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Bruce Lee's Daughter Has Harsh Words For Tarantino's New Film

Contains mild spoilers for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Bruce Lee's daughter is none too pleased with Quentin Tarantino's newest movie. 

Shannon Lee, the 50-year-old daughter of the late actor and martial arts master, recently opened up in an interview with TheWrap to say how "disheartening" it was to see the "mockery" Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood made of her father.

An actor and director, martial artist and philosopher, Bruce Lee was one of many real-life icons featured in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, an exploration of Tinseltown in 1969 around the time of the gruesome Manson Family murders. Within the flick, Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist actor Mike Moh portrays Lee, seen opposite Brad Pitt's fictional stuntman character Cliff Booth on the set of the real action-adventure television series The Green Hornet. The two men engage in two rounds of fisticuffs, sparring spiritedly and throwing insults at one another as others look on. Lee wins the first round of the fight, while Booth shoves Lee against a car in the second. The third round is interrupted before a victor can be crowned.

When Shannon saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood during the film's opening weekend, she left the theater saddened at how Tarantino depicted her father as "an arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air" and a blowhard who would fight a stuntman while on the job. She noted that Lee needed to put in much more work and continually prove himself to others, since Asian American actors in 1960s Hollywood had a tougher time than white actors did. Shannon added that it was harder for people of color like Lee to succeed than it was for Caucasians — like the fictional actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Booth. 

While Shannon admitted that she can see what Tarantino's vision for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was, noting that she understood the provocative director wanted to create a sort of "rage fantasy" between the white protagonists and Lee, she was incredibly disappointed at how Tarantino treated the late Lee "in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive."

"I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two characters are anti-heroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen... and they're portraying a period of time that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion," said Shannon. "I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super badass who could beat up Bruce Lee."

She later speculated that perhaps Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was trying to offer commentary on the ways in which Hollywood falsely stereotyped Lee — as a rough-and-tumble guy who was always down for a fight — but Tarantino failed on that front. Shannon added that Lee wasn't interested in fighting outside of martial arts, and actively avoided conflict. 

"It doesn't come across that way ... He comes across as an arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air, and not someone who had to fight triple as hard as any of those people did to accomplish what was naturally given to so many others. It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father," stated Shannon. "Here, he's the one with all the puffery and he's the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was."

She also pointed out an inaccuracy in Lee's physical appearance in the film: he was shown with a haircut and sunglasses characteristic of the 1970s, while The Green Hornet aired during 1967 and 1968.

Shannon, who was just four years old when her father passed away in 1973, has kept Lee's legacy alive through the website BruceLee.com, a podcast, and the Bruce Lee Foundation. She told TheWrap that her goal is to raise "the consciousness of who Bruce Lee was as a human being and how he lived his life," and that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood flushed that all "down the toilet" by portraying him as an "arrogant punching bag."

It appears that Shannon places most (if not all) of the blame on Tarantino, as she didn't find fault in Moh's performance as her late father. She stated that she believes he was "directed to be a caricature," but still praised him for capturing Lee's mannerisms and voice. 

For Shannon, it was especially difficult seeing the way her father was portrayed in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood given that the other real-life people — namely Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) — in the film were characterized but not mocked. 

Shannon wasn't the only person who took issue with Lee's portrayal in the Tarantino-directed film. Bruce Lee: A Life author Matthew Polly said of the depiction (via TheWrap), "The full scene with Bruce and Brad Pitt is far different than what was in the trailer. Bruce Lee was often a cocky, strutting, braggart, but Tarantino took those traits and exaggerated them to the point of [an] SNL caricature ... Bruce never used jumping kicks in an actual fight. And even if he did, there wasn't a stuntman in Hollywood fast enough to catch his leg and throw him into a car."

Polly also found it shocking that Tarantino didn't portray Lee in a sympathetic manner as he did with Steve McQueen, Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch), and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). "I'm surprised he didn't afford the same courtesy to Lee, the only non-white character in the film. He could have achieved the same effect — using Bruce to make Brad Pitt's character look tough — without the mockery," he said.

Additional bad news for Shannon but good news for Tarantino is that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is performing incredibly well at the box office and amongst critics. The film, which debuted in theaters on July 26, had the biggest opening weekend for any Tarantino-directed movie ever, and is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

Tarantino has a penchant for revising history and clearly kept that passion burning in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Though his decisions clearly didn't sit well with Shannon Lee (or Matthew Polly), the general masses don't seem to mind. With any luck, Tarantino will hear Shannon's words of disappointment and bear them in mind for his tenth (and potentially final) film. Here's to hoping, at least.