Bruce Lee’s appearance in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood has been a frequent topic of conversation in the months since Quentin Tarantino’s latest film hit theaters. The accuracy of Lee’s depiction in the film has been of particular concern, especially for Lee’s family. And now that Tarantino’s book of the same name has hit shelves, the director’s been asked publicly about that backlash and created a new round of discussion about the scene.
This week brought a Tarantino interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast where he was asked about the outcry that Tarantino didn’t portray the legendary actor’s personality and character well in a scene where he essentially challenges Brad Pitt’s character to a fight. Tarantino said earlier in the week that Lee’s daughter is allowed to get upset about it, but everyone else can, essentially, get lost.
And Lee’s daughter Shannon, who previously told Tarantino to “shut up” when discussing the portrayal, apparently is still upset indeed. When reached for comment about the latest comments by The Hollywood Reporter, Lee responded with a full opinion piece that expressed her frustration with this enduring controversy and that others continue to defend Tarantino and his perception of Lee.
Why does Quentin Tarantino speak like he knew Bruce Lee and hated him? It seems weird given he never met Bruce Lee, right? Not to mention that Mr. Tarantino happily dressed the Bride in a knock-off of my father’s yellow jumpsuit and the Crazy 88s in Kato-style masks and outfits for Kill Bill, which many saw as a love letter to Bruce Lee. But love letters usually address the recipient by name, and from what I could observe at the time, Mr. Tarantino tried, interestingly, to avoid saying the name Bruce Lee as much as possible back then.
If only he’d take the name Bruce Lee off his lips now.
The full piece is certainly worth reading if the historical accuracy of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is of concern to you. And her frustrations are certainly valid given the continued difficulties minorities have faced in Hollywood in the decades since Lee stopped acting. Shannon Lee describes the scene as a classic example of how “white Hollywood” viewed her father and his work, and she detailed the various ways his impact on cinema has been minimized both during and after his career ended.
I’m tired of hearing from white men in Hollywood that he was arrogant and an asshole when they have no idea and cannot fathom what it might have taken to get work in 1960s and ’70s Hollywood as a Chinese man with (God forbid) an accent, or to try to express an opinion on a set as a perceived foreigner and person of color. I’m tired of white men in Hollywood mistaking his confidence, passion and skill for hubris and therefore finding it necessary to marginalize him and his contributions. I’m tired of white men in Hollywood finding it too challenging to believe that Bruce Lee might have really been good at what he did and maybe even knew how to do it better than them.
Shannon Lee’s main point here is that, whether intentional or not, Tarantino is using Lee’s image and the controversy here to promote both his movie and, now a book. And she seems hopeful to end the cycle of news about the matter with the piece, concluding the piece saying “I think it’s time for both of us to walk on.” We’ll see if this is, indeed, the end of the discussion. But Lee’s statement is certainly worth reading in full to let her get the last word here.