While the Bruce Lee fight sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” continues to stir up controversy, the director has revealed that one of the sequence’s defining lines of dialogue was actually written by the late Burt Reynolds. Speaking to Sight & Sound magazine (via Uproxx), Tarantino revealed it was Reynolds who came up with the insult Bruce Lee says to Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth. As tension grows between the two on the set of “The Green Hornet,” Lee tells Cliff, “You’re kind of pretty for a stunt guy.”
“I did not come up with that,” Tarantino said. “Burt Reynolds read the script, and he knows a lot of stunt guys. And Burt said, ‘So Brad Pitt is playing the stunt guy?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And Burt says, ‘You gotta have somebody say, ‘You’re kinda pretty for a stunt guy.’ And the thing is, Brad doesn’t like making his looks a thing in a movie, but he couldn’t say no to that, because it was Burt Reynolds’ line!”
Tarantino added that the insult is something both Cliff and Pitt himself as an actor grins their teeth against, which only adds to the tension of the moment. “[Brad] doesn’t really dig it,” Tarantino said. “But the fact that Burt Reynolds came up with it — he can’t say shit!”
Reynolds was originally cast in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” as George Spahn, the ranch owner whose property became the home for the Manson Family cult. Reynolds performed the character during the film’s script reading but passed away before shooting his scenes. Tarantino’s “Hateful Eight” star Bruce Dern replaced Reynolds in the role, but it turns out the late actor still managed to get his voice into the film thanks to the Bruce Lee line.
The Bruce Lee-Cliff Booth fight scene has become one of the film’s biggest points of controversy since “Hollywood” opened July 26. Bruce Lee’s daughter and protégé have spoken out against Tarantino for his portrayal of the martial arts and acting legend in the scene, while Bruce Lee actor Mike Moh has admitted he was conflicted at first about taking on the part as written. The Bruce Lee fight was originally much longer, but Pitt helped reshape the moment to better honor Lee’s legacy.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is now playing in theaters via Sony Pictures.