Quentin Tarantino has defended the portrayal of martial artist and actor Bruce Lee in his latest film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The statement comes days after Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee criticised the director for depicting her father as a “caricature.”
At a press conference in Moscow, Tarantino, “Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy. The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up. I heard him say things like that to that effect. If people are saying, ‘Well he never said he could beat up Mohammad Ali,’ well yeah he did. Alright? Not only did he say that but his wife Linda Lee said that in her first biography I ever read. She absolutely said that.”
Brue Lee died at the age of 32 in 1973. He is best known for his martial arts movies like Enter the Dragon and Fist of Fury. Mike Moh plays the role of Lee in the film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in the lead.
In an interview with TheWrap, Shannon Lee had blasted Quentin Tarantino for showing her late father as an “arrogant a**hole”. She said, “I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen… and they’re portraying a period of time that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion. I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bada** 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.”
Tarantino also opined whether Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth could defeat Bruce Lee in hand-to-hand combat. Apart from Shannon, the scene has also offended many Lee fans who have expressed anger on social media. Tarantino said, “Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Brad would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could. If you ask me the question, ‘Who would win in a fight: Bruce Lee or Dracula?’ It’s the same question. It’s a fictional character. If I say Cliff can beat Bruce Lee up, he’s a fictional character so he could beat Bruce Lee up. The reality of the situation is this: Cliff is a Green Beret. He has killed many men in WWII in hand to hand combat. What Bruce Lee is talking about in the whole thing is that he admires warriors. He admires combat, and boxing is a closer approximation of combat as a sport. Cliff is not part of the sport that is like combat, he is a warrior. He is a combat person.”
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set in 1969 in the backdrop of the Manson Family Murders. The movie also stars Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern and Al Pacino.