Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, had harsh words for Quentin Tarantino Wednesday after the director defended his controversial depiction of her father in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” — the latest chapter in an ever-escalating controversy.
“He could shut up about it,” she told Variety. “That would be really nice. Or he could apologize or he could say, ‘I don’t really know what Bruce Lee was like. I just wrote it for my movie. But that shouldn’t be taken as how he really was.'”
As Tarantino sees it, Mike Moh’s portrayal of an arrogant Bruce Lee in “Once Upon a Time” should absolutely be taken as an accurate depiction of how the martial arts legend was in real life.
“Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy,” Tarantino said during the film’s recent 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. If people are saying, ‘Well, he never said he could beat up Mohammad 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.”
Variety reported that Tarantino could have been referencing a quote from a critic on Linda Lee’s “Bruce Lee: The Man I Only Knew,” which suggested observers of Lee’s abilities would bet on Lee over Ali in a fight.
Shannon Lee told Variety that her father’s confidence could be mistaken for cockiness, noting that Tarantino’s criticism reflects what she has heard from white men in martial arts and in Hollywood.
“[Tarantino] can portray Bruce Lee however he wanted to, and he did,” she said. “But it’s a little disingenuous for him to say, ‘Well, this is how he was, but this is a fictional movie, so don’t worry too much about it.'”
The “Once Upon a Time” scene in question is a flashback imagined by Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as a crew member on the set of “The Green Hornet.” Lee challenges Booth to a three-round fight: Lee easily wins the first round, but he’s totally overpowered when Booth hurls the martial artist into a car, badly damaging the side panel. They are neck-and-neck in the third round when the fight is broken up.
“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. 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.”