In his latest film, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino ushers audiences into the sights and sounds of 1960s Los Angeles. Complete with a mesmerizing recreation of Hollywood Boulevard, the director places his fictional characters, a struggling TV actor and his stunt double, alongside real entertainers from the time.
At the forefront is Sharon Tate, the ill-fated victim of the Manson Family, played here by Margot Robbie. But revolving in her circle are also her husband, Roman Polanski, and friends Steve McQueen, Connie Stevens and most controversially, Bruce Lee.
Before the Pulp Fiction director’s ninth film hit theaters this July, Lee’s daughter Shannon voiced her displeasure in Tarantino including her father in the movie without first reaching out to her. And when the picture was finally released, she then denounced her father’s depiction in it, saying that Tarantino “didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”
Tarantino’s since defended his decision to include Lee, as well as portraying him as an “arrogant,” mouthy show-off. This has only added fuel to the fire between him and Shannon though, who’s made a swift request.
“He could shut up about it,” she said. “That would be really nice. Or he could apologize or he could say, ‘I don’t really know what Bruce Lee was like. I just wrote it for my movie. But that shouldn’t be taken as how he really was.”
In films like Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, Tarantino’s grown a reputation for blending fact and fiction. But he claims that Mike Moh’s portrayal of Lee, in which he brags about being able to take down Muhammad Ali, is actually spot-on. At a recent junket in Moscow, the director had this to say:
“Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy. 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. Alright? 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 it turns out, this claim isn’t entirely accurate. The book Tarantino’s referring to, Bruce Lee: The Man I Only Knew, does contain the line, “Those who watched Bruce Lee would bet on Lee to render Cassius Clay senseless,” but it doesn’t come from Lee’s widow – it’s actually a quote from a critic.
But despite her public complaints, Shannon’s acknowledged Tarantino’s right to create a fictionalized version of her father. Still, she’d rather it be done in a more formal way. But given the fact that Tarantino didn’t reach out to Roman Polanski, whose murdered wife’s in the spotlight, about Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, it makes sense that he wouldn’t speak to Lee, either.