“It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father"
The Wrap reports that Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee was outrage by Quentin Tarantino’s “mockery” of her father in his latest film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie, the film tells the story of TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) who navigate through the changing ways of the film industry in 1989.
In one scene, Booth engages in a fight with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) on the set of The Green Hornet TV show.
Whilst Shannon Lee said she understood why the scene was added to the film, she was less understanding in its execution.
“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” she said. “I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen… and they’re portraying a period of time that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion.”
She went on to say that the film retained the racist treatment her father received at the time. “I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass 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.”
Tarantino had said that the scene was used to demonstrate how strong Pitt’s character was.
“If you’re going to try to set up how indestructible a person is, having them fight Bruce Lee and doing a good job [is the way to do it],” the 56-year-old director said. “He could either fight Bruce Lee or Jim Brown … either one would really set up [that] the guy is a bad ass. I like the fact most of that whole fight scene is done in one shot – that’s the part I was proud of.”
However, Lee said that whilst Tarantino might have tried to show how Lee was stereotyped at the time, she said “it doesn’t come across that way.”
“He comes across as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air,” she said. “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.”
“It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father,” she added. “Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was.”
Nonetheless, Moh was praised by Lee for accurately capturing her father’s mannerisms and voice. “But I think he was directed to be a caricature,” she added.
Moh recently said he was interested in the role because of his love for martial arts and aimed to swerve away from stereotyping.
“I want to be a martial arts action guy and it’s not because I want to fall into a stereotype and that’s an easy thing I can get cast in,” Moh explained. “I just happen to love martial arts. I happen to be Asian. And yes, I do get upset when people just assume I know martial arts. But if there is something to be associated with Asians, I think it’s cool that it’s something so bad ass.”
Lee currently runs BruceLee.com, a Bruce Lee Podcast, and the Bruce Lee Foundation to teach children about her father’s legacy, philosophy and martial arts.
“What I’m interested in is raising the consciousness of who Bruce Lee was as a human being and how he lived his life,” she added. “All of that was flushed down the toilet in this portrayal, and made my father into this arrogant punching bag.”