Lee, played by Mike Moh, is holding court on the set of the TV show The Green Hornet, when his arrogant comments tick off Brad Pitt’s stuntman character, Cliff Booth.
Some viewers — and even Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon — have objected to the scene, saying it is cruel to Lee, or absurd that Brad Pitt’s character could ever go toe-to-toe with a martial artist of Lee’s caliber.
Regarding the issue of whether Cliff Booth could beat up Bruce Lee, Tarantino said “Brad [Pitt] would not be able to, but Cliff maybe could” and compared that question to asking “Who would win in a fight, Bruce Lee or Dracula?”
Because Cliff is a fictional character, Tarantino explained, “If I say Cliff could beat Bruce Lee up, he’s a fictional character, then he could beat Bruce Lee up.”
He then went on to explain how he saw those two characters from a combat standpoint: Regarding the things Bruce Lee talks about in that scene, Tarantino defended his screenplay by insisting that he didn’t invent a lot of the dialogue; he “heard [Lee] say things like that, to that effect.”
In a sense, you can argue that this fight scene between Cliff and Bruce Lee is almost an essential preamble for Hollywood’s finale — because it establishes that obviously fictional events can occur in this movie between moments of history that we recognize as real.
Here’s the full video of Tarantino talking about the Bruce Lee scene; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is in theaters now.