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Quentin Tarantino finally speaks out over Bruce Lee outrage

The bubble of controversy surrounding Once Upon a Time in Hollywood just burst.

Director Quentin Tarantino has come forward to address the recent outrage over his depiction of the late martial arts master and beloved actor Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a comedy-drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt that revised history with its shocking ending.

Contention stirred up after Shannon Lee, the daughter of Bruce Lee, spoke out about how she felt Once Upon a Time in Hollywood inaccurately portrayed her father, made a "mockery" of him, and perpetuated a false reality of what life was life for Asian-American actors in 1960s Hollywood. The root of the controversy is the scene in which Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh) and the fictional stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) engage in a best-two-of-three fight on the set of the real-life television show The Green Hornet, on which Lee starred as Kato. Lee won the first round, knocking Booth to the ground, while Booth bested Lee in the second when he slammed him against a car. The sequence somewhat painted Lee as someone ready for battle, which Shannon Lee has claimed is far from the truth, and even saw Lee speaking negatively about the world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali (whom he refers to by his birth name, Cassius Clay), which Lee's training partner has also said is inaccurate. According to Dan Insanto, Lee "would have never said anything derogatory about Muhammad Ali because he worshiped the ground Muhammad Ali walked on."

Tarantino broke his silence on the matter during the Moscow press conference for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, defending how he depicted Lee in the film and arguing that the portrayal was representative of reality. 

"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," said Tarantino. "People are saying, 'Well, he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali.' Uh, yeah, he did. All right? Not only did he say that but his wife, Linda Lee, said that … The first biography I ever read was Linda Lee's Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew, and she absolutely said it."

Tarantino continued, explaining that while Brad Pitt would never be able to beat up Bruce Lee, his character, the stuntman with a shady past that may or may not involve the murder of his own wife, could depending on the situation. 

"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, then he could beat Bruce Lee up. But the reality of the situation is this: Cliff is a Green Beret. He has killed many, many men in World War II in hand-to-hand combat. He is a killer. What is Bruce Lee talking about in the whole thing? What he admires are warriors. What he admires is combat, and boxing is a closer approximation of combat as a sport … Cliff is not even part of a sport that is like combat, he is a warrior. He is a combat person," Tarantino said. "If Cliff were fighting Bruce Lee in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Garden, Bruce Lee would kill him. But if Cliff and Bruce Lee were fighting in the jungles of the Philippines in a hand-to-hand combat fight, Cliff would kill him."

These comments from Tarantino may not what some people were hoping for — namely those who agree with Shannon Lee's perception of the film and her statement that it made Bruce Lee look like a blowhard and an "arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air." On the other hand, these remarks might be exactly what many others think about the situation. When all is said and done, though, the only person who really knows what Bruce Lee was like is Bruce Lee himself. If he were alive today, his words on the matter would trump everyone else's — even Tarantino's.