Bruce Lee's daughter tells Tarantino to 'shut up'

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 15, 2019
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File photo: Actor and martial artist Bruce Lee poses for a Warner Bros publicity still for the film "Enter the dragon" in 1973 in Hong Kong. [Photo/VCG]

Bruce Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, and world-renowned director Quentin Tarantino exchanged fire again regarding the on-screen depiction of the Chinese kung fu icon.

The mocking depiction of the late Bruce Lee in Tarantino's new film "Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood" has been previously described as a "caricature" by the former's daughter, amid outcry from Chinese fans. 

However, the director has shown no intention of apologizing and defended his controversial depiction of the martial arts legend at a recent press conference in Moscow last week, saying: "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."

American writer and film director Quentin Tarantino attends the Russian premiere of " Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood" in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 7, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

However, the quote in Bruce Lee's wife Linda Lee Cadwell's book, "Bruce Lee: The Man I Only Knew", to which Tarantino referred is actually a quote from a critic, who wrote that "Those who watched [Bruce] Lee would bet on [him] to render Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) senseless", and is not from the author herself. 

"He should shut up about it," Shannon Lee told the Hollywood trade magazine Variety on Wednesday. "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. That shouldn't be taken as how he really was.'"

Actually, Linda Lee Cadwell had commented on Tarantino's new film in early August, according to Los Angeles Times, saying: "I thought the character was like a caricature of him and made him look stupid, silly and made to be insultingly 'Chinesey'. It strayed so far from the truth of who he was and of any actual encounter he had...It was terrible to watch."

Shannon Lee said her father's confidence could be mistaken for arrogance and she has heard similar criticism before, primarily from other white men who involved in the martial arts world and in Hollywood. As a Chinese in 1960s Hollywood, Bruce Lee had to work much harder to succeed than white actors due to a bias against Chinese and Asian people that existed there at the time.

"Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood" tells a story of a fading television actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) striving to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles. In the film, Brad Pitt plays a role of stuntman Cliff Booth who fights Bruce Lee, played by the Korean American actor Mike Moh. Booth is knocked down in the first round but then slams Lee into a car in the second.

Tarantino added, "Brad would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could. 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."

However, Shannon Lee countered: "Tarantino can portray Bruce Lee however he wants, 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.'

"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 say it's fiction."

A still shows Cliff Booth, played by actor Brad Pitt, fighting Bruce Lee, played by actor Mike Moh, on the set of "Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood". [Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures]

Lee is chief executive of the Bruce Lee Family Co., and now continues her father's legacy through and her Bruce Lee Podcast, as well as the Bruce Lee Foundation. She is also the executive producer of the Cinemax action drama "Warrior," which is adapted from an eight-page treatment for a TV series her father wrote. She travelled to Hong Kong recently, working with the Hong Kong Heritage Museum on refreshing its Bruce Lee exhibit.

Sony Pictures' "Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood" has not been imported into the Chinese market, though the film involved investment by China's Bona Film Group.

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