Bruce Lee's daughter criticizes Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood for depicting him as an 'arrogant punching bag'

A wax figure of Bruce Lee.
(Image credit: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds)

Bruce Lee's daughter is putting Quentin Tarantino on blast over her father's depiction in Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood.

Shannon Lee spoke to The Wrap about a moment in Tarantino's new movie set in 1969 Los Angeles in which her father, played by Mike Moh, challenges Brad Pitt's Cliff Booth to a fight. The scene is played for laughs, with a coolheaded Cliff brushing off Bruce's cocky attitude while gaining the upper hand and throwing him into a nearby car.

This scene was "disheartening," Lee told The Wrap, going on to say that it was "really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father."

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Some critics have defended the scene by arguing that it's not meant to be taken as a literal depiction of true events; it's presented as a memory of Cliff's, and it may be his exaggerated version of what took place. Lee told The Wrap that she understands this and the fact that it serves to elevate Cliff's fighting abilities. Still, she said, "they didn't need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive."

Lee went on to say that although her father is portrayed as an "arrogant a--hole" and "the one with all the puffery" who initiates the fight, that's "not how he was." While she explained that she works hard toward "raising the consciousness of" who her father was, "all of that was flushed down the toilet" by this film, which made him "into this arrogant punching bag."

Although Tarantino reached out to Sharon Tate's sister about Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood, Lee previously expressed frustration that no one ever contacted her, telling Deadline that "to not have been included in any kind of way, when I know that he reached out to other people but did not reach out to me, there's a level of annoyance."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.