Skip to main content

Bruce Lee’s Daughter Isn’t Happy About His Portrayal In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Mike Moh as Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood is a fictionalized story. The main characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt never existed. However, many of the players in the story are based on real people in Hollywood in the 1960s. One of those real people is actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, and at least one member of Lee's family is unhappy with the way he is portrayed in the new film.

Powered by RedCircle

Shannon Lee is Bruce Lee's daughter and she argues that Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood portrays her father with an attitude that was quite unlike the person he actually was. According to Lee...

He comes across as an arrogant asshole 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.

Shannon Lee tells The Wrap that it was common for Bruce Lee to be challenged to fights. One presumes people wanted to see how they would do against the great Bruce Lee, and her father would always do his best to avoid such altercations. However, in Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood, Bruce Lee is the one starting a fight with a character played by Brad Pitt.

The new Quentin Tarantino film contains a sequence on the set of the sixties TV show The Green Hornet, where Bruce Lee starred as Kato. In the scene, Lee, played by Mike Moh, is holding court while many of the film's crew are listening to him talk about his capabilities as a fighter. Brad Pitt's character, a stuntman named Cliff Booth, takes issue with the comments and Lee challenges him to a little sparring session.

What makes the fight all the more interesting, and likely a bit unrealistic, is that Brad Pitt actually gets some shots in on Bruce Lee. His daughter seems a little less frustrated with that, she understands the realities of the film business, but she says that ultimately, Lee's character is a caricature of the real man.

I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two characters are antiheroes 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. I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.

While Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood is clearly a fictionalized version of the real 1960s Hollywood. In many ways it's been intentionally airbrushed to look like the version of Hollywood that we see in our minds, and not the way things really were. At least one member of Bruce Lee's family feels that he is a victim of using that particular lens to look at Hollywood. The movie gives us the Bruce Lee that we might believe was real, as opposed to the man that was.

Dirk Libbey
Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.