
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She said he "had a very aggressive tantrum in front of all the kids" in June 2009 -- "shouting and yelling about the house" -- when she had to cancel a family trip to the Bahamas because her older daughter by actor Ethan Hawke had broken both arms in a bicycle accident.
Thurman said she returned Busson's $1.5 million ring in the fall of 2009, but their relationship continued - on and off - for two years until the fall of 2011 when she told him she was pregnant.
"He looked at me and said, ‘Well, the child won't share your last name, cannot be a U.S. citizen, cannot have a U.S. passport and will be raised a Catholic,’” she said in an increasingly agitated voice.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper asked her at one point to speak only in a neutral tone.
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Thurman testified that even though she and Busson had spoken about having a child from the beginning, their relationship went from rocky to "terrible" after she got pregnant.
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"He starting coming less and less" to see her in New York, she said, although he did agree to participate in couple therapy when he did visit.
Thurman said Busson gave her the ring back -- without a marriage proposal -- in the winter of 2012 and when he learned she was carrying a girl, he warned her not to leave the ring to her older daughter, only to his daughter.
Speaking rapidly in anger at the recollection, Thurman said she told Busson "You'll have to leave it up to me what happens after I'm dead."
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Busson told her that the ring had been bought by a trust which dictated that no American citizen could ever be a beneficiary. He later rescinded that and agreed in writing to let her put the ring in an American trust that she established for all three of her children, Thurman said.
Most of the other questions from Thurman's lawyer, Adam Wolff, dealt with the bumpy record the couple has had organizing visits between Busson -- who has a home in London and the Bahamas -- and their daughter, Luna, who will be 5 in July.
Busson's lawyer, Peter Bronstein, made an issue last week of the fact that Thurman has had more than half a dozen nannies in one year, but Thurman explained Friday that most of the nannies are all the same part time employees that she's had since Luna was born but they come in and out of their lives depending on the family's needs.
She said they are used to travel with the family and at other times to give the more permanent household staff a break.
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Thurman said it has been difficult to hire a full time permanent nanny because until the last six months, Busson's visits have been scheduled erratically, some cancelled because of his health, and it's hard to hire someone unless they know what their schedules will be, she said.
Busson looked intently at Thurman when she spoke about the early days of their romance but mostly squirmed around in his chair and ran his fingers through his long hair as he listened to Thurman's recollection about his visits with their daughter, Luna.
"Everything she said was a lie," he muttered audibly to an aide in the hallway as they departed for lunch.
In the afternoon, Thurman was feisty with most of Bronstein's cross examination — waiving her arms, raising her voice as she used sarcasm to answer questions.
When he asked her where Busson's engagement ring was currently located, Thurman cracked, "Do you want my house broken into?"
She said it had been "hidden" somewhere by her housekeeper in her Manhattan apartment in The River House, a Midtown landmark.
When Bronstein pressed her further -- asking if she had had the ring appraised (she said no) and if other Busson gifts of jewelry had been stolen (she replied yes), the judge jumped to her aid, cutting off the questions.
"I'm not deciding custody of the ring. I'm deciding custody of the child," he said.
The judge said the ring might be an issue after he makes a custody decision if the parents require a second trial on financial issues.
The lawyers are expected to give closing arguments Monday.Send a Letter to the Editor