“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” nabbed five Golden Globe nominations and is a box office success, grossing over $370 million worldwide — a feat that the drama, starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, achieved without being released in China. The film was originally scheduled for a theatrical bow in the country on Oct. 25, but was put on hold reportedly after Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, filed a complaint to China’s National Film Administration objecting to the film’s depiction of her late father. In October, director Quentin Tarantino confirmed that he would not re-cut “Once Upon a Time” to appease Chinese censors.
“I had just complained there as I complained here, but obviously through China channels. But really, their decision to do whatever they did with that movie was their decision,” Lee told Variety at the 18th annual Unforgettable Gala, an event honoring Asian Americans in entertainment.
Whether or not the film’s hold in China was due to Lee’s complaint exclusively is unclear, although depictions of violence may have also factored in. Tarantino previously edited his film “Django Unchained” in 2012 after Chinese officials delayed its scheduled release due to graphic content.
Last summer, the director and Lee engaged in a public back-and-forth, with Lee saying the movie portrayed her martial arts legend father as arrogant. Tarantino defended the depiction at a press conference in Moscow in August. The scene in question shows Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh) bragging about his ability to cripple Muhammad Ali, before ultimately losing a fight to Pitt’s (fictional) character, aging stuntman Cliff Booth.
Lee, who oversees her father’s estate, said she has worked throughout her career to preserve her father’s legacy. Bruce Lee passed away in 1973 at age 32 and is known for introducing martial arts to mainstream Hollywood through films like “Enter the Dragon” and “The Game of Death.”
“I really do think [‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’] did a disservice to him, I think it did a disservice to Asian actors and I think that it was really a shame,” said Lee, an executive producer of Cinemax’s “Warrior,” a show based on a treatment her father wrote.
She added that while she has not spoken with Tarantino, she’s open to it.
“I would imagine he has no love lost for me or wants to speak to me,” said Lee, laughing. “But I’m always open for a conversation.”
A representative for Tarantino did not respond to Variety’s request for comment.