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Quentin Tarantino at a 2019 premiere of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The director has returned to the controversy over a fight scene in the film between a fictional character, Cliff Booth, and Bruce Lee. Photo: EPA-EFE

Bruce Lee disrespected stuntmen, Quentin Tarantino alleges on Joe Rogan talk show as he returns to dispute over fight scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

  • Director cites as a source for his claim that Lee had ‘nothing but disrespect for stuntmen’ a book by the martial arts star’s biographer Matthew Polly
  • However, Polly said in a 2019 interview that Lee was known for being ‘very considerate’ towards people ‘below him on film sets, particularly the stuntmen’
Bruce Lee

Movie director Quentin Tarantino has returned to his dispute with Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon over how he portrayed her father in his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in an appearance with radio talk-show host Joe Rogan.

There was a lot of controversy around a fight scene in the film between Lee, played by Mike Moh, and a fictional stuntman, Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt.

During the scene, which occurs on the set of The Green Hornet, Lee is portrayed as boastful, claiming he could cripple Muhammad Ali, and eggs Booth on to have a three-round fight.

“I can understand his daughter having a problem with it, it’s her f***ing father, all right, I get that, but anybody else, go s*** a d***,” Tarantino, 58, tells Rogan in a segment from The Joe Rogan Experience posted to YouTube on Wednesday.

Brad Pitt, as fictional character Cliff Booth, and Mike Moh as Bruce Lee in their fight scene in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”. Photo: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Tarantino goes on to say that the stuntmen working with Lee on The Green Hornet hated him, and claims this is in Matthew Polly’s book Bruce Lee: A Life, published in 2018.

“Bruce had nothing but disrespect for stuntmen. And he was always hitting them. He was always hitting them with his feet, he was always tagging – it’s called tagging when you hit a stuntman for real,” the director tells Rogan.

“And he was always tagging them with his feet, he was always tagging them with his fist, and it got to be the point where, ‘I refuse to work with him’. And he had nothing but disrespect for American stuntmen.”

When Rogan asks why Lee would think that way, Tarantino replies, “It’s like, ‘Oh they’re just not good enough, they’re pussies. I want to make it [the stunts] look real.’”

Tarantino’s Bruce Lee still leaves lingering raw feelings for daughter

However, Polly, who is considered to have written the authoritative biography of the martial arts star, said in an interview with Esquire magazine in 2019 that the controversial fight scene was inaccurate in many ways.

He pointed out that Lee revered Muhammed Ali, and that it makes Lee look like “a disrespectful blowhard and jerk”.

While Lee did have fights with stuntmen on some of his sets, Polly said, once Lee returned to Hong Kong “he never started fights, they always came up to him and challenged him”, and adds that Lee would handily defeat his challengers within 20 seconds.

(From left) Brad Pitt, Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio arrive at the Hollywood premiere of Once Upon A Time ... In Hollywood in July 29019. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images/TNS

Polly also said Lee was known to be kind towards cast members with bit parts and members of film crew.

“Bruce was very famous for being very considerate of the people below him on film sets, particularly the stuntmen. He would often like buy them meals, or once he got famous, take them out to eat, or hand them a little extra cash, or look after their careers,” said Polly.

“So in this scene, Bruce Lee is essentially calling out a stuntman and getting him fired because he’s the big star. And that’s just not who Bruce Lee was as a person.”

The interview came as Tarantino promoted a Once Upon a Time in Hollywood novel he has written that includes events which occur after the film’s final frames, and some backstory revelations.

Additional reporting by Tribune News Service