Uma: Golden, But Scarlett

04/03/1998 at 12:00 AM EST

The event was for the new Merchant-Ivory adaptation of Henry James's "The Golden Bowl," but it seemed like "Gone With the Wind" was really on everybody's minds, reports PEOPLE. "I think Uma gives a performance like Scarlett O'Hara," said the movie's producer, Ismail Merchant, referring to his leading lady Uma Thurman, at Tuesday's New York premiere. "She's just beautiful, ravishing and scheming." In the 1903 period piece, Thurman plays Charlotte, whose lover is a penniless Italian nobleman (Jeremy Northam), who, in turn, is married to the wealthy Maggie (Kate Beckinsale). Thurman's husband, Ethan Hawke, 30, told PEOPLE, "I think Uma's been good a lot of times. But I would put this (performance up) with 'Henry and June' and 'Pulp Fiction' as my three favorite things she's ever done." "Charlotte is pretty bad news," said Thurman, 30, who initially hesitated before taking the role. "I didn't quite understand the character at first, and I was nervous to take it on without having an angle. I wasn't sure if I liked her, and I am still not sure. But I had this insight -- that the story is sort of a reflection of 'Gone with the Wind.' (Charlotte) really had this Scarlett O'Hara obsession on loving men."

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