Bruce Lee's daughter wasn't the only one perturbed by the way her father was portrayed in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. During an interview with in The Huffington Post, stunt coordinator Robert Alonzo said that the scene caused a stir behind the scenes as well.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
In the film, Mike Moh's Bruce Lee challenges Brad Pitt's stuntman character Cliff Booth to a three-round fight on the 1969 set of Green Hornet, with Lee knocking Booth on his butt in the first round, Booth knocking Lee into a car in the second, and then the production crew stopping the fight before a third round, therefore prohibiting a definitive winner from being named.
But Alonzo revealed that director Quentin Tarantino's original script had the fight scene go on for much longer, with Pitt's character winning the third round on a "cheap shot move" and emerging as a "more clear-cut winner." However, Alonzo said that Pitt in particular "expressed his concerns" about Lee losing the fight. Alonzo, who "has looked up to Bruce Lee as an icon" thought it could have easily been "disheartening."
“I know that Brad had expressed his concerns, and we all had concerns about Bruce losing,” Alonzo said. “Especially for me, as someone who has looked up to Bruce Lee as an icon, not only in the martial-arts realm, but in the way he approached philosophy and life, to see your idol be beaten is very disheartening. It really pulled at certain emotional strings that can incite a little anger and frustration as to how he’s portrayed."
He continued: "There’s a certain mythology and mysticism about who Bruce Lee is, which is understandable. Being an Asian American myself, I definitely related to how Bruce was a symbol of how Asians should be portrayed in movies, instead of the old Breakfast at Tiffany’s model that was really prevalent back in the day. … I had a difficult time choreographing a fight where he lost. Everyone involved was like, ‘How is this going to go over?’ Brad was very much against it. He was like, ‘It’s Bruce Lee, man!'"
Eventually, Tarantino agreed to have the Green Hornet stunt coordinators break up the fight before the third round, because the goal of the scene — to "explain to the audience the level at which Cliff was [operating]" — had already been accomplished.
Last week, Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, said she was "uncomfortable" with the way her dad was portrayed, saying he came off as "an arrogant a—hole who was full of hot air" because he started the fight, which is something he never would have done in real life. She also argued that the scene reduced Lee to a joke character, which was disappointingly similar to the way he was written off by "white Hollywood" when he was alive.
"I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive," Shannon, 50, told The Wrap at the time.
She also said that although Tarantino might have been trying to make a point about how Lee was stereotyped, "it doesn't come across that way."
"He comes across as an arrogant assh— who was full of hot air," she said. "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."
"It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father," Shannon said, adding that in real life Bruce was often challenged, and tried to avoid fights. "Here, he's the one with all the puffery and he's the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was."