As we learned just last week, Quentin Tarantino was over in Russia recently for that country's premiere of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a visit that saw him touring the Kremlin, eating cheese, and running the red carpet gauntlet with the assembled press. It was there that someone asked him to comment on the controversy regarding the film's portrayal of Hollywood legend Bruce Lee.
If you're just now joining this conversation, the debate has several moving pieces. One revolves around Tarantino's script, which portrays Lee as something of an arrogant braggart; another involves the idea that Bruce Lee might be bested in a fight by a Hollywood stuntman. Just about everyone (including Lee's family and actor Mike Moh, who plays Lee in the film) has weighed in on the situation, but until now we've not heard from Tarantino himself.
What's his position? Well, as far as the decision to portray Lee as arrogant goes, Tarantino says (as quoted by THR):
"The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up. 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."
And how about the "Could Cliff Booth beat up Bruce Lee?" debate?
"Brad would not be able to beat up Bruce Lee, but Cliff maybe could. 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."
But, wait - there's more! Tarantino then goes on to explain why the extremely fictional character of Cliff Booth might be able to go toe-to-toe with one of the greatest fighters who's ever lived, and in doing so he fills us in on a few previously-unknown details regarding Cliff Booth's backstory:
"The reality of the situation is this: Cliff is a Green Beret He has killed many men in WWII in hand-to-hand combat. What Bruce Lee is talking about in the whole thing is that he admires warriors. He admires combat, and boxing is a closer approximation of combat as a sport. Cliff is not part of the sport that is like combat, he is a warrior. He is a combat person.
If Cliff were fighting Bruce Lee in a martial arts tournament in Madison Square Garden, Bruce would kill him. But if Cliff and Bruce were fighting in the jungles of the Philippines in a hand-to-hand combat fight, Cliff would kill him."
Once suspects the above quotes won't have much of an impact on the arguments surrounding Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but it's admittedly pretty fascinating to hear Tarantino walk us through his thought process on all this. Whether you agree or not is entirely up to you, and I will now direct you towards the comments section to render your verdicts in this matter.
Please do so now, and stay tuned for more on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as further updates roll in. We're probably not done with this one yet.