Blink and you might just miss martial arts legend Bruce Lee’s cameo in Quentin Tarantino’s newest film Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Bruce Lee’s appearance in the film may be short, but it certainly wasn’t sweet, at least for his family and friends who have expressed dismay over Lee’s unflatteringly cocky characterization in the movie. If you’ll recall, an arrogant young Bruce Lee can be seen egging on Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth to a fight, which ultimately ended with him getting his just desserts from Booth.
Tarantino, who has previously mentioned that he was a great fan of the late Hong Kong-American actor, finally addresses his “less than stellar” portrayal of the martial arts legend at a press junket in Moscow last week. From the way he was talking, “Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy” he says. “I didn’t just make a lot of that up. I heard him saying things like that to that effect. People are saying, well, he never said he could beat up Mohammed Ali, uh yeah he did! Not only did he say that, his wife Linda Lee said that in the first biography I ever read was Linda Lee’s “Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew” and she absolutely said it! ” Granted, much of what the younger generation know about Bruce Lee is based on a character he plays in his films; now whether the roles are an over-exaggeration of his “chinese-ness” as a reflection of the decade’s perceptions or not, that we don’t know. Still, is it too much to hope that his memory would’ve been treated more gently with kid gloves?
Talking more about Booth’s superiority over Lee, Tarantino had this to say – “Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Okay, Brad wouldn’t be able to beat up Bruce Lee. Cliff maybe could alright. If you asked me the question, okay who would win in a fight, Bruce Lee or Dracula? It’s the same question. It’s a fictional character. If I say Cliff could 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’s killed many many men over too many hand to hand combat. He’s a killer.” He goes on to add that “if Cliff were fighting Bruce Lee in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Garden, Bruce Lee will 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.”