Bruce Lee's daughter is none too pleased with Quentin Tarantino's newest movie. Shannon Lee, the 50-year-old daughter of the late martial arts master, recently opened up to say how disheartening it was to see what she described as the "mockery" Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood made of her father.
An actor, director, martial artist and philosopher, Bruce Lee was one of many real-life icons featured in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a film that explores Los Angeles in 1969 around the time of the gruesome Manson Family murders. Within the flick, Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist actor Mike Moh portrays Lee, seen opposite Brad Pitt's fictional stuntman character Cliff Booth on the set of the real action-adventure television series The Green Hornet. The two men battle backstage as others look on. Lee wins the first round of the fight, while Booth shoves Lee against a car in the second. The third round is interrupted before a victor can be crowned.
Shannon Lee told The Wrap that:
“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen…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."
She later speculated that perhaps Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was trying to offer commentary on the ways in which Hollywood falsely stereotyped Lee, but Tarantino failed on that front. Shannon added that Lee wasn't interested in fighting outside of martial arts, and actively avoided conflict:
“He comes across as an arrogant a--hole 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…It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father."
She also pointed out an inaccuracy in Lee's physical appearance in the film: he was shown with a haircut and sunglasses characteristic of the 1970s, while The Green Hornet aired during 1967 and 1968.
Shannon, who was just four years old when her father passed away in 1973, has kept Lee's legacy alive through the website BruceLee.com, a podcast, and the Bruce Lee Foundation. She continued to say that:
"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."
However, Shannon Lee added that she didn't find fault in Moh's performance as her late father. She stated that she believes he was quote, "directed to be a caricature," but still praised him for capturing Lee's mannerisms and voice.
For Shannon, it was especially difficult seeing the way her father was portrayed in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood given that other real-life celebrities in the film were characterized but not mocked.
Shannon wasn't the only person who took issue with Lee's portrayal in the Tarantino-directed film. Matthew Polly, author of Bruce Lee: A Life told The Wrap that he had his own issues with Lee's depiction:
“Bruce revered Muhammad Ali; he never trash-talked him in real life. Bruce never used jumping kicks in an actual fight. And even if he did, there wasn’t a stuntman in Hollywood fast enough to catch his leg and throw him into a car."
Tarantino has a penchant for revising history and clearly kept that passion burning in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Though his decisions clearly didn't sit well with Shannon Lee or Matthew Polly, with any luck, Tarantino will hear the criticism and bear it in mind for his tenth, and potentially final, film.