Bruce Lee is one of the most iconic legendary figures in Hollywood history. The master of martial arts starred in dozens of movies before finally transcending worldwide when he took on the role of Kato in both “Batman” and “The Green Hornet.”
Although his career was short due to his untimely death in 1973, he showed off his chops in “Enter the Dragon” and “The Way of the Dragon.”
And Bruce Lee’s daughter was “disheartened” and disappointed by the way this hit movie portrayed her late father.
“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” may not have been able to dethrone Disney’s “The Lion King” but it still raked in over $40 million domestically in its first weekend, which was a career best for director Quentin Tarantino. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as washed up television actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt as his controversial stuntman Cliff Booth.
But while it’s undeniably a buddy comedy, it’s really about the end of an era that occurred in Hollywood in 1969. It’s about perception versus reality and without giving anything away, the ending definitely encompasses that theme.
While Dalton and Booth peruse around 1969 Hollywood, we meet some other notable Hollywood icons like real-life people Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Charles Manson, Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee.
However, the depiction of martial arts master Bruce Lee is not so kind. In his only scene, Tarantino wanted to paint Lee as a brash, cocky and you can even argue, a bit of an overrated martial artist.
Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon, was not happy about the way her father was portrayed in the slightest.
Shannon told The Wrap, “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 also said, “it was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father.”
But Shannon wasn’t so naïve to understand why Tarantino did what he did with that character.
She noted, “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–s 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.”
But was Tarantino’s depiction of Bruce Lee perception or reality?
Was Bruce Lee as arrogant as he is in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood?”
According to Matthew Polly, author of “Bruce Lee: A Life,” Lee was exactly how Tarantino wrote Bruce Lee behind-the-scenes.
Polly wrote, “Bruce Lee was often a cocky, strutting braggart, but Tarantino took those traits and exaggerated them to the point of caricature.”
So maybe Tarantino exaggerated but that’s kind of the whole point of the theme of perception versus reality. Although it was funny, nobody really thinks Bruce Lee was this untalented hack. Tarantino just needed to use Bruce Lee as a device to show how great Cliff Booth is at fighting. That’s all.