Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is both a rose-colored love letter to a Hollywood long gone and a dreamy re-interpretation of that history its director is enamored with. One person who isn't in love with Tarantino's revisionist approach is Bruce Lee's daughter.
Shannon Lee recently spoke to The Wrap regarding the movie's depiction of her father in one of the movie's most memorable scenes: A brawl on a studio backlot between Lee (Mike Moh) and veteran stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The sequence, shot mostly in one take, is intended to show off how badass and skilled Booth is -- if he can take on and defeat Lee, then you don't wanna mess with him. But the late martial arts legend's offspring sees it a bit differently:
“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,” Shannon Lee said. “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.”
Lee (who apparently wasn’t given the script in advance like Sharon Tate’s sister) saw the Oscar-winner's new film over the weekend, and, for her, “it was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father. 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.”
Lee did like Moh's performance in the role of her father, but believes “he was directed to be a caricature."
It is well-known that the real Lee was proud of his skills and his abilities. According to Moh in an interview with BirthMoviesDeath, Lee -- his favorite hero growing up -- had a unique way of looking at and treatment stuntmen. "Because Bruce didn't always have the most affection for stuntmen; he didn't respect all of them, because he was better than all the stunt guys." This aspect isn't lost on Bruce Lee biographer and author Matthew Polly either, but in a recent statement he agreed with Shannon.
“The full scene with Bruce and Brad Pitt is far different than what was in the trailer," Polly remarked. "Bruce Lee was often a cocky, strutting, braggart, but Tarantino took those traits and exaggerated them to the point of a SNL caricature,” he said.
The lesson here is that while storytellers are prone to take certain liberties when telling stories that involve real-life people and use them as characters, it is important to consult with their kin and surviving family members for nothing else than to say you kept your side of the street clean. You did your due diligence as a filmmaker by extending common courtesy.
At the same time, Bruce Lee's cocky, braggart ways are well-known and the movie's job is to service the main character's story -- a choice Shannon Lee acknowledges the intent of and can seemingly get behind. But the tricky part is finding a way to balance the needs of the story with respect toward the historical figures depicted in it. Being effective with those who may react with your material differently from what you intended goes a long way.
Those are our two cents -- now, we want yours. What did you think of the scene in question? And of Lee's criticisms? Sound off in the comments!
Source: The Wrap