Bruce Lee’s daughter has expressed her anger and frustration at the depiction of her father in Quentin Tarantino’s new movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Shannon Lee said that she felt ‘really uncomfortable’ as the audience around her laughed at the late martial arts legend during a scene in which he and Brad Pitt’s character face off.
Mild spoilers ahead…
In the scene, Pitt’s character, stuntman Cliff Booth, trades arrogant barbs with Lee, played by Mike Moh, before they agree to a three round fight on the TV set of the show The Green Hornet.
In the first, Booth is knocked down easily by Lee, but in the second, Booth slams Lee against a car, before the fight is then broken up.
Speaking to The Wrap, Shannon Lee said that in real life, he was frequently challenged, but would studiously avoid fighting.
“It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father,” she said.
“Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was.
“He comes across as an arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air. And not someone who had to fight triple as hard as any of those people did to accomplish what was naturally given to so many others.”
She goes on to says that her father had to battle through inherent racism in the movie business, and that the scene betrays this struggle.
“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” she added.
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“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 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.
“What I’m interested in is raising the consciousness of who Bruce Lee was as a human being and how he lived his life.
“All of that was flushed down the toilet in this portrayal, and made my father into this arrogant punching bag.”
Tarantino has yet to comment on Lee’s remarks, but Bruce Lee biographer Matthew Polly has also weighed in on the scene, which includes a line in which Lee claims he would turn Cassius Clay into ‘a cripple’.
“Bruce revered Cassius Clay, he never trash talked him in real life,” said Polly. “Bruce never used jumping kicks in an actual fight. And even if he did, there wasn’t a stuntman in Hollywood fast enough to catch his leg and throw him into a car.
“Given how sympathetic Tarantino’s portrayal of Steve McQueen, Jay Sebring, and Sharon Tate is, I’m surprised he didn’t afford the same courtesy to Lee, the only non-white character in the film.
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“He could have achieved the same effect – using Bruce to make Brad Pitt’s character look tough – without the mockery.
“I suspect the reason Tarantino felt the need to take Bruce down a notch is because Lee’s introduction of Eastern martial arts to Hollywood fight choreography represented a threat to the livelihood of old Western stuntmen like Cliff Booth, who were often incapable of adapting to a new era, and the film’s nostalgic, revisionist sympathies are entirely with the cowboys.”
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood arrives in the UK on August 13.