‘Bruce Lee Was Kind of An Arrogant Guy’ Tarantino Says Defending Bruce Lee Fight Scene
While Quentin Tarantino’s new film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has been topping box office charts since its premiere in July, it has also brought in scathing reviews and backlash from critics.
The Asian American community has largely condemned the director for his portrayal of the legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, which many believed to be a mockery of his legacy. Even his daughter, Shannon Lee, stated that the film made her father out to be an “arrogant a****** who was full of hot air.”
Meanwhile, his widow Linda Lee added that the film was “just awful,” stating, “I thought the character was like a caricature of himself and made him look stupid, silly and made to be insultingly ‘Chinesey.’ It strayed so far from the truth of who he was and of any actual encounter he had. … It was terrible to watch.”
During a recent Moscow press conference for his new film, Tarantino broke his silence to defend his creation from all the controversy, justifying it by stating that, “Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy.”
“The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up,” the director continued, “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.”
Regarding the controversial fight scene, considered by some as a “white male fantasy,” in which Brad Pitt’s character defeats Bruce Lee in a fight, Tarantino had another reasoning. “Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Brad would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could,” he said.
“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,” Tarantino argued.
“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.”
However, the director’s arguments defending his cocky portrayal of Bruce Lee fell short for many fans of the martial arts legend who continued to criticize the new film. Twitter user Matthew Polly took it a step further by breaking down Tarantino’s arguments and fact-checking his claims:
WRONG: Linda was quoting a TV critic. “Even the most scathing critics admitted that Bruce’s gungfu was sensational. One critic wrote: ‘Those who watched him would bet on Lee to render Cassius Clay senseless if they were put in a room and told that anything goes.” (pg. 88) (3/11)
WRONG: Bruce was obsessed with Ali, studying all Ali’s fights in detail. He frequently imagined fighting Ali. Bruce once told Bolo Yeung: “Everybody says I must fight Ali someday. I’m studying every move he makes. I’m getting to know how he thinks and moves.” (5/11)
WRONG: First, they were fighting on a Hollywood backlot, not an Asian jungle. Second, it takes years of relentless training to master unarmed combat. Soldiers are rarely experts, because it forms only a small portion of their training. (10/11)
While Tarantino’s new film has drawn in both praise and criticisms from viewers, it appears those who are the most knowledgeable on Lee’s legacy believe his portrayal to be not only inaccurate but insulting.