Bruce Lee’s daughter upset by the portrayal of her father in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
Shannon Lee, the daughter of acclaimed martial artist actor Bruce Lee, has been left severely disappointed by the portrayal of her father in new Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The film, which was finished in rapid time by Tarantino in order to squeeze in a world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, tells the tale of TV actor Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth who embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves in the film industry during the Charles Manson murders in 1969 Los Angeles.
Without trying to reveal any spoilers, Tarantino included a scene which sees Brad Pitt’s character fight Bruce Lee in an almost slapstick moment. “I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” Lee’s daughter Shannon said in an interview with The Wrap. “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 added after explaining that she saw the film upon its US release this weekend.
She continued: “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.”
Shannon, who still works hard on triumphing the legacy left behind by her father’s work in Hollywood, has regularly discussed the struggles that he faced while trying to breakthrough into mainstream cinema. For the Lee family, this portrayal in Tarantino’s latest film is a setback in their efforts: “He comes across as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air,” she added. “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 theatre and listen to people laugh at my father,” she said. 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 concluded: “All of that was flushed down the toilet in this portrayal, and made my father into this arrogant punching bag.”
The words of Shannon Lee were also echoed by Matthew Polly, an author who details in specific terms the struggles which Bruce Lee faced when he arrived in Hollywood as part of his book Bruce Lee: A Life. “The full scene with Bruce and Brad Pitt is far different than what was in the trailer,” Polly told The Wrap. “Bruce Lee was often a cocky, strutting, braggart, but Tarantino took those traits and exaggerated them to the point of a ‘SNL’ caricature.”
He added: “Given how sympathetic Tarantino’s portrayal of Steve McQueen, Jay Sebring, and Sharon Tate is, I’m surprised he didn’t afford the same courtesy to Lee, the only non-white character in the film. He could have achieved the same effect–using Bruce to make Brad Pitt’s character look tough–without the mockery.
“I suspect the reason Tarantino felt the need to take Bruce down a notch is because Lee’s introduction of Eastern martial arts to Hollywood fight choreography represented a threat to the livelihood of old Western stuntmen like Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who were often incapable of adapting to a new era, and the film’s nostalgic, revisionist sympathies are entirely with the cowboys.”