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China Blocks ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Release One Week Before Debut

A theatrical release in China could bring the box office total for Tarantino's acclaimed new film over the $400 million worldwide.

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Sony Pictures

China has put the upcoming theatrical release of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” on hold indefinitely. The movie was set to open in China on October 25 and the release was being eyed to bring the box office for Tarantino’s latest directorial effort close to or above the $400 million mark worldwide (the current total stands at $366 million). Bona Film Group, which was an equity investor on the film, was set to distribute the film in China.

While no official reason for the movie’s theatrical release hold has been given, an exhibitor source tells Variety the movie’s debut has been “temporarily put on hold” after Shannon Lee filed a complaint to China’s National Film Administration over the movie’s depiction of her father, acting and martial arts legend Bruce Lee. The source told Variety, “As long as Quentin can make some cuts, it will be released as planned.”

Shannon Lee has been an outspoken critic of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” since the movie’s U.S. release July 26. Bruce Lee factors into one scene in the movie in which Brad Pitt’s stuntman character Cliff Booth fights Lee on the set of “The Green Hornet.” The two engage in hand-to-hand combat, with Cliff throwing Bruce into a car at one moment. Shannon Lee first condemned Tarantino’s portrayal of her father in an interview with The Wrap.

“He comes across as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air,” Shannon said,. “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…Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was.”

Lee’s portrayal in the movie was also called out by Dan Inosanto, Bruce Lee’s protégé and former training partner, who said that Lee would never have criticized Muhammad Ali as he does in Tarantino’s script. “Bruce Lee would have never said anything derogatory about Muhammad Ali because he worshiped the ground Muhammad Ali walked on,” Inosanto told Variety. “In fact, he was into boxing more so than martial arts.”

Tarantino has stood by his depiction of Bruce Lee, played in the movie by Mike Moh. “Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy,” Tarantino told press in August during the film’s Moscow press conference. “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.”

The temporary hold of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is not the first time this has happened to a Quentin Tarantino movie. The 2012 release of “Django Unchained” was similarly blocked, allegedly because of the film’s graphic violence. The movie was reedited and put back in theaters a month after it was supposed to open in theaters. IndieWire has reached out to the Bruce Lee Foundation, of which Shannon Lee is Founder and CEO, for further comment.

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