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Quentin Tarantino Stands By His Depiction Of Bruce Lee

In the 46 years since the death of Bruce Lee, the actor and martial arts legend has attained the status of sanctified pop culture icon, even among those who know little of his legacy. With that in mind, some took offence when Quentin Tarantino—a longtime Lee fanatic—chose to depict Lee in a somewhat comical light in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Lee’s daughter Shannon and his protégé/training partner Dan Inosanto have suggested that the film is insufficiently reverential, but Tarantino recently refuted their criticisms.

In response to the complaint that Lee is portrayed as an arrogant figure in the film, Tarantino refers his critics to the historical record. “Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy,” he said at a recent junket in Moscow. “The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up. I heard him say things like that, to that effect. If people are saying, ‘Well, he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali,’ well yeah, he did. Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read. She absolutely said that.”

As for the claim that stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) would be no match for Lee, we refer you to yesterday’s Hobbs & Shaw post for insight into the subjective nature of hypothetical fights involving fictional characters. As Tarantino explains, a fictional creation is capable of anything. “Brad would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could,” he explained. “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.”

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is in theatres now. Check out the trailer below.