Bruce Lee’s daughter says Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of her father was based on ‘stories from white men’

Director’s ‘Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood’ portrayed legendary actor and martial artist as arrogant

Inga Parkel
Thursday 26 October 2023 20:02 BST
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Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood - Trailer

Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee says she is unsure sure why Quentin Tarantino portrayed her father as an “a**hole” in his 2019 drama comedy Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.

The auteur’s Oscar-nominated film starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a washed-up movie star and Brad Pitt as his stunt double in Sixties Los Angeles.

Early on in the movie, Pitt’s Cliff Booth is challenged to a fight by Bruce Lee (portrayed by Mike Moh) while on set of The Green Hornet, with Lee’s personality coming off as arrogant.

Asked why she thinks her father, the iconic martial artist and actor, was portrayed as such, Shannon told The Telegraph: “It’s interesting. I actually don’t know.

“I’ve never met [Tarantino]. I don’t know what his issues are with my father. Clearly, he thinks my father is cool, because he has borrowed from him quite a bit.”

Tarantino’s popular action thrillers Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003) and Vol 2 (2004) were awash with Lee’s iconography.

Shannon added: “But at the same time, I think he has been told a lot of stories by people who have encountered my father and had a negative reaction.

Shannon Lee
Shannon Lee (Getty Images)

“They found him to be overly confident or arrogant,” she continued. “I have to say, in my experience, the stories are mostly from white men. I think Quentin may have been told a lot of those stories and believes them. I think a lot of people looked at my father as uppity, you know?”

Shannon initially denounced Tarantino’s depiction of her father as an “arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air” in a 2019 interview with IndieWire following the film’s release.

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Tarantino defended his fictionalised portrayal of Lee in a later interview, arguing that it was based on his research.

“It’s unfortunate because [Tarantino’s film] has started this narrative in some places where some people are saying: ‘Oh, Bruce Lee was an a**hole,’” Shannon lamented in a 2020 interview with South China Morning Post.

“Look, everybody can be an a**hole sometimes. I can be arrogant and angry in my life – is that something I would say I am like generally? No, my father was not generally like that. He was extremely passionate and driven.”

Lee died in Hong Kong in 1973 at the age of 32. His cause of death has long been a source of intrigue, despite the coroner’s verdict: cerebral edema (swelling of the brain).

Before his untimely death, however, Lee and his wife, Linda Lee Cadwell, had two children, Shannon and Brandon, the latter of whom died in 1993 after he was fatally shot by a prop gun on set of The Crow. He was 28.

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