Quentin Tarantino addresses Bruce Lee portrayal criticism

Some have accused director of disrespecting martial arts legend in 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'

US director Quentin Tarantino gestures as he poses during a photocall ahead of the italian Premiere of Tarantino's latest movie "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" in downtown Rome on August 2, 2019.  / AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTE
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Quentin Tarantino has addressed controversy over the portrayal of martial arts legend Bruce Lee in his latest movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, at a Moscow press conference ahead of the film's Russian release.

The film features a scene in which Brad Pitt’s character, stuntman Cliff, takes on Lee, played by Mike Moh, in a fist fight. The end result is never revealed. The scene has polarised audiences in the US, where some saw the portrayal as disrespectful and inauthentic.

Lee's own daughter, Shannon, who was not consulted during the making of the film, spoke to the LA Times after seeing the movie saying: "While I understand that the mechanism in the story is to make Brad Pitt's character out to be [someone who] can beat up Bruce Lee, the script treatment of my father as this arrogant, egotistical punching bag was really disheartening – and, I feel, unnecessary."

Now Tarantino has had his say. He told journalists: “If you ask me the question, ‘Who would win in a fight: Bruce Lee or Dracula?’ It’s the same question. It’s a fictional character. If I say Cliff can beat Bruce Lee up, he’s a fictional character so he could beat Bruce Lee up.”

Tarantino added that, since Cliff is a former Green Beret who has killed several men in combat, he may well stand a chance against Lee. If the two faced off in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Gardens, the director surmised, Lee would win easily, but if the pair were brawling in the Philippine jungle “Cliff would kill him.”

Moh himself, in conversation with The New Hollywood Podcast admitted that he predicted there would be criticism of lee's portrayal in the film, but insisted that his main aim with his portrayal of Lee, a boyhood hero of his, was to "honour" the movie legend.