Quentin Tarantino is defending the portrayal of Bruce Lee in his latest film, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."
Friends and family of the late actor, including his daughter Shannon, have blasted the movie for turning the iconic star into "an arrogant punching bag."
In the film, Lee (Mike Moh) tells bystanders on the set of "The Green Hornet" that he could "cripple" Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali). Stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) then challenges him to a best "two out of three" fight. They trade rounds, but are interrupted before they can duke it out in the third round.
Shannon Lee complained that her father "comes across as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air." She added, "It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father."
But in recent interviews in Russia, Tarantino said that Lee was "kind of an arrogant guy."
The director also noted that the portrayal was rooted in fact.
"The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up," Tarantino said. "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. Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read ... She absolutely said it."
As to criticism that Lee would ever lose to Brad Pitt, well, Tarantino noted that he doesn't — he cedes one round to Cliff Booth. There's a difference.
"Could Cliff beat up Bruce Lee? Brad would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could," Tarantino said.
"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 so he could beat Bruce Lee up."
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