Bruce Lee’s daughter is not happy about the way her late father was portrayed in the Quentin Tarantino film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Shannon Lee, the 50-year-old daughter of the late actor and martial arts legend, revealed that she went to a screening of Tarantino’s star-studded, highly anticipated ninth film and was left “disheartened,” after seeing her dad come off as “an arrogant**hole.”
Lee criticized the film for how it inaccurately portrayed her father’s personality while minimizing his struggle as an actor of color in the 1960s era.
In an interview with The Wrap, Lee referenced a scene in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (mild spoiler alert!) in which Brad Pitt’s stuntman character, Cliff Booth, trades macho insults then fights with Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh) on the set of The Green Hornet, the TV show the late actor starred in six years before his death. In the scene, it is Bruce Lee who challenges Booth to the fight after boasting about his skills as a fighter and bragging that he could even defeat boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Shannon Lee said she didn’t appreciate seeing Bruce portrayed as cocky and boastful, especially since he would have had to work much harder to succeed than Pitt and co-star Leonardo DiCaprio’s fictional, white characters in the film. While Lee noted the time period portrayed in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was known to have”a lot of racism and exclusion,” she regrets that the film treats her father’s memory much the same way white Hollywood did when he was alive.
— TheWrap (@TheWrap) July 29, 2019
Lee went on to acknowledge that Tarantino may have been trying to make a point about how Bruce Lee was stereotyped, but it doesn’t come across that way.
“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… Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was.”
Lee also noted that it was “really uncomfortable” to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at her father, who in real life tried to avoid fights despite being constantly challenged.
Shannon Lee added that the campy portrayal of Bruce diminishes her efforts to keep her dad’s memory alive, which she does through her website, podcast, and the Bruce Lee Foundation. Lee believes her hard work has been “flushed down the toilet in this portrayal” as Bruce is depicted as an “arrogant punching bag” in the buzzy film.
Movie fans agreed as they took to social media to blast the portrayal of the legendary star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Quentin Tarantino did Bruce Lee dirty in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Stunningly so.
— Seth Burn (@SethBurn) July 31, 2019
i’m still offended as hell for bruce lee
— siham (@sihamese) July 31, 2019
It’s very disheartening to me that I was most excited to see Bruce Lee portrayed in the new Tarantino film, only for it to end up being one of my least favorite scenes in the film.
— Ryan in Current year (@Boi_Churrity) July 31, 2019
Bruce Lee is someone I have tremendous amount of respect for, watching his films with my dad are some of my favorite memories. Tarantino painted him as fake fighter, someone who didn’t know what they were doing. It was lame and inaccurate.
— catherine ☀️ (@solecitoharry) July 31, 2019
In an interview posted by the Los Angeles Times, Bruce Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, also slammed Tarantino’s portrayal of her late husband in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Cadwell found the depiction of Bruce to be “just awful,” the Times reports.
“I thought the character was like a caricature of himself 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 elaborated to the Times that the portrayal was a “mockery” of her famous father.
While she is not a fan of the movie, Bruce Lee’s daughter did acknowledge that actor Mike Moh did a good job mimicking her father’s mannerisms and voice, but noted she believes he was “directed to be a caricature,” while the portrayal of white actor Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis ) was not.