In the middle of Quentin Tarantino’s media tour to promote the new version of his 2019 novelization Once upon a time in hollywood, the director stopped by Joe Rogan’s Spotify podcast. During the June 29 interview, Tarantino was asked about the criticism of the Bruce Lee film’s portrayal – specifically, a fight scene in which Brad Pitt’s character Cliff easily overturns Lee’s character, performed by Mike Moh. Tarantino told Rogan, “I can understand his daughter having a problem with this – it’s her fucking dad, I understand,” before quickly dismissing the criticisms of others.
Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, was among those who had spoken about the scene at the time of the film’s release. And, in response to a request for comment from The Hollywood Reporter on Tarantino’s remarks to Rogan, wrote the column below regarding the director’s characterization of the scene and other comments on the real Bruce Lee.
Why does Quentin Tarantino speak like he knows Bruce Lee and hates him? Sounds odd considering he’s never met Bruce Lee, right? Not to mention Mr. Tarantino cheerfully dressed the bride in an imitation of my father’s yellow jumpsuit and the Crazy 88s with masks and Kato style outfits for Kill Bill, which many saw as a love letter to Bruce Lee. But love letters are usually addressed to the recipient by name, and from what I observed at the time, Mr. Tarantino interestingly tried to avoid uttering as much as possible named Bruce Lee at the time.
If only he took Bruce Lee’s name off his lips now.
You can imagine now that I’m used to people seeing only one side of my father and turning it into a caricature. This happened shortly after his death. But usually somewhere in this caricature is some kind of nugget of love for the man and his work. This is not the case with Mr. Tarantino.
As you already know, the portrait of Bruce Lee in Once upon a time in hollywood by Mr. Tarantino, in my opinion, was inaccurate and to say the least unnecessary. (Please don’t blame actor Mike Moh. He did what he could with what he was given.) And although I am grateful to Mr. Tarantino for having so generously acknowledged to Joe Rogan that maybe I have my feelings about his portrayal of my father, I’m also grateful for the opportunity to express this: I’m really sick of white men in Hollywood trying to tell me who Bruce Lee was.
I’m tired of hearing from white men in Hollywood that he was cocky and an asshole when they have no idea and can’t figure out what it would have taken to get work in the 1960s and 1970s to Hollywood as a Chinese man with (God forbid) an accent, or trying to express an opinion on set as a perceived foreigner and a person of color. I’m fed up with white Hollywood men confusing his confidence, passion and skill with pride and therefore find it necessary to marginalize him and his contributions. I’m fed up with white Hollywood men finding it too hard to believe that Bruce Lee could have been really good at what he did and maybe even knew how to do it better than them.
I’m tired of hearing from white men in Hollywood that he wasn’t much of a martial artist and just did it for the movies. My father lived and breathed martial arts. He taught martial arts, wrote about martial arts, created his own martial art, innovated in martial arts training, and refused to participate in martial arts tournaments because he believed combat had to be “real”. He had no parallel as a martial artist. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he had no parallels as a martial artist on film either.
I’m fed up that white Hollywood men barely notice the impact it has had on the action film genre and fight choreography, or the proliferation and interest in martial arts than he has sparked in the world, or the number of people and communities he continues to inspire and touch with his performances, philosophy, teachings and practices while casually downplaying how his accomplishments have lifted morale and became a source of pride for Asian Americans, communities of color and people around the world, and how he accomplished all of this at the age of 32.
And while we’re at it, I’m sick of people telling me that he wasn’t American (he was born in San Francisco), that he wasn’t really friends with James Coburn, that he wasn’t good at stuntmen, that he dared people to fight on film sets, that my mom said in her book that my dad believed he could beat Muhammad Ali (that’s not true ), that all he wanted was to be famous, and so much more.
And of course this does not apply to all white men in Hollywood; I have worked with really wonderful collaborators and partners. But I’ve met enough over the years (and not just in Hollywood) who want to complain about Bruce Lee and use Bruce Lee when and how it suits them without acknowledging his humanity, heritage, or family in the process. a bit of a pattern emerged. Nor am I saying that no one is allowed to have a negative opinion of Bruce Lee. I am saying that your opinion may be tinged with personal or cultural biases, and that there is a tendency. Just notice the pattern in all of the people Mr. Tarantino cites in his case against my father. I’m just saying …
And I understand that he died when I was 4, but I’m still one of the few people on this planet other than my mom who met and spoke with almost everyone who ever knew him (the promoters like the detractors), who has read his many writings on all kinds of subjects, gone through his personal diaries and his library, who has trained in Jeet Kune Do, who has childhood memories of him, and who knows what that it was to be loved by him. I think I’m more of an authority on Bruce Lee at this point than most people, not to mention taking care of his legacy for the past 21 years.
Look, I understand what Mr. Tarantino was trying to do. I really do. Cliff Booth is a tough guy and a killer he can beat Bruce Lee. Character development. I understand. I just think he could have done it so much better. But instead, the scene he created was just an uninspiring teardown of Bruce Lee when it didn’t need to be. It was white Hollywood that treated Bruce Lee like, well, white Hollywood treated him – like a superfluous stereotype. But it was Mr. Tarantino’s creative device that he chose, so he first claimed, although now appears to be claiming that this is in fact an accurate portrayal of Bruce Lee and that this is what would have happened if Cliff Booth (a fictional person) and the real Bruce Lee (if he was a mediocre, arrogant martial artist) had clashed. Whaaa?
The fact that Mr. Tarantino marries my father could have been easily cheated by a fictional character and only really be a threat in a competitive setting like Madison Square Garden says a lot about everything he doesn’t know about Bruce Lee. and JKD. But enough tit-for-tat.
In conclusion, at a time when Asian Americans are being physically attacked, urged to “go home” because they are seen as non-Americans and demonized for something unrelated to them, I wonder. sense pushed to suggest that Mr. Tarantino continued the attacks, misrepresentations and misrepresentations of a pioneering and innovative member of our Asian American community, at this time, are unwelcome.
Mr. Tarantino, you don’t have to like Bruce Lee. I really don’t care whether you like it or not. You made your movie and now clearly you are promoting a book. But in the interest of respecting other cultures and experiences that you may not understand, I encourage you to let your thoughts go on Bruce Lee and reconsider the impact of your words in a world that has not. need more conflict and fewer cultural heroes. .
Under heaven, under heaven, we are one family, Mr. Tarantino, and I think it’s time for both of us to walk.