Bruce Lee's daughter hits out at father's portrayal in Tarantino film

Shannon Lee says that actor depicting Lee was ‘directed to be a caricature’ in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Warning: This article contains minor spoilers

Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon, has hit out at the portrayal of her father in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s new film set in the late 1960s film industry, saying it was disheartening and uncomfortable.

Speaking to the Wrap, Shannon Lee said: “[Bruce Lee] comes across as an arrogant asshole 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.”

She added: “It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theatre and listen to people laugh at my father.”

Lee, who died in 1973, achieved major film stardom in the early 70s via a string of Hong Kong-produced martial arts films, after years of trying and failing to interest Hollywood in his projects. He is portrayed in Tarantino’s film by Mike Moh, who Lee claims was “directed to be a caricature”.

Bruce Lee in the 1973 film Enter the Dragon.
Bruce Lee in the 1973 film Enter the Dragon. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

Criticism of Lee’s treatment in the film centres on a scene where he challenges stunt performer Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt) to a fight, in an encounter where Booth appears to get the better of him. According to Shannon Lee, Bruce – a trainer of many Hollywood figures, including Steve McQueen, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate – avoided fighting people who were not martial arts experts. “[But] here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was.”

“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two [lead] characters are antiheroes, and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen … and they’re portraying a period that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion,” she said. “I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super-badass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”

The Guardian has contacted Quentin Tarantino for a response.

Tarantino has been a vocal admirer of Bruce Lee, most notably dressing Uma Thurman in a replica of Lee’s yellow jumpsuit in his two-part martial arts film Kill Bill.

Shannon Lee is president of the Bruce Lee Foundation, CEO of Bruce Lee Entertainment and is an executive producer on the 2019 TV show Warrior, based on one of her father’s unmade projects.

Lee added: “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.”


Andrew Pulver

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Bruce Lee's daughter on resurrecting his lost TV epic: 'We righted the wrong'
Shannon Lee has finally made the martial arts saga her father dreamed up. She remembers ‘the inner energy’ of the kung fu superstar Hollywood – and Tarantino – made a mockery of

Sarah Hughes

05, Aug, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Tarantino set to premiere Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at Cannes
The director’s new film stars Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Leonardo DiCaprio as a former western TV star and Brad Pitt as his stunt double

Catherine Shoard

20, Mar, 2019 @12:45 PM

Article image
Quentin Tarantino: I am in combat with blockbuster franchises
Quentin Tarantino says ‘original movies’ are in a ‘war’ with superhero and Star Wars franchises, echoing Martin Scorsese’s attack on Marvel films

Andrew Pulver

23, Jan, 2020 @2:32 PM

Article image
'I reject your hypothesis': Tarantino lashes out at criticism over female actors
Director reacts angrily to questions about limited screen time for Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood, and violence against female characters

Gwilym Mumford

22, May, 2019 @11:49 AM

Article image
Behind the bloodshed: the chilling untold stories about Charles Manson
Tarantino’s epic is the big draw at Cannes. But there are other Manson movies around – including one about what ultimately happened to the young women who fell under the murderer’s spell

Burhan Wazir

15, May, 2019 @2:24 PM

Article image
Brad Pitt wins best supporting actor Oscar and takes on Trump in speech
Pitt said he was ‘happy to ride’ on the coattails of Leonardo DiCaprio, who he performed alongside in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Andrew Pulver

10, Feb, 2020 @2:56 PM

Article image
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood review - Tarantino's dazzling LA redemption song
With Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt playing a TV actor and stuntman who cross paths with the Manson cult, Tarantino has created outrageous, disorienting entertainment

Peter Bradshaw

21, May, 2019 @7:13 PM

Article image
Tarantino's controversial Manson film casts Brad Pitt alongside Leonardo DiCaprio
Director’s movie on the Manson murders of 1969 adds Pitt to the cast, with Margot Robbie courted, but not confirmed, to play Sharon Tate

Andrew Pulver

01, Mar, 2018 @2:11 PM

Article image
Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hits Cannes to red-carpet circus
Los Angeles-set thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt the festival’s hot ticket, with Tarantino imploring audience members not to reveal the plot

Gwilym Mumford

21, May, 2019 @6:07 PM

Article image
Golden Globes: who will win and who should win the film awards? | Peter Bradshaw
Will The Irishman clean up? Or Marriage Story? And how will Once Upon a Time in Hollywood fare? Peter Bradshaw offers a lowdown of the main categories and his predictions and omissions

Peter Bradshaw

03, Jan, 2020 @2:00 PM