Tarantino responds to Criticism Over Bruce Lee depiction in OUATIH
While Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has proved to be quite the hit amongst critics and audiences (and deservedly so), the film has also sparked a bit of criticism regarding its portrayal of Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh in the film). Tarantino has stepped forward and offered his personal defense on the scene in question while at a press junket Q&A in Moscow (via Variety).
In the film Lee is seen on the set of The Green Hornet arrogantly boasting about how he could easily defeat boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Lee’s rant catches the ear of stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and the two engage in a punching match that is quickly broken up by one of the show’s producers. Since Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s release, a number of people, including Lee’s own daughter, Shannon Lee, have stepped forward and denounced the scene as an inaccurate portrayal of the Hollywood icon.
“He was never, in my opinion, cocky,”Shannon told Variety.“Maybe he was cocky in as far as martial arts because he was very sure of himself. He was worlds ahead of everyone else. But on a set, he’s not gonna show off.”
Naturally, Tarantino defended the film’s portrayal of Lee, stating, “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 Muhammad Ali,’ well yeah, he did. Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read. She absolutely said that.”
The famed director went on to explain that Cliif could beat up Bruce Lee because Cliff was, well, a fictional character. Simple as that.
“Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Brad [Pitt] would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could,” said Tarantino. “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.”
Tarantino concluded by explaining that Bruce Lee would absolutely kill Cliff in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Garden, but that Cliff would easily get the upper hand if the two were squaring off in the jungles of the Philippines.
Set in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood focuses on a male TV actor named Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) who’s had one hit western series and is looking for a way to get into the film business. His sidekick Cliff Booth (Pitt) — who’s also his stunt double — is looking for the same thing. The horrific murder of Sharon Tate (Rick’s neighbor in the film, portrayed by Robbie) and four of her friends by Charles Manson’s cult of followers serves as a backdrop to the main story.