Quentin Tarantino Defends Bruce Lee Portrayal In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

(Photo: Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood)

The latest controversy surrounding acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino is in regards to his portrayal of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. The version of Lee in Tarantino's most recent film came off as anything but friendly and also lost a fight to a stuntman, prompting questions about how the director handled adapting a real person into his film. Now, Tarantino has defended his vision of Bruce Lee.

"Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy," Tarantino said at a recent press event of Once Upon 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."

Of course, the dialogue was only a part of the controversy. Having Brad Pitt's Cliff Booth manhandle Bruce Lee to the point that he was thrown into a car has audiences wondering if the martial artist and actor could actually be manhandled so easily.

"Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Brad [Pitt] would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could," Tarantino claims. "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. The reality of the situation is this: Cliff is a Green Beret. He has killed many men in WWII in hand-to-hand combat. What Bruce Lee is talking about in the whole thing is that he admires warriors. He admires combat, and boxing is a closer approximation of combat as a sport. Cliff is not part of the sport that is like combat, he is a warrior. He is a combat person."

In the end, it all comes down to how far Bruce Lee is willing to go in the fight which might determine the outcome, according to Tarantino. "If Cliff were fighting Bruce Lee in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Garden, Bruce would kill him. But if Cliff and Bruce were fighting in the jungles of the Philippines in a hand-to-hand combat fight, Cliff would kill him," the director said.


Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood is now playing in theaters.