Lee's former protégé and training partner said the martial arts icon was nothing like the arrogant actor depicted in Tarantino's new film

By Matt McNulty
August 01, 2019 03:00 PM

Bruce Lee’s training partner and protégé Dan Inosanto has joined Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, in criticizing Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of the martial arts legend in his new hit film, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

In Tarantino’s epic ’60-set tale, Lee is depicted as an arrogant actor who brags that he could “cripple” former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.

Inosanto recently told Variety that “Bruce Lee would have never said anything derogatory about Muhammad Ali because he worshiped the ground Muhammad Ali walked on.” “In fact,” Inosanto added, “he was into boxing more so than martial arts.”

Inosanto is one of only three martial artists to have been trained in the art of Jett Kune Do by Lee himself. Jett Kune Do is a discipline created by Lee that incorporates numerous different forms of martial arts and is considered a predecessor to what we now know to be mixed martial arts, which is prominently featured in the UFC.

Dan Inosanto
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The 83-year-old even appeared alongside Lee in his final film, Game of Death, and accompanied Lee on numerous television shows and movie sets until his death in 1973.

RELATED: Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood Fact-Checked: What the Movie Gets Right and Wrong

In Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Tarantino’s Lee, played by Mike Moh, is humbled by Brad Pitt‘s character, stuntman Cliff Booth, after bragging about his fighting abilities while on a movie set.

“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 said, while rejecting the notion that a stuntman would have shown up the Enter the Dragon star in combat.

Speaking with The Wrap, Shannon also expressed disappointment in how her father was treated onscreen “in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”

Quentin Tarantino
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“He comes across as an arrogant a–hole who was full of hot air,” Shannon, 50, an actress and martial artist herself, explained to the outlet. “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.”

PEOPLE has reached out to Sony, the film’s studio, for comment.

Lee’s daughter added in her interview that while she “can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” it covers “a period of time that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion.”

RELATED: Why Bruce Lee Was a Suspect in the Gruesome Murder of Sharon Tate

As Shannon previously recounted to PEOPLE, she was only 4 years old when she lost her father.

She said she has vivid memories of him and still feels a close connection.

“When he focused his attention on you, it was like having the sun shine on you,” Shannon said. “That feeling has stayed with me my whole life.”

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is now playing.

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