Quentin Tarantino has responded to one of the major criticisms of his latest movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Specifically, his characterization of the late actor and martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Recently, Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee criticized the portrayal of her late father in the movie, which blends fiction with real people and events in late 1960s Hollywood.
During the events of the movie, Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth gets into a physical altercation with Bruce Lee, played by actor Mike Moh. This comes about after Booth takes issue with Lee claiming he could take on Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali, in a fight. Quentin Tarantino while speaking at a recent press event in Moscow, Russia, had this to say.
“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 Mohammad Ali,’ well yeah he did. Alright? Not only did he say that but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read. She absolutely said that.”
Part of the problem Shannon Lee and others have had is Bruce Lee comes off as arrogant in his main scene in the movie. The other issue is the fact that Cliff Booth is able to get the best off Lee at one point. The fight they set up was meant to be a best two out of three, yet they only ever get through two. In the second round, Booth smashes Lee into a car door. Quentin Tarantino also weighed in on the specific issue of Booth being able to match up against Lee.
“Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? 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. The reality of the situation is this: Cliff is a Green Beret. He has killed many men in WWII in hand to hand combat.
What Bruce Lee is talking about in the whole thing is that he admires warriors. He admires combat, and boxing is a closer approximation of combat as a sport. Cliff is not part of the sport that is like combat, he is a warrior. He is a combat person… If Cliff were fighting Bruce Lee in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Garden, Bruce would kill him. But if Cliff and Bruce were fighting in the jungles of the Philippines in a hand-to-hand combat fight Cliff would kill him.”
This is where things get dicey. On the one hand, Cliff Booth is indeed a fictional character. But Bruce Lee wasn’t. Mixing reality with fiction gets tricky in a situation such as this. Nothing is black and white. It all exists in the grey area.
Whatever the case, Quentin Tarantino’s latest is proving to be a big hit. Over the weekend, it became just the second original movie of 2019 to cross the $100 million mark at the domestic box office, following Jordan Peele’s Us.. Feel free to check out the interview clip from the Radar Magazine YouTube channel for yourself.