Bruce Lee’s daughter accuses Quentin Tarantino of unfair ‘caricature’ of father

Bruce Lee’s daughter has hit out at Quentin Tarantino’s new film for treating her father "the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive". 

The film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is written and directed by Tarantino and set in the late 1960s as a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

Shannon Lee said she felt uncomfortable watching the film at the weekend as she sat in a cinema and listened to people "laugh at my father". 

“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 told entertainment website The Wrap.

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Her criticism focused on a scene in which Bruce Lee, played by Mike Moh, trades insults with stuntman Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, and challenges him to a fight on the set of "The Green Hornet" TV show. 

In fact, she said, her father was often challenged to fights but tried to avoid them. “Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was,” she said.

She also pointed out that Lee’s hair and sunglasses in the film recall his iconic look in the 1970s, while “The Green Hornet"  aired in the late 1960s. 

Ms Lee said she did not take issue with Moh, who she praised for his portrayal of her father’s voice and mannerisms, but suggested he was “directed to be a caricature”.  

Ms Lee added that while Tarantino may have been attempting to make a point about how Lee was stereotyped at the time, “it doesn’t come across that way.”

Lee, who died in 1973, struggled for years to work in Hollywood before finally achieving international success through his Hong Kong-produced martial arts films. He trained several Hollywood figures including Steve McQueen, Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. 

Ms Lee said she understood that many characters in the film are caricatures, but noted that it did not poke fun at McQueen, who also features, played by Damian Lewis.    She compared the portrayal of the film’s two fictional, white protagonists to that of her father. “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 that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion,” she said. 

“I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super-badass 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.” 

Ms Lee, who heads up the Bruce Lee Foundation and Bruce Lee Entertainment, said 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.

Tarantino has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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