Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, is upset about how Quentin Tarantino portrayed her father as an “arrogant asshole” in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Now, she and Tarantino are going back in forth in a prolonged dispute over it. Lee is asking for Tarantino to either “shut up” or “apologize” for his actions.
“He could shut up about it. That would be really nice,” she recently told Variety. “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. But that shouldn’t be taken as how he really was.’”
Several weeks ago, Shannon Lee expressed her disappointment over Tarantino’s decision to portray her father as a conceited tyrant. In the film, which is supposed to take place in the 1960s film industry, Lee’s character challenges Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth to a fight, and the latter comes out on top. Tarantino did not consult the Lee family before or during the making of the film. According to Shannon Lee, her father avoided fighting with anyone who was not a martial arts expert. To portray him as otherwise plays into racial stereotypes.
However, Tarantino has defended his portrayal of the martial arts star. “Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy,” he reportedly said at a press event. “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.”
Responding to Tarantino’s comments, Lee said, “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 stay in fiction.” She then pointed out that the passage Tarantino cites, from Linda Lee Cadwell’s book Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew, is not by his wife but rather a quote from a critic. “Those who watched [Bruce] Lee would bet on Lee to render Cassius Clay senseless,” it reads. “[Tarantino] can portray Bruce Lee however he wanted to, and he did,” Lee added. “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.’”
Shannon Lee isn’t the only person who knew Bruce Lee to call out Tarantino’s inaccurate portrayal. Bruce Lee’s protégé and training partner, Dan Inosanto, weighed in on the matter, too. Inosanto told Variety that Lee “was never, in my opinion, cocky” and was “not gonna show off” on set. “Bruce Lee would have never said anything derogatory about Muhammad Ali because he worshiped the ground Muhammad Ali walked on,” he concluded.