Quentin Tarantino is standing by how Bruce Lee was depicted in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, and it’s earning him a harsh rebuke from the daughter of the late martial arts icon.
Lee’s family, including widow Linda Lee Caldwell and daughter Shannon Lee, have criticized Tarantino’s depiction of the martial arts master. Caldwell accused Tarantino of unfairly portraying Lee as an “arrogant a**hole.”
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Tarantino insists, however, “Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy.” The famed filmmaker addressed the controversy while speaking to reporters in Moscow on Monday.
“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,” he said. “People say, ‘he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali.’ Yes, he did. Not only did he say that, his wife Linda Lee said that in her [biography…]”
However, Matthew Polly, author of Bruce Lee: A Life, insisted Tarantino is misquoting Caldwell. “Linda was quoting a TV critic. ‘Even the most scathing critics admitted that Bruce’s kung fu was sensational.'”
On Wednesday, Variety caught up Shannon Lee, who offered a terse response to Tarantino’s remarks.
“He could shut up about it,” she said. “That would be really nice. Or he could apologize or he could say, ‘I don’t really know what Bruce Lee was like. I just wrote it for my movie. But that shouldn’t be taken as how he really was.’”
The way Lee sees it, Tarantino’s blurring of fact and fiction in “One Upon a Time” is particularly problematic when it comes to her father.
“One of the things that’s troubling in his response is that, on the one hand, he wants to put this forward as fact and, on the other hand, he wants to stay in fiction,” she added. “[Tarantino] can portray Bruce Lee however he wanted to, and he did. But it’s a little disingenuous for him to say, ‘Well this is how he was, but this is a fictional movie, so don’t worry too much about it.’”
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In 1987, “Enter The Dragon” director Robert Clouse released a biography of Lee. In it he wrote, “Bruce knew he could never win a fight against Ali… ‘Look at my hand,’ he said. ‘That’s a little Chinese hand. He’d kill me.'”
“Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” features a scene where Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth beats Lee in a one-on-one fight. The film was critically well received and has generated $108 million at the box office since it premiered in July.