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China cancels release of ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’: report

(L-R) Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio at the press conference for the movie 'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood' at the Hotel Ritz-Carlton, in Tokyo, Japan on Aug. 26, 2019.
(L-R) Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio at the press conference for the movie 'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood' at the Hotel Ritz-Carlton, in Tokyo, Japan on Aug. 26, 2019. Kento Nara/Geisler-Fotopress/DPA via ZUMA Press

NOTE: Major spoilers ahead. Do not read if you haven’t seen Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

Though Quentin Tarantino‘s ninth movie Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood has dominated the North American box office since July, it’s still yet to be released in one of the world’s biggest markets: China.

The two-hour, 41-minute flick was scheduled to come out in the Communist country on Friday, Oct. 25. According to the Hollywood Reporter, however, the film’s release has been put on hold.

It’s currently unclear why the move was made, but it’s being speculated that the delay has something to do with Tarantino’s portrayal of Bruce Lee, the late martial arts master and actor.

Lee is the only character of Chinese descent in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, and is portrayed by Asian-American actor Mike Moh as “cocky” and “hot-headed,” which, according to Bruce’s daughter Shannon Lee, was “not how he was.”

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(L-R) Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth and Mike Moh as Bruce Lee in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.’
(L-R) Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth and Mike Moh as Bruce Lee in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.’ Sony Pictures

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the younger Lee (50) — who has previously criticized Tarantino, 56, for his portrayal of the Enter the Dragon star — made a direct appeal to China’s National Film Administration, demanding that they force the Kill Bill director to alter or censor the onscreen portrayal of her father.

READ MORE: Bruce Lee’s daughter lashes out over dad’s portrayal in ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’

During an interview with the Wrap, Shannon claimed that watching the film was a “disheartening” experience for her.

“It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theatre and listen to people laugh at my father,” she said.

The scene to which she was referring involves a fight between her father and the fictional Hollywood stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt.

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‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ trailer
‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ trailer

In the film, Bruce picks a fight with Booth after being made fun of on set. He loses the fight after only two rounds by being thrown violently into the side of a car.

READ MORE: ‘South Park’ banned in China after mocking Chinese government censors

“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,” Shannon said.

She later suggested that Tarantino might have been trying to accurately portray how her father was stereotyped by the film industry in the 1960s, but added that “it doesn’t come across that way.” She said she believed “[Bruce] was directed to be a caricature.”
(L-R) Shih Kien and Bruce Lee in 1973’s ‘Enter the Dragon’
(L-R) Shih Kien and Bruce Lee in 1973’s ‘Enter the Dragon’ CP Images Archive

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood was set to be Tarantino’s first proper cinematic release in China, according to NME.

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Django Unchained (2012) was the only other film by the director that even came close to having an official release. Much like Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, it was approved by Chinese regulators ahead of its release, however was pulled from cinemas across the nation only minutes before it was set to premiere due to the film’s violence.

READ MORE: Quentin Tarantino defends Bruce Lee portrayal in ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’

Django Unchained went back to the editing bay and was altered heavily for release in China. It was re-released a month later.

This time around, however, Tarantino has no plans to edit his latest film. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the star has final cut rights in all of his film contracts and has no desire to alter his film, especially without being given a reason to make any changes.

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood.’
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood.’ Andrew Cooper/Sony-Columbia Pictures via AP

No explanation for China’s National Film Administration’s decision to cancel the release of Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood has been provided to Sony Pictures, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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Multiple sources have confirmed with the publication that the film’s release has been put on indefinite hold in China.

READ MORE: ‘South Park’ episode banned in China screened on Hong Kong street

Global News has reached out to representatives of both Tarantino and Sony Pictures seeking further comment.

‘South Park’ creators offer mocking ‘apology’ to China over episode
‘South Park’ creators offer mocking ‘apology’ to China over episode

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is now playing in theatres across Canada.

Watch the film’s official trailer above.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca