Shannon Lee, the daughter of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, has slammed filmmaker Quentin Tarantino for portraying her father as a “caricature” in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.
Shannon said Tarantino’s take on her father was no different from the way “white Hollywood” treated him when he was alive, The Indian Express reported.
In an interview with The Wrap, she said the movie paints Lee, played by Mike Moh, as an “arrogant a–hole who was full of hot air,”something that diminishes Lee’s struggle and legacy.
“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,” she said.
Shannon, 50, said it was very “uncomfortable” for her to watch the film in a theatre as everyone was laughing at her father, the Indian Express report said.
“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. 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.
“I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-a– 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.”
She said in reality her father was often challenged but he never took them seriously.
“Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was,” she added.
She, however, praised Moh for his portrayal of Lee, but criticized Tarantino’s decision to direct him as a “caricature.”
Others across the social media landscape, including film writers Nancy Wang Yuen and Noah Berlatsky, and W. Kamau Bell voiced similar opinions.
“@brucelee fought his entire career against being turned into the kind of stereotype described here,” Bell tweeted, linking to Shannon Lee’s statement. “Nothing but respect for the actor. This is about Tarantino’s portrayal of Bruce.”
Many Tarantino fans also walked away disappointed by Lee’s portrayal.
“Still thinking about my entire theater cracking up at Bruce Lee making kung-fu sounds in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — seemed pretty racist to me, but maybe I just don’t know enough about movies…” wrote one Twitter user.
“I think it’s f–ked up that Tarantino never contacted Bruce Lee’s daughter/family for consent for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (but contacted Sharon Tate’s) then proceeded to do Lee dirty in the movie,” a disgusted fan wrote.
“just saw ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD and… what did bruce lee ever do to anyone???” wrote another.
“Am I the only one who finds it disrespectful that after years of ripping off Bruce Lee’s style and martial arts movies in general, Tarantino has the audacity to put Bruce Lee in a movie and have him lose a fight to a white stuntman?” wrote one shocked viewer.
Lee, who died in 1973, achieved major film stardom in the early 70s via a string of Hong Kong-produced martial arts films, after years of trying and failing to interest Hollywood in his projects.
According to The Guardian, criticism of Lee’s treatment in the film centres on a scene where he challenges stunt performer Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt) to a fight, in an encounter where Booth appears to get the better of him.
In reality, Bruce Lee — a trainer of many Hollywood figures, including Steve McQueen, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate — avoided fighting people who were not martial arts experts.
Lee, who heads up the Bruce Lee Foundation and Bruce Lee Entertainment, took the high road, unlike Tarantino … saying she was focused on “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,” she added.
Media reports say Tarantino, who will make millions from the film, has refused comment.
Sources: The Indian Express, The Guardian, The Telegraph, SFGATE.com, Global News