Donnie Yen believes “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” makes an obvious statement on Bruce Lee.
Yen, who stars in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” addressed the portrayal of fellow martial arts master, late icon Lee, in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 Oscar-winning epic film. The depiction of Lee, played by Mike Moh, showed him being pompous on set and getting beaten up by fictional stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
“Everybody is entitled to their opinions. Quentin Tarantino is a very renowned filmmaker, and he’s entitled to his status – and I’m entitled to state my own view,” Yen told Variety. “Obviously, he was making fun of Bruce. It was cartoonish.”
Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee previously slammed the controversial fictionalized depiction of her father by Moh, claiming that the film made Lee look like “an asshole.”
“I tried to approach it from a cool, collected, and more calm, direct point of view, and I was very disappointed to see Quentin Tarantino’s response, which was to continue to say, ‘Oh, Bruce Lee was arrogant, he was an asshole,'” Shannon said, “and to incorrectly cite my mother’s book as a defense of him. I really thought it was irresponsible of him to do what he did and have that portrayal.”
Shannon continued in 2020, “There were so many other creative ways he could have made the Cliff Booth character look cool in that film. So many other ways he could’ve treated the Bruce Lee character that would’ve got the same plot point across without having to essentially treat Bruce Lee the way white Hollywood treated my father when he was alive.”
Tarantino defended the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” depiction of Lee, saying that it was known that stuntmen on “The Green Hornet” actually “hated” Lee on set, per Matthew Polly’s biography “Bruce Lee: A Life.”
Tarantino added, “Bruce had nothing but disrespect for stuntmen. That’s why Gene Labelle was brought in, to teach Bruce respect for American stuntmen. Bruce had no respect for American stuntmen, he was always hitting them with his feet. It’s called tagging when you hit a stuntman for real. He was always tagging them with his feet and his fist and it got to the point where they would refuse to work with Bruce. He had nothing but disrespect for American stuntmen. It was probably just like, ‘Oh they’re just not good enough. They are pussies. I want to make it look real!’ But stuntmen don’t like that. That’s unprofessional.”
Tarantino summed up, “Where I am coming from is I can understand his daughter having a problem with it. It’s her fucking father. I get that. But anybody else, oh suck a dick!”