In Quentin Tarantino’s Tinseltown fantasia “Once ~ above a Time … in Hollywood,” Bruce Lee faces off through Brad Pitt’s fictional stuntman Cliff Booth in a step that part say provides fun of the martial arts icon.

You are watching: Bruce lee in once upon a time

In the cameo, Bruce Lee, played by gibbs Mike Moh, difficulties Booth come spar external the collection of Lee’s TV collection “The eco-friendly Hornet.” Lee is presented holding court because that everyone that will listen, bragging the he might beat boxing champ Cassius Clay, a.k.a. Muhammad Ali, in a fight: “My hands space registered together lethal weapons.”

But after talking a big game — and playing up his signature mannerisms and outsize confidence, knocking Cliff under in the first round — the Lee that gets unceremoniously thrown right into the next of a parked vehicle by the stuntman before others intervene.

The scene has offended fans of Lee, and also it has actually offended his family. Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, dubbed the depiction “disrespectful” and also “a mockery” of her late father’s legacy.


“I understand this is a Tarantino film, the the movie personalities are ‘antiheroes’ and also this has his characteristic style and is an additional of his rage fantasies,” stated Lee after seeing the movie Sunday. “While I understand that the system in the story is to do Brad Pitt’s character the end to be together a badass that he can beat up Bruce Lee, the script treatment of my father as this arrogant, egotistical punching bag was yes, really disheartening — and, i feel, unnecessary.


Tarantino “seems to have gone out of the means to make funny of my father and also to portray the as kind of a buffoon.”

Shannon Lee


The director “seems to have gone out of the means to make fun of mine father and also to portray the as type of a buffoon,” included Lee, who is chief executive of the Bruce Lee family Co. And heads she father’s namesake charity. “I feel choose he turn his confidence right into arrogance and his intelligence into mockery. Ns feel choose he to be picked ~ above in the means that he to be picked ~ above in life through white Hollywood.

“I’ve met Mike and I understand that he loves mine father and he’s a working actor, and also I really hold no negativity towards him whatsoever. Again, ns feel choose the portrayal is a caricature — no a character, yet a caricature. Yet I think he was most likely directed that way.”


In a follow-up email, Lee claimed her mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, found the portrayal to be “just awful.”

According come Shannon Lee, her mommy told her: “I thought the character was prefer a caricature of himself and made him look stupid, silly and also made to it is in insultingly ‘Chinesey.’ it strayed so far from the fact of that he was and also of any type of actual encounter he had. … it was terrible to watch.”


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The ending of the new film indigenous Quentin Tarantino, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, raises countless questions. We shot to prize a few of them.


In a film about myth-making whose ambiguities have actually sparked heated conflict (including however not minimal to: that is arm’s-length treatment of actress Sharon Tate, the depiction of violence toward women, why the film mostly steers clean of Charles Manson and also what, exactly, the all even means), Lee’s portrayal is a complex one come unpack. Moh defines his performance together homage come the symbol he admires.During his push tour, Tarantino stated the step serves a an ext direct purpose: to do a situation for Cliff’s very own killer capabilities. The an explanation foreshadowed by Al Pacino’s character in the film, who explains to Leonardo DiCaprio’s stack Dalton just how he’s being provided in villain-of-the-week parts to put over the next generation the TV stars.

Tarantino can not be reached for talk about this story.

To Jeff Yang, author of the Chinese cinema background book “Once top top a Time in China” and cohost that the podcast “They speak to Us Bruce,” any kind of use the Lee’s memory warrants depths inspection. “The greatest question I have actually here is: wherein does the line gain drawn in between homage and also exploitation?” the said, noting the Lee’s legacy is intertwined with a flood of copycat movie that adhered to his fatality as copy leapt to cash in ~ above his image. “It is ironic the Quentin, who cases to be a fan, would connect in a very comparable process.”


Mike Moh looms good but invoking Bruce in this story as a next character seems ghoulish and unnecessary.

— Jeff Yang (

Like Tate — who Aug. 9, 1969, killing by the Manson “family” alongside hairstylist Jay Sebring, screenwriter Voytek Frykowski, heiress Abigail Folger and also 18-year-old Steven parent serves together the looming narrative subject of the film — Lee was a real human being chasing a Hollywood dream who life was cut quick on the brink of stardom. His sudden fatality in 1973 at age 32 preceded the relax of the breakout movie “Enter the Dragon” the would ultimately make that a superstar in the unified States.

Tarantino, the cineaste who put “Kill Bill’s” Uma Thurman together the Bride in Lee’s above yellow “Game the Death” jumpsuit, wrote Lee and Tate as supporting personalities in a story anchored by two fictional white men; he even shows Lee and Tate with each other in a rapid flashback come Lee training she for she fight scene with asian American actor Nancy Kwan because that “The Wrecking Crew,” and later he mirrors Lee training Sebring, who discovered Lee in genuine life. However anecdotally, throughout Bruce Lee’s showdown v Cliff Booth, audiences seem to one of two people laugh along or cringe in your seats.

So what space we to do of the scene?


If you watch the new Tarantino, and also there's any kind of audience, take note of how the audience reacts to the Bruce Lee impersonation. This is what systemic racism looks like. No the power which is perfect, the reaction which is hard-wired into members that this culture.

— Walter Chaw 周瑜 (

“I think the movie is about the burden that certain idols have had to bear,” said veteran film doubter Walter Chaw, that sees the scene as one in i beg your pardon Lee no lose, also if he is knocked down a peg. “Bruce Lee has end up being posterized or memed to this point where he’s this way Eastern theorist who was additionally indestructible. The lot of rage about the idea the Bruce Lee can even be beaten in fight is yes, really disturbing come me, since it dehumanizes him.”

At the time of his quick 1966-67 operation on “Green Hornet” together Kato, sidekick to the titular superhero, Lee could have feel a kinship to Dalton, a TV star through an unsure future and also something to prove — an especially for Lee together a rare asian American star scrapping come claim an are for himself in white-dominated Hollywood. Portraying Lee as anything much less than his mythical legend in the scene, Chaw argues, adds measurement to exactly how we think that him.


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“I think what Tarantino’s do the efforts to carry out in the movie is come demystify the legend a little bit,” said Chaw, senior film critic at movie Freak Central. “Bruce Lee is just one of those men that’s come to be untouchable. So when Tarantino touch him, he humanizes him. And also I think world are rejecting right now the idea the you deserve to humanize Bruce Lee, and also I think that’s interesting.”

Whether the movie succeeds in plainly seeding that analysis is up for debate. Like numerous details in the movie (Cliff’s watercraft flashback; his and also Rick’s punchline moment of casual racism; the film’s glaring-if-you-notice-it lack of civilization of shade in Tarantino’s heady, dreamy 1960s Los Angeles), the meaning of those storytelling choices are left to the viewer come interpret.

How audiences room interpreting it is noteworthy. In the opening weekend mirroring that scholar and also “Reel Inequality” writer Nancy Wang Yuen attended, a cringe-inducing sound followed that scene: the sound of other moviegoers laughing in ~ Bruce Lee, an experience Shannon Lee also had watching the film v a theater of strangers. “It was yes, really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and also listen to human being laugh at him,” Lee said.“There’s nothing rather to contact him however the butt of the joke, since everything that renders him powerful is the really thing that renders him laughable in the film,” claimed Yuen, who discovered the depiction and her theater’s reaction to it insulting. “His kung fu becomes a joke, and also his philosophizing i do not care a happiness cookie, and also the sounds the he renders as the does kung fu are literally made fun of by Cliff. They do his arrogance look like he to be a fraud.”


I had actually a meta moment of feeling prefer Bruce Lee the town hall ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ in the movie ‘Dragon’ where everyone else was laughing yet him. (Spoiler Alert) I likewise said, out loud, in the theater, “That’s no possible!” once Bruce was taken down by Cliff (played through Brad Pitt). Pic.twitter.com/xaEmHHi0Bq

— Nancy Wang Yuen (
nancywyuen) July 30, 2019

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Brad Pitt stars in Columbia photos “Once top top a Time in Hollywood.”
(Andrew Cooper/Columbia Pictures)
“It’s not cool to use human being of color to make a much more well-rounded, more facility character, specifically when over there is naught to respond to those stereotypes,” claimed Yuen, mentioning that the Lee portrayal is the most prominent speaking duty of color in the film. In its version of 1969 L.A., african Americans are likewise invisible and a few Latinx personalities — maybe authentic to just how 1960s Hollywood cure them, as Erick Galindo to write in L.A. Taco — are mainly nameless and silent.

The scrutiny is warranted offered Lee’s prominence as one of the most iconic eastern American artist of every time. The historical context makes race in the film an element worthy of an important engagement, like numerous of the other options fans and critics space poring over with obsessive attention. Lee is for this reason prominently featured in Sony’s marketing campaign that audiences could be shocked to learn his display time in the two-hour-and-45-minute film quantities to a solitary scene and also two quick and wordless flashbacks.

Arriving between a groundbreaking time for asian American representation, with films like “Crazy rich Asians,” “Searching,” “Always be My Maybe,” “Late Night” and also “The Farewell” bringing extraordinary inclusion come the big screen, and also Marvel’s an initial Asian superhero movie, “Shang Chi,” ~ above the horizon, “Once upon a Time” feeling sorely retrograde, says Yang. “It’s this uncomfortable reminder the we’re the only human being who experienced him, and clearly other world saw that differently. For oriental Americans, Bruce Lee wasn’t just exciting and also cool. That was somebody who really deeply relocated us, due to the fact that he to be us.”


The funny thing is the Bruce Lee scene in OUATIH could've been far better if the script had actually made note of both characters' arrogance in testing one another. Yet it's lazily written and the deck is stacked in favor of protecting Pitt's stardom much more than Lee's legacy.

— Steven Santos (

The reaction plenty of Bruce Lee pan are having to the portrayal stems from the place Lee stop in the community and what his visibility go to against the historic emasculation of the asian male, says Angry eastern Man writer Phil Yu.

“Bruce Lee was a man who was kind of superhuman in a many ways. He experiment the boundaries of physicality and tried to expand the borders of what human being were qualified of — himself the most,” said Yu, who likewise cohosts “They speak to Us Bruce,” citing Lee’s teachings. “The thing about that is, we don’t check out a many of eastern men illustrated that way or provided the communication to even behave that way. For a man to be prefer that, particularly in that era, to be an affront come what a lot of of people thought Asians and Asian men could be.”

“He could come off as overconfident, cocky and also even arrogant, however he to be the man who could ago that up,” he added. Yu there is no yet checked out the film, yet he’s watched plenty of artist attempt to depict Lee onscreen, with varying results. “People always want to insert Bruce Lee-isms into things, but no one ever before wants come actually check out Bruce Lee.”

Are there details installed within the message of the film, as certain and referential together Dalton’s faux spaghetti western posters, that might offer deeper paper definition to Lee’s quick appearance in “Once upon a Time”? The flashback hit scene, because that example, is framed together Cliff’s memory; psychic Bruce Lee as a blowhard chump that beat up could be an less complicated explanation because that his stalled career 보다 the whispered accusations of residential violence that trail him.


The scene opens on the Fox lot where “Green Hornet” to be filmed, panning under from a billboard for the Pearl Harbor war drama “Tora! Tora! Tora!” — a film that wouldn’t it is in released till 1970, three years after “Green Hornet” was canceled. Lee’s later-era hairstyle too is anachronistic, one more indicator the Cliff’s memory, or even the film’s memory, is topic to hazy misremembering.

Tarantino’s quote in the finish credits of another piece of period marketing, a 1960s “Batman” radio promotion featuring Adam West and Burt Ward, offer one more stumper of an Easter egg. Might that be a throwback to the moment Lee apparently refused to shed in a fight versus Ward’s Robin in a 1967 crossover illustration — a step that, legend has actually it, to be then rewritten to finish in a draw?

For film doubter Claudia Puig, that was reminded of her very own childhood memory of 1969 Los Angeles if watching “Once top top a Time,” the world Tarantino gift onscreen is finest read through a grain of salt. “I nothing think to be going for depth and dimensionality in regards to the characters but a pastiche the this era,” she said. “I contact it faux nostalgia, due to the fact that there was all this various other stuff walk on. This was a really narrow view of the era.”

And possibly that’s the point, for far better or worse. Puig pointed come the streaks the casual racism in both Cliff’s and Rick’s characters that at first made she wince. “I thought around the ‘beaner’ heat too,” she said. " is congratulated because that coming up v that. Ns thought, ‘Did friend really need that?’ however maybe that is informing you a lot around how human being thought.”


“People have said to me, ‘But Quentin Tarantino is such a substantial Bruce Lee fan.’ I actually don’t think the is.”

Shannon Lee


A generous reading of Tarantino’s intention grants the movie housing a measure up of grace; probably he method for the viewer to feeling both the temptation and also the tragic impossibility of such fairy-tale fantasizing — that also in an alternative scenario in i m sorry Sharon Tate lives, males like Rick and also Cliff space the antiheroes we’re stuck with.

Even so, once it involves her father, Shannon Lee states it’s disappointing to her the Tarantino couldn’t discover another means to make his allude other than create a depiction the was much from the man, martial artist and philosopher he yes, really was.

“People have said come me, ‘But Quentin Tarantino is such a large Bruce Lee fan.’ I actually don’t think he is,” claimed Lee, who additionally cohosts a podcast specialized to she father’s teachings. “I’ve constantly suspected the he’s not. What i think he is a pan of is things that kick ass in a cool way. Ns think the is a fan of mine father’s style, of the way that he was in his films. I’m not sure he yes, really knows much about him together a human being being or his philosophy.

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“I think the there to be a way to attain what he want to accomplish differently that didn’t lampoon at the very least my father, if no everyone. It was just disheartening,” she said. “I would just hope that civilization would want to connect with the genuine Bruce Lee and also not what was portrayed there.”


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