Quentin Tarantino has offered a scathing response to the people criticizing his portrayal of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Played by Mike Moh in the hit 2019 movie, Lee was depicted as arrogant, a trait refuted by some who knew the late martial artist. Many fans of the Enter the Dragon star have also condemned Moh's portrayal of Lee in the movie as inaccurate and have even called his scene in the movie disrespectful.
One person left particularly unhappy with the portrayal is Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee's daughter. She said that it was "disheartening" to see her father presented as "an arrogant a--hole who was full of hot air." Cutting Tarantino some slack, Shannon said she understood the reasoning behind the scene, but that it still made her uncomfortable to hear people laughing at Bruce in the theater when she saw the movie.
"I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn't need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive," Shannon said in 2019.
On The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Quentin Tarantino spoke about the controversy surrounding the Bruce Lee scene. In the past, the foul-mouthed filmmaker has never been one to be shy about sharing his honest feelings, and this situation is certainly no different. Recognizing her relationship to Bruce, Tarantino gives Shannon a pass, but he's not apologizing to a single other soul about the offensive scene. From the interview:
"I can understand his daughter having a problem with it. It's her f-cking father, alright, I get that. Everybody else: Go suck a d-ck. "
In the scene in question, stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is challenged to a fight by Bruce Lee in a three round fight. He outsmarts Lee by purposely letting the famous martial artist win the first round handily. Cliff gains the upper hand in the second round by slamming Bruce into the side of a car. Before the winner is declared in the third round, the fight is broken up, though some fans still think the scene made Lee look foolish.
For his part, Tarantino says the scene wasn't meant to suggest Lee wasn't an excellent martial artist. He had simply just been "tricked" by Cliff, allowing the stuntman to catch him off guard in the second round of their impromptu fight. In fact, Tarantino thinks the Bruce in the movie may have even appreciated the movie if things weren't so heated in the moment.
"The thing about it is, it's obvious that Cliff tricked him. That's how he was able to do it. He tricked him. It's explained more in the book, but the thing is, they do a two falls out of three contest. Cliff loves sh-t like that. And he has a method. And his method is to give the guy the first fall... He just tricked him. And Bruce realized he got tricked, and if he hadn't been so vicious, he could have even appreciated it."
Tarantino also insists that his depiction of Bruce is based on stories said to be from actual stuntmen who worked with him on The Green Hornet. From the director's point of view, depicting Lee as someone who was rude to American stuntmen was accurate, as he'd read about how that was the case in Matthew Polly's book Bruce Lee: A Life.
"The stuntmen hated Bruce on Green Hornet. It's in Matthew Polly's book, and before that, it's always been known. That's why Gene LeBell was brought on, to teach Bruce respect for American stuntmen. Bruce had nothing but disrespect for stuntmen, and he was always hitting them... He was always tagging, it's called tagging when you hit a stuntman for real... and it got to the point where they were like, 'No, I refuse to work with him.'"
Clearly, Tarantino doesn't feel too sorry about including Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. For a deeper dive into the scene, you can read the filmmaker's new novelization adaptation of the movie. This news comes to us from The Joe Rogan Experience.