Bruce Lee's former protégé speaks out over legend's treatment in Tarantino's new movie

Brad Pitt and Mike Moh in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Credit: Sony/Andrew Cooper)
Brad Pitt and Mike Moh in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Credit: Sony/Andrew Cooper)

Bruce Lee's former protégé has weighed in over the depiction of the martial arts icon in Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

Lee, who is played by Mike Moh in the film, is portrayed as an arrogant braggart who challenges Brad Pitt's character, stunt man Cliff Booth, to a fight on the set of TV show The Green Hornet, which Lee starred in in real life, playing side-kick Kato.

Moh's Lee also claims that he would be able to 'cripple' legendary boxer Cassius Clay, before clashing with Booth, who he initially knocks down, but is then bested by before the fight is broken up before a third round.

Read more: Bruce Lee’s daughter slams Tarantino

But Dan Inosanto, who was a protégé and friend of Lee, as well as a practitioner of Lee's Jeet Kune Do style, has said that such remarks would never have come from the movie icon, who revered Clay.

American Kung Fu Expert Dan Inosanto sparring with film maker Walt Missingham in Sydneys Hyde Park. August 13, 1987. (Photo by John Patrick O'Gready/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Dan Inosanto sparring with filmmaker Walt Missingham (Credit: John Patrick O'Gready/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

“Bruce Lee would have never said anything derogatory about Muhammad Ali because he worshiped the ground Muhammad Ali walked on,” Inosanto told Variety.

“In fact, he was into boxing more so than martial arts. He was never, in my opinion, cocky. Maybe he was cocky in as far as martial arts because he was very sure of himself. He was worlds ahead of everyone else. But on a set, he’s not gonna show off.

“Bruce Lee broke ground for Asian Americans. Breaking in as an Asian was very, very difficult at that time. He paved the way for all the action stars.”

Read more: Debunking common Bruce Lee myths

The comments come after Lee's daughter Shannon slammed the director for turning her father into an 'arrogant a**hole'.

“It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theatre and listen to people laugh at my father,” she told The Wrap.

“Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was.

Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce Lee and president of the “Bruce Lee Foundation, poses for photographers during a press conference launching instant drinks in her father’s name in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce Lee (Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

“He comes across as an arrogant a**hole 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.”

Tarantino did not consult the Lee family prior to making the movie, and has not yet responded to the comments from Inosanto or Shannon Lee.

“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” Lee added.

Read more: Tarantino bristles at Margot Robbie question

“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.

“What I’m interested in is raising the consciousness of who Bruce Lee was as a human being and how he lived his life.

“All of that was flushed down the toilet in this portrayal, and made my father into this arrogant punching bag.”

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood arrives in the UK on 13 August.