Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood unsurprisingly sparked controversy on multiple subjects. That includes how the auteur chose to build up Cliff Booth’s badassery (as played by Brad Pitt) by having him beat up a cocky Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). The scene in question featured Lee boasting and challenging Booth to a throwdown, and as you’re probably aware by now, Booth ends up hurling Lee straight into the car of an outraged producer’s wife (Zoe Bell). It was mined for all the typical humor that one expects from a Pitt scene in a Tarantino movie, but Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon, wasn’t amused.
In fact, Shannon was outraged after she attended the movie, only to “listen to people laugh at my father.” She was also angry at how Bruce “comes across as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air.” Moh addressed the controversy by stating that the scene was written to show that while Bruce was cocky, he was also human, and he believes that Bruce would have eventually won the fight that ended up being “a tie.” That could have been the end of the conversation, but Tarantino had more to offer. He ended up defending the “arrogant” factor last week in Moscow during a press conference (via Indiewire):
“Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy. The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up. 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.”
Tarantino continued, stressing that while Pitt couldn’t have defeated Bruce Lee, Booth was capable because he’s a fictional character, and Tarantino wanted to write him that way. He further stressed that Booth was a Green Beret and had killed men via hand-to-hand combat, and Lee held respect for warriors and combat, but he simply didn’t know that Booth held these abilities. You can watch that segment of the press conference on YouTube, and while it won’t extinguish the controversy, Tarantino probably didn’t aim for that end goal while addressing the scene either. If he’s serious about moving into retirement, Tarantino sure will miss making people angry someday.