Walt Missingham Speaks Out On Bruce Lee Portrayal in “Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood”

Recently I have been approached by a number of media organisations to comment on the portrayal of Bruce Lee in the latest Quentin Tarantino movie ‘Once Upon a Time In Hollywood’.  As the senior Jeet Kune Do person in Australia and as the producer of three documentaries on Bruce Lee I am often asked to speak about Bruce Lee – I generally decline such invitations however on this matter I feel I must comment.

Firstly let me say that I have enormous respect for Quentin Tarantino as a film maker but equally on this occasion he has simply got it wrong.

I absolutely support the comments made on this matter by Shannon Lee:

Kareem Abdul Jabbar:

and Dan Inosanto:

When I first viewed the film I was offended by the inaccurate and derogatory way Bruce Lee was characterised but as the film is a work of fiction I must cede to Kareem’s comments in that “Tarantino has the artistic right to portray Bruce any way he wants,”. This however does not wash when Tarantino, upon being criticized, defended his portrayal as being ‘accurate’!

So on the question of ‘accuracy’ let us ‘fact check’. The scene in question is an encounter between Bruce Lee and the aging stuntman Cliff Booth on the set of the Green Hornet (circa 1966).

* Bruce Lee’s hair style was not as presented for this period , the style featured is more 1972-73- i.e. the portrayal is inaccurate
* The Bruce Lee character speaks about Cassius Clay, in fact in 1966 Cassius Clay had already changed his name to Muhammad Ali and it is by this name that Bruce Lee referred to Ali –  i.e. the portrayal is inaccurate.
* The style of ‘fighting’ by the Bruce Lee character is a parody on his movie fights and bears no resemblance to what Bruce Lee practiced and advocated in real fights – i.e. the portrayal is inaccurate.
* Bruce Lee was particularly critical of flying side kicks in real fights and would never have used such a technique in a real fight – i.e. the portrayal is inaccurate

  • The ‘cat calls’ made by the Bruce Lee character were not used by Bruce Lee until his Hong Kong films and were certainly not used by Bruce Lee in a real encounter – i.e. the portrayal is inaccurate.
  • Bruce Lee was not the arrogant caricature presented by Tarantino in fact the characterisation is almost the opposite of what Bruce Lee was – i.e. the portrayal is inaccurate.

There is no need for me to add to the personal experiences and knowledge of Bruce Lee already presented by Shannon, Kareem and Dan all of which highlight and recall an amazing man whose contributions are still being felt by many. I earlier said I have a great respect for the abilities of Mr. Tarantino as a film maker sadly that respect cannot extend to his capacities as a man as he is  so completely bereft of the capacity to admit that he is wrong.