Quentin Tarantino is doing the promotional rounds for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood again except this time it isn’t for the movie, but rather for the printed novelization of the story. With this, he’s appeared on a number of different programs with a whole host of interesting little tidbits about the movie as well as plans for his directing future. But in there we’ve seen some controversy as well with Tarantino coming under some fire for his portrayal of Bruce Lee in the movie. The primary critic has been Shannon Lee, the late Bruce’s daughter who has had some pointed words for the director. Most recently, she posted a scathing piece for The Hollywood Reporter that takes down Tarantino and questions his motives around the continued badmouthing of Bruce Lee.
In her piece, Shannon Lee takes aim at Quentin Tarantino and calls him out on on a number of different levels from not only his portrayal of her father in his movie but also the doubling down the director did on the recent Joe Rogan Podcast describing why he chose to make Bruce Lee such a pompous guy in the film. Lee uses the opportunity to not only roast Tarantino for the decision, which she feels is categorically false, but also levels intense criticism on the director speaking well out of turn.
And she didn’t stop there. Using Quentin Tarantino as something of a proxy for the rest of white Hollywood, she goes point by point about things she’s ”tired” of when it comes to hearing about the negativity around her father. She begins with saying he clearly knocked off Bruce Lee’s style in movies like Kill Bill without giving him credit. She says Tarantino purposeful avoided mentioning Lee back then, but then can’t stop now on the book tour.
Again, Shannon Lee doesn’t hold back here. Here are just a few of the things that she had to say about this situation and what she felt like Quentin Tarantino was doing in continuing to propagate a negative image of Bruce Lee.
I’m tired of hearing from white men in Hollywood that he was arrogant and an asshole when they have no idea and cannot fathom what it might have taken to get work in 1960s and ’70s Hollywood as a Chinese man with (God forbid) an accent, or to try to express an opinion on a set as a perceived foreigner and person of color. I’m tired of white men in Hollywood mistaking his confidence, passion and skill for hubris and therefore finding it necessary to marginalize him and his contributions.
She went on, specifically targeting Quentin Tarantino with some of her comments but, again, laying waste to the rest of Hollywood for not honoring Bruce the way his daughter sees fit. She has some compelling points for sure.
I’m tired of white men in Hollywood barely footnoting the impact he had on the action film genre and fight choreography, or the proliferation of and interest in martial arts he sparked globally, or the number of people and communities he continues to inspire and touch with his performances, philosophies, teachings and practices…
There’s more to the open letter to Quentin Tarantino and the rest of Hollywood and is definitely worth the read. Of course, this all stems from a couple of choices Tarantino made when making Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as well as his comments about it later. For starters, the scene from the movie that’s in question is when Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh) gives an extended speech on the “set” of Green Hornet in which he laments the lack of physicality in some martial arts and calls more than a few people out.
That’s when Quentin Tarantino chose to have Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth call out Lee and challenge him to a fight. After Lee wins the first point because Booth baits him, Booth then slams Lee into a car. They then fight to a draw before it’s broken up. It’s this portrayal of Lee that drew Tarantino the ire of others.
Quentin Tarantino said on the Rogan podcast that he understood why Shannon Lee, as a daughter, would be frustrated by the portrayal but defended his stance by saying that Bruce Lee wasn’t liked by other stuntmen. Clearly, Shannon continues to take major umbrage with the scene and the response. Her side of the case is quite compelling.