Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Tarantino defends depiction of Bruce Lee after criticism from legendary actor's daughter

The director has denied claims he wrote the character inaccurately

Jacob Stolworthy
Tuesday 13 August 2019 13:35 BST
Quentin Tarantino defends saying Bruce Lee was arrogant

Quentin Tarantino has defended his depiction of Bruce Lee as an “arrogant a**hole” in new film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

According to the filmmaker, the way he wrote the character isn’t as inaccurate as the legendary actor’s daughter claimed in an open letter.

Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy,” Tarantino said during a press junket in Moscow.

In the film, Lee challenges Brad Pitt’s stuntman character Cliff Booth to an on-set fight after Booth laughs when Lee says he could beat Muhammad Ali in a fight. He also brags that his hands are considered “lethal weapons”.

“The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up,” Tarantino added. “I heard him say things like that, to that effect. If people are saying, ‘Well he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali,’ well yeah, he did. Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read. She absolutely said that.”

Shannon Lee previously said she was “disheartened” to see the director depict her father as “an arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air” and argued that, rather than being arrogant on Hollywood sets, her father – as an Asian-American in the late 1960s – would have had to work far harder than Booth.

“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” she said. “I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen… and they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”

She called it a shame that he wasn’t depicted as “...someone who had to fight triple as hard as any of those people did to accomplish what was naturally given to so many others” and described her experience watching the film as “uncomfortable” as she had to listen to people “laugh at my father”.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is released in the UK on 14 August.

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