Quentin Tarantino is defending his depiction of martial arts legend Bruce Lee in his hit film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
In the movie, while on the set of his Green Hornet TV show, Lee (Mike Moh) is shown talking about being able to beat Cassius Clay (a.k.a. Muhammad Ali), leading to a friendly fight with Brad Pitt’s stuntman, Cliff Booth, who subsequently throws Lee into a car. Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, called the depiction “disrespectful” and “a mockery” of her late father’s legacy in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy,” Tarantino said at a press conference in Moscow. “I didn’t just make a lot of that up. I heard him say things like that. People are saying, ‘Well, he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali,’ yeah, he did…Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Brad would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could. If you ask me the question, ‘Well who would win in a fight, Bruce Lee or Dracula?’ It’s the same question. Its a fictional character. If I say, Cliff could beat Bruce Lee up, he’s a fictional character, then he could beat Bruce Lee up.”
Moh himself had previously defended his depiction of Lee in an interview with the Birth.Movies.Death website.
“Of course, when I first read it, I was like, ‘Wow,'” said the actor. “I’m not going to tell you what the original script had exactly, but when I read it, I was so conflicted because he’s my hero — Bruce in my mind was literally a God. He wasn’t a person to me, he was a superhero. And I think that’s how most people view Bruce. And the thing about it is, number one, it’s a Tarantino film. He’s not going to do the thing that everybody expects anybody else to do. You’ve got to expect the unexpected. And number two, I knew from the jump, Tarantino loves Bruce Lee; he reveres him. So let me be clear; in the film it was a challenge — ‘best two out of three.’ I got the first point — I knocked him on his a– first.”
You can see Tarantino’s full response to the controversy in the video above.