Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood hit the theatres more than 16 months ago. However, its controversial portrayal of martial arts icon Bruce Lee is something that is still stirring debate. And the Hong Kong legend’s daughter, Shannon Lee, was especially disappointed at her father’s portrayal. She has recently publically called out Tarantino for showing Bruce Lee as an arrogant man.
Shannon Lee is still furious at how Tarantino portrayed Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Shannon Lee first disclosed that Quentin Tarantino never contacted her after the backlash over the scene settled down. She mentioned that while talking to South China Morning Post ahead of the release of her book Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee. Moreover, Shannon Lee is also the guardian of Bruce Lee’s estate and works very hard in protecting her father’s legacy. She said:
My feeling is the same. I was very disappointed. I’m not gonna say I wasn’t angry at all, but certainly sitting in the movie theatre and having that experience with an audience was not a fun experience for me. It was very disheartening.
Moreover, the director’s response to the portrayal also offended Shannon a lot. She said that any claims of Bruce Lee being arrogant was completely misplaced, as she further said:
But I tried to approach it from a cool, collected and more calm direct point of view, and I was very disappointed to see Quentin Tarantino’s response, which was to continue to say, ‘Oh, Bruce Lee was arrogant, he was an a**hole’, and to incorrectly cite my mother’s book as a defence of him. I really thought it was irresponsible of him to do what he did and have that portrayal.
Quentin Tarantino could have shown Bruce Lee in a lot better light, without affecting the plot
Shannon further says that Tarantino could have gone countless other ways to portray Bruce Lee and Cliff Booth. But, instead, he went the way in which “white Hollywood treated” Bruce Lee when he was alive. And that has popularized a false narrative, according to her, that Bruce Lee was arrogant. She said:
It’s unfortunate because it has started this narrative in some places where some people are saying, ‘Oh, Bruce Lee was an a**hole’ – look, everybody can be an a**hole sometimes. I can be arrogant and angry in my life – is that something I would say I am like generally? No, my father was not generally like that. He was extremely passionate and driven.
Bruce Lee did have a temper at times, but not never like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Moreover, Shannon admitted that Bruce Lee could have a hot temper sometimes. But, it was nowhere near as bizarre as it was in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:
He could have a temper sometimes, but he did not go around challenging people to fights. Certainly not after he was a teenager. Anyway, he didn’t behave or boast in that way. He was extremely confident. I think when people are confident and driven, people see that as aggressive in some way, and they don’t like to be challenged in terms of their own notion. I don’t mean challenged physically in terms of a fight but challenged in terms of their ideas… My father worked extremely hard and directly toward the idea of authentic representation in Hollywood for an Asian man, so I don’t think he would’ve gone around beating up stunt people and that kind of stuff as a way of furthering his cause.
Moreover, Shannon Lee also talked about the struggles Bruce Lee went through to make a name for himself in Hollywood back in the 60s. He had to work a lot harder than any other white person, being a POC:
As a person of color in the 1960s and 70s to achieve what he did, he had to be doing something right, and he had to have extreme confidence and to work 10 times harder than a lot of people, so it’s a lot to throw that all out by this silly portrayal.
Shannon Lee talks about her show, Warrior
Finally, Shannon talked about how her show, Warrior, does justice to the legacy of the great Bruce Lee. She says that their cast has greater Asian representation and more well-rounded and nuanced characters. She said:
I hate to compare all of his [Tarantino’s] canon of movies, which by the way I have enjoyed a number of in my day, to Warrior. I think Warrior is something different entirely. It relies on a much more well-rounded look at the characters that are in the show. We have an amazing Asian cast, very varied and three-dimensional characters who are powerful in their own rights and flawed, and who are dramatically struggling for recognition and power.
Shannon even took a dig at Quentin Tarantino’s way of making movies, claiming that her show has more soul than his movies:
It’s more of an action drama, whereas Tarantino’s films are much more … our show is extremely stylish but it has a little more of a soul and a message, and his are stylish in a little bit more of a hyper-exploitation of known tropes and characters. Ours is a little bit more of an inward look at these things in an attempt to flip them around in a positive way.