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Quentin Tarantino finally responds to claims he mischaracterized Bruce Lee in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

2019-08-14

Quentin Tarantino attends the premiere of the movie "Once Upon a time in Hollywood" at Oktyabr cinema hall on Aug. 7 in Moscow. (Epsilon/Getty Images)

Quentin Tarantino’s latest film ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ is already a hit at the box office, grossing more than $100 million since opening July 26.

But with the success came criticism — primarily from Shannon Lee, who claimed the auteur mischaracterized her father Bruce Lee as “arrogant’ in the acclaimed Columbia Pictures movie.

"Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy," Tarantino said during an Aug. 7 Moscow press conference to promote the film, which stars Academy Award winners Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.

American martial arts star Bruce Lee
American martial arts star Bruce Lee (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

A scene in the 1969-set flick has Lee, played by actor Mike Moh, squaring off with Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth —– who trash-talk each other in an exchange that includes claims that Lee could beat boxing legend Muhammad Ali in a fight.

Lee said her father was painted as "an arrogant a--hole who was full of hot air,” which Tarantino didn’t argue against.

“I didn’t just make a lot of that up. I heard him say things like that to that effect,” Tarantino said of the movie’s dialogue. “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 it.”

“It’s a fictional character,” he added about Booth, a Green Beret who killed many men in World War II in hand-to-hand combat. “If I say Cliff could beat up Bruce Lee, he’s a fictional character, so he could beat up Bruce Lee.”

Even though Shannon Lee said she did understand why the movie portrays her father in a certain way, in death, he could have been afforded more respect.

“They want to make the Brad Pitt character this super badass who could beat up Bruce Lee,” she told The Wrap. “But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”

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Stars attend the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” premiere

The Hong Kong-American icon struggled to make a name for himself in mainstream Hollywood and famously lost the main role in “Kung-Fu” to white actor David Carradine.

He was relegated to playing Kato, the sidekick of the 1966 superhero series “The Green Hornet.”

In 1973, his big break came as the star — and producer — of the cult classic “Enter The Dragon,” which was released a month after his untimely death at age 32.