Bruce Lee's close friend calls Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood depiction 'sloppy and somewhat racist'

Actor's former co-star says director wrote him using stereotypes he tried to shut down

Jacob Stolworthy
Sunday 18 August 2019 08:44 BST
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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer

A close friend of Bruce Lee has called Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of the actor in his new film “sloppy and somewhat racist”.

Retired basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said scenes in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood were “disappointing, not so much on a factual basis, but as a lapse of cultural awareness”.

Tarantino this week defended the way he wrote the legendary actor and martial artist, after Lee's daughter said she was "disheartened" to see her father presented as “an arrogant a**hole"

In the movie, Mike Moh’s Lee brags his hands are “lethal weapons”, challenges Brad Pitt’s stuntman Cliff Booth to an on-set fight, and claims he could beat Muhammad Ali in a boxing match.

Abdul-Jabbar, who starred alongside Lee in 1973's Game of Death, wrote in a column for The Hollywood Reporter: “It disturbs me that Tarantino chose to portray Bruce in such a one-dimensional way.

“The John Wayne machismo attitude of Cliff (Pitt), an ageing stuntman who defeats the arrogant, uppity Chinese guy harks back to the very stereotypes Bruce was trying to dismantle.”

Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, argued last month her father, rather than being arrogant on sets, would have had to work far harder than Booth as an Asian-American in the late 1960s.

She described her experience watching Tarantino's film as “uncomfortable” as she had to listen to people “laugh at my father”.

The director defended his depiction of Lee, telling a press event in Moscow: "Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy."

"The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up," he added.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is in cinemas now.

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