Shannon Lee, the daughter of Bruce Lee, has an issue with the portrayal of her late father in Quentin Tarantino's latest (and highly profitable) release, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Lee, who made her thoughts known in an interview with The Wrap, said that her main contention was that her father was depicted as an arrogant jerk. Or, as she put it, "He comes across as an arrogant a–hole 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." Shannon had gone to see the film on Sunday.
*Minor-to-moderate spoiler alert*
In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, onscreen Bruce (played by Mike Moh) exchanges trash talk with stuntman Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt) on the set of the real-life Bruce Lee TV series The Green Hornet, in what is either a flashback or fantasy. After Lee's hubris gets under Booth's skin, the two fight in what eventually ends in a draw.
Shannon did state that she got the reasoning behind the decision for events to play out as they did. “I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” she said. “I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen…I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass who could beat up Bruce Lee.”
Still, she contends that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood took liberties with her father that she believes were misleading. She also said that, in real-life, the pioneering martial arts icon was challenged by people wanting to prove themselves, and that he made efforts to avoid such provocations. “Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was,” she said.
She adds that she didn't enjoy the experience of sitting in the theater and hearing people laugh at her dad.
“It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father,” she explained. “What I’m interested in is raising the consciousness of who Bruce Lee was as a human being and how he lived his life. All of that was flushed down the toilet in this portrayal, and made my father into this arrogant punching bag.”
In a breakdown of the fictional fight, Moh told Birth.Movies.Death. that he viewed Lee as a real-life "superhero." He also said that "Bruce didn't always have the most affection for stuntmen [like Cliff Booth]; he didn't respect all of them, because he was better than all the stunt guys."
Moh also conceded that some "people are going to be up in arms about" the fight. He added that Tarantino has great respect for (Bruce) Lee. "Number one, it's a Tarantino film," Moh said. "He's not going to do the thing that everybody expects anybody else to do. You’ve got to expect the unexpected. And Number Two, I knew from the jump, Tarantino loves Bruce Lee; he reveres him."
Moh then pointed out that the scene was "hugely important" to propel the narrative.
"Bruce at that time was so cocky and maybe got a little excited and he didn't know Cliff Booth has killed dozens of people with his bare hands - and that's what people may not realize up until that moment in the film," Moh said. "It's a hugely important scene - what better way to show how dangerous Cliff is than for him to show up and even match him for a little bit with Bruce?"