Quentin Tarantino Defends His ‘Arrogant’ Portrayal of Bruce Lee in ‘Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood’

Quentin Tarantino responds to criticism how he portrayed Bruce Lee in a scene from ‘Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood’…

Quentin Tarantino has responded to criticism about his portrayal of Bruce Lee in his recently released film ‘Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood’.

In the movie, Lee is portrayed by Mike Moh and he encounters Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth while the two are both filming scenes for ‘The Green Hornet’ television series. Lee is a stuntman doubling his good pal Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and when he arrives on set, he catches Lee boasting about his martial arts skills and bragging how he would dismantle Muhammad Ali if they ever got into a fight.

Lee and Cliff eventually agreed to a challenge to knock each other down in a best of three series. Lee gets the first knockdown with a flying kick and then Cliff returns the favor by catching a second attempted kick and then tossing the martial arts superstar into a car door before the two are broken up by the producers.

In the aftermath of that scene, Lee’s daughter Shannon unleashed on Tarantino for how he chose to portray her father in the movie.

“[My father] comes across as an arrogant asshole 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,” Lee said after ‘Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood’ was first released.

This week, Tarantino responded by defending how he portrayed Lee, which he believes was a fairly accurate depiction of the man despite claims otherwise by his family.

“Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy,” Tarantino said at a recent press event in Moscow while promoting the film.
“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.”

There have been conflicting accounts about Lee over the years following his tragic death at just 32 years of age in 1973.

He’s often painted as a martial arts legend, who lived his dream starring in films while creating his own fighting style called Jeet Kun Do, which is often credited as the earliest version of what would eventually become mixed martial arts. On the flip side, others have said Lee was somewhat arrogant when touting his martial arts skills but even that was typically seen as boasting for the sake of attention to get more people to attend his classes as he spread the word about school.

Either way, Tarantino doesn’t believe he was besmirching Lee’s name in any way, especially when it came to the fight scene with his character Cliff Booth because that was specifically used to show the stuntman had some real combat skills, which plays a huge part in the final sequence in the movie.

“Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Brad [Pitt] would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could,” Tarantino stated. “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.
“If Cliff were fighting Bruce Lee in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Garden, Bruce would kill him. But if Cliff and Bruce were fighting in the jungles of the Philippines in a hand-to-hand combat fight, Cliff would kill him.”

‘Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood’ has received overwhelmingly positive reviews while pulling in a modest $108 million thus far at the box office.

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