Two weeks ago, I questioned if Once Upon a Time in Hollywood stood a chance of surpassing Django Unchained to become Quentin Tarantino’s highest-grossing movie, pointing out that its forthcoming Chinese release could help accomplish this goal. Well, scratch that, because Tarantino’s latest movie has been removed from China's theatrical schedule.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood had been primed to come out in China on October 25, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, the release has been “indefinitely put on hold.” No official explanation was provided for the sudden reversal, but according to the outlet’s sources, this stems from the controversy surrounding Bruce Lee’s depiction in the movie.
In case you weren’t paying attention during Once Upon a Time’s first weeks in theaters, there were various people unhappy with how Mike Moh’s version of Bruce Lee was used in the movie, with Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, saying that her father came off as “an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air.” Quentin Tarantino countered this claim, leading Shannon to request he “shut up about it” or apologize, but fast-forwarding to now, she reportedly intervened with the Chinese release.
THR states in its article that Shannon Lee “made a direct appeal” to the Chinese National Film Association and asked that it “demand changes to her father's portrayal” in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. This led to the Bona Film Group, the Beijing-based company that co-produced the movie, scrambling to work with Quentin Tarantino to cut together a new version of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and have it re-approved before the October 25 release date.
Now that’s a moot point, and as thing stand now, it’s unclear if Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be given a new Chinese release date or if it won’t show in the country at all. If it’s the latter option, that would mean that the movie is nearly done with its worldwide release, so the only step forward is its home media rollout, i.e. arriving on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD. Oh, and possibly being turned into a miniseries.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the second Quentin Tarantino movie to have its Chinese release overturned, at least initially. This previously occurred with 2012’s Django Unchained, with sources saying the Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz-led flick was pulled minutes after premiering opening night due to its graphic violence.
In that case, Django Unchained was recut and returned to Chinese theaters a month later. Although by that point, pirated copies of the original cut were readily available and the screening of the edited version failed to make an impression at the box office.
In other corners of the world, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has done quite well for itself, making $139.7 million domestically and $227 million worldwide. Critically speaking, it ranks as another hit for Tarantino, ranking at 85% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes and earning a B grade on CinemaScore.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more coverage about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, including the movie’s ultimate fate in China. For now, keep track of the rest of this year’s movies with our 2019 release schedule.