NOTE: Major spoilers ahead. Do not read if you haven’t seen Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.
Quentin Tarantino defended his controversial portrayal of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood during a press conference for the film in Moscow.
The scene in question involves Lee (Mike Moh) and the fictional Hollywood stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) fighting each other on the set of The Green Hornet.
In the film, the martial arts master loses the fight after only two rounds by being thrown violently into the side of a car.
READ MORE: Bruce Lee’s daughter lashes out over dad’s portrayal in ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’
According to Variety, during the press conference, Tarantino fielded questions about the “arrogance” of Moh’s Lee after the late film star was depicted in a cocky manner.
“Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy,” Tarantino told press. “The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up. I heard him say things like that, to that effect. If people are saying: ‘Well, he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali,’ well, yeah, he did. All right? Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read. She absolutely said that.”
He also insisted that the scenario is “fictional” with “fictional characters.”
“Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Brad would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could,” Tarantino said. “If you ask me the question: ‘Who would win in a fight, Bruce Lee or Dracula?’ It’s the same question. It’s a fictional character. If I say Cliff can beat Bruce Lee up, he’s a fictional character so he could beat Bruce Lee up.”
Tarantino continued: “The reality of the situation is this: Cliff is a Green Beret. He has killed many men in WWII in hand-to-hand combat. What Bruce Lee is talking about in the whole thing is that he admires warriors. He admires combat, and boxing is a closer approximation of combat as a sport. Cliff is not part of the sport that is like combat, he is a warrior. He is a combat person.”
“If Cliff were fighting Bruce Lee in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Garden, Bruce would kill him. But if Cliff and Bruce were fighting in the jungles of the Philippines in a hand-to-hand combat fight, Cliff would kill him,” Tarantino added.
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Tarantino’s remarks come after Lee‘s daughter, Shannon Lee, hit out against the director for his portrayal of her late father in the filmmaker’s ninth and most recent movie.
During an interview with the Wrap, Shannon Lee, 50, said she saw the movie, adding that it was a “disheartening” experience.
“It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theatre and listen to people laugh at my father.”
Shannon Lee said her father was not known for being cocky or hot-headed, arguing that was “not how he was.”
“He comes across as an arrogant a–hole who was full of hot air and not someone who had to fight triple as hard as any of those people did to accomplish what was naturally given to so many others,” she added.
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“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two characters are anti-heroes, and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen… and they’re portraying a period of time that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion.”
She continued: “I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bada– 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 Lee suggested Tarantino, 56, might have been trying to accurately portray how her father was stereotyped by the film industry back in the 1960s, however, she said: “It doesn’t come across that way,” adding that she believed “he was directed to be a caricature.”
‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.
—With files from Adam Wallis