Uma Thurman

12/23/2003 at 01:00 PM EST

After a year of highs and lows, Uma Thurman is wrapping up 2003 with a mighty big Paycheck. Call it a reward for an actress who came out kicking and screaming last fall in the Quentin Tarantino bloodbath Kill Bill: Vol. 1 – and for a mother of two who saw her marriage (to Ethan Hawke) fall apart in the tabloids. Her new futuristic sci-fi thriller, directed by John Woo and costarring Ben Affleck as a confused engineer chasing his memory, puts Thurman back in what she calls the "girl" role. That is, she's having fun in a part that doesn't involve wielding a sword or being covered in gore – and she gets to kiss the boy.

Thurman recently chatted with reporters about making Paycheck, working with a heartthrob and seeing into the future. Oh, and watch out, she has a slap kick to brag about.

You've labeled Paycheck your 'fun' movie after filming the physically intense Kill Bill. What made it so enjoyable?
I got to play the girl. I had a really nice time. Ben (Affleck) did all of the heavy lifting. I got to watch John Woo work, Ben hit people. I wasn't covered in blood.

How was it going into action mode this time around?
I play a biologist and I'm a girl – and the few things that I do in the action (scenes) are very street, very self-defense. None of the stunt people knew what I'd just been through (training for Kill Bill), but I bragged slightly. I was like, "Would you like a slap kick or should I do a stop point?" I kind of had the stunt lingo and could deal with pretty much anything that they wanted to throw me.

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