Quentin Tarantino's latest film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood faithfully recreates many elements of 1969 Los Angeles. The film features fictionalized versions of the era's movie stars, including Bruce Lee.
Portrayed by Mike Moh, Lee appears on the set of the television series Green Hornet, bragging to those assembled that he could easily outmatch Muhammad Ali in a fight. When Brad Pitt's character Cliff Booth scoffs, Lee challenges the stuntman to fight. The two appear about evenly matched, with Cliff looking a little more adept than the iconic martial arts actor.
According to Dan Inosanto, the real-life Lee's former student and training partner, the depiction is highly inaccurate. "Bruce Lee would have never said anything derogatory about Muhammad Ali because he worshiped the ground Muhammad Ali walked on. In fact, he was into boxing more so than martial arts," Inosanto told Variety. "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."
Inosanto's comments come days after Lee's daughter Shannon Lee similarly spoke out against her father's depiction in the film. Inosanto was one of only three martial artists given approval by Lee to train new students in Jeet Kune Do, a martial arts form that Lee himself created. Additionally, Inosanto appeared as a fighter challenging Lee in the actor's final film Game of Death.
"Bruce Lee broke ground for Asian Americans. Breaking in as an Asian was very, very difficult at that time," Inosanto observed. "He paved the way for all the action stars."
Written, directed and produced by Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood stars Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Burt Reynolds, Al Pacino, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell, Michael Madsen, Timothy Olyphant, Damian Lewis, Luke Perry, Emile Hirsch and Dakota Fanning.