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Quentin Tarantino addresses backlash to Bruce Lee scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Director says he understands Lee’s daughter taking issue with the scene but dismisses other critics

Roisin O'Connor
Thursday 01 July 2021 08:33 BST
Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood - Trailer

Quentin Tarantino has issued a sharp response to critics of the Bruce Lee scene in his film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The director, who just released a novelisation of his Oscar-winning film, appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast and discussed in some detail the process of creating that scene.

It shows Brad Pitt’s character being challenged by the actor and martial arts legend (played by Mike Moh) after Lee is offended by Cliff (Pitt) mocking his idea that he could beat Muhammad Ali.

During their fight, Cliff throws Lee into a car, humiliating him.

“I’m a little hesitant to talk about this because I don’t want this to be the only thing that people pull from this show,” Tarantino told Rogan. “Where I’m coming from is I can understand his daughter having a problem with it. It’s her f***ing father. Everyone else: go suck a d***.”

He said he believed his scene highlighted how Cliff used his wits to trick Lee, and insisted the depiction was what he believed to be true to life.

“The stuntmen hated Bruce on The Green Hornet. It’s in Matthew Polly’s book” he claimed, adding: “Bruce had nothing but disrespect for stuntmen.”

However, AV Club points out that in 2019, Lee’s biographer Polly said the opposite in an interview with Esquire. He said that, in fact, Lee was “very famous for being very considerate of the people below him on film sets, particularly the stuntmen”, and that Lee “never started fights”.

Shortly after the film’s release in 2019, Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, condemned Tarantino for his depiction of her father, calling him “irresponsible” for showing Lee as “an arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air”.

“My father worked extremely hard and directly toward the idea of authentic representation in Hollywood for an Asian man, so I don’t think he would’ve gone around beating up stunt people and that kind of stuff as a way of furthering his cause,” she said.

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She said that Tarantino’s decision to show her father in this light means that he treated him “the way white Hollywood [did] when he was alive”.

Lee also said she was “disappointed” by Tarantino’s response to her initial criticism of the scene.

“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 a**hole,’ and to incorrectly cite my mother’s book as a defence of him,” Lee said.

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