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Thread: Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

  1. #31
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    ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD - Picture (In Theaters July 26)

    Gene Ching
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  2. #32
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    Our newest exclusive movie review

    Could Brad Pitt take Bruce? READ Tarantino’s Take on Bruce Lee in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD by Gene Ching

    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  3. #33
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    More on that Bruce scene

    Quentin Tarantino Did Bruce Lee Dirty in 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'
    The famed director has a questionable image of Bruce Lee in his newest film. Here's why that matters.
    By Eric Francisco on July 28, 2019

    Quentin Tarantino’s newest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is almost perfect. It’s a bit long, a bit self-indulgent, even a bit violent. (For Tarantino, that’s really something.) But as a dreamlike odyssey of a Hollywood that never was, the movie a stunner from beginning to sentimental end.

    There’s just one major problem: Bruce Lee.

    More specifically, how Tarantino uses and clowns the martial arts legend for his story is an unflattering version of Bruce Lee that feels several steps backward in the midst of slow-moving progress. For generations of Asian-Americans who found solace in Lee’s significant brand of folk heroism, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn’t a fairy tale, it’s a nightmare.

    Spoilers for Once Upon in Hollywood ahead.

    In Tarantino’s film, set in late 1960s Hollywood, Bruce Lee is resurrected to life by Mike Moh, who is flawless in his performance of the famous (and famously arrogant) kung fu star. Lee appears in the film via flashback, in which stunt man Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) recalls an incident between himself and Lee on the set of the 1966 TV series, The Green Hornet.

    In the film, Bruce Lee (Moh), a master of kung fu who innovated his own discipline, waxes poetic about famed boxer Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) while promoting himself as the better fighter. When a crew member asks Lee if he would fight Ali, he sidesteps the question with a non-answer until an annoyed Booth presses him. Lee responds, “I’d make him a cripple.”

    Cue everyone, including us in the audience, going, “Woaaaaah.”

    That’s when Cliff, positioned as the one to put Bruce in his place, challenges him in a one-on-one fight, best two out of three. Bruce’s mythic strength and speed, via his iconic skip sidestep kick, gives him an early advantage as he knocks Cliff on his ass in the first round. But Cliff soon overpowers Bruce in the second round, smashing him into the parked car of the director’s wife.


    In Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,' Mike Moh plays a fictionalized (and almost perfect) Bruce Lee, who is defeated in a one-on-one fight against Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The idea of Brad Pitt defeating Bruce Lee is not an easy one to accept, even in an alternate history fantasy.
    The fight ends before the deciding round (and Cliff gets fired from set), but it is heavily implied Cliff would have pummeled Bruce in the end.

    The incident never happened, of course. Brad Pitt’s Cliff nor his best friend, a faded Western star named Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), never existed. Tarantino’s film tells an alternate history in which two lovable *******s interfere with history, precluding the Manson Family murder of actress Sharon Tate.

    Tarantino’s point for his Bruce Lee is pure exposition. It establishes for his audience what kind of a grade-A ass kicker Cliff Booth can be, which is crucial for the ending where — spoilers! — Cliff manhandles the Mansons with his bare hands while high off his mind. For plot reasons, it’s a necessary scene.

    But the bigger picture is that Tarantino used a real-life figure who still matters to people, and embarrasses him because that’s just Tarantino’s brand of storytelling. That it’s an established A-list white actor like Brad Pitt who beats up Bruce just adds salt in the wound.

    It is a monumental effort to describe Lee’s impact and legacy succinctly, so here’s an attempt: Between 1966 and 1973, Bruce Lee was a singular force who challenged racial stereotypes in his movies and changed popular culture. Even Tarantino was influenced by him; the yellow suit worn by Uma Thurman in Tarantino’s 2003 revenge romp Kill Bill: Volume 1 was first worn by Lee in his posthumously released 1978 film, The Game of Death.



    In Bruce Lee’s time, when Asians elsewhere were vilified, emasculated, mocked, and many times not played by actual Asian actors (see: Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Marlon Brando in Teahouse of the August Moon, the list goes on), Bruce served as an imposing, charismatic entity the likes of which mainstream America hadn’t seen, not since silent film star Sessue Hayakawa.

    As Daniel McDermon wrote for The New York Times in 2017:

    “Lee’s indelible image was crafted as a rejection of those diminished roles. And the most essential aspect of that image is his body, stripped to the waist, corded and quivering with muscle. It is the centerpiece of dozens of fight scenes, which Lee choreographed himself, and is frequently revealed with slow, deliberate pageantry.

    “Those bodily displays made him unique: an Asian-American star whose masculinity and physical prowess were front and center, not only in the films themselves, but also on promotional posters, billboards and merchandise around the world.”
    While unsavory portrayals of Asian people nor yellow-face casting would cease after Lee, the actor’s sudden rise to fame and equally sudden death (just before the release of his only Hollywood film, Enter the Dragon) made audiences familiar, and comfortable, with Asians in heroic roles. And it’s because of Bruce Lee that Asian audiences found a figure to aspire to.

    It’s because of Bruce that the likes of Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen have enjoyed historic careers. It’s because of Bruce that the revolutionary sound of the Wu-Tang Clan exists. It’s because of Bruce that Marvel Studios has an Asian superhero to adapt in 2021.

    Said hip-hop artist Kuya Geo in a 2018 interview, Bruce was “the only Asian person I ever saw in movie and TV who kicked ass.”
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  4. #34
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    Continued from previous post



    There is fair criticism that Bruce Lee introduced a new racial stereotype — that of the kung fu master — just as he challenged them. As Asian-American playwright Frank Chin lamented in the 2006 documentary The Slanted Screen, “Bruce Lee is a stereotype. And we have to challenge the stereotype.”

    But Bruce was, and remains, a complex larger-than-life figure no one can box in. Leave it to Mike Moh, who plays Lee in Tarantino’s film, to have a nuanced grasp of finding his place in Hollywood just as Bruce tried years ago.

    “I want to be a martial arts action guy and it’s not because I want to fall into a stereotype,” Moh said in an episode of the Deadline podcast New Hollywood. “I just happen to love martial arts. I happen to be Asian. And yes, I do get upset when people just assume I know martial arts. But if there is something to be associated with Asians, I think it’s cool that it’s something so bad ass.”

    Ultimately, Tarantino has a very amusing scene for his movie. Moh is note-perfect as an overconfident Bruce Lee, who hides his hesitation behind oversized sunglasses. Pitt, meanwhile, is just as entertaining as someone who is sick of this nonsense. For many of us in the audience, we find ourselves relating to both of them.

    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is in theaters now.
    As I predicted, a lot of Bruce fans are offended. One was even (slightly) put out by my use of the term 'JKD snowflakes'. In all honestly, I spontaneously spat out that comment in a private email to Matt Polly (who I quoted in my review) and I just couldn't let go of it.
    Gene Ching
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  5. #35
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    Much of the stuff in QT's films is derived from Asian cinema; he even acts like he respects someone like Sonny Chiba. But by the way Asians are presented (or just spoken about) in his films, he's shown that he doesn't really respect Bruce Lee or Asians in general, especially Asian males.

    It's funny that QT is implying that BL was full of BS, when QT would get his ass kicked in any real fight. He even admitted as such, that the only MA he knew was the choreography style of Yuen Woo-Ping from filming Kill Bill, when he originally wanted to play Pai Mei himself.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 07-29-2019 at 12:13 PM.

  6. #36

    Tarantino goes meta on Bruce Lee.

    Tarantino uses Al Pacino's dialogue to explain his rational for that Bruce Lee scene. Pacino's character, over drinks with DeCaprio's character Rick Dalton explains Dalton's career arch as a once famous leading man who will be used as a "heavy" in a new show. His defeat and humiliation by the star of that new show will be used to establish that character's Bona Fides. This is exactly what he did for Pitt's character Cliff Booth, retconing him into a fictional Hollywood history as the guy who beat up Bruce Lee. Maybe in the Tarantino-verse Bruce Lee lives to a ripe old age, probably becoming the fight choreographer for Fox Force Five.

  7. #37
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    Bruce Lee’s Daughter Saddened by ‘Mockery’ in ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’ (Exclusive)
    “It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father,” Shannon Lee told TheWrap
    Tim Molloy | July 29, 2019 @ 4:13 PM
    Last Updated: July 30, 2019 @ 6:40 AM



    Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, says it was “disheartening” to see Quentin Tarantino depict her father in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” as “an arrogant a–hole who was full of hot air.”

    In the film, (spoilers follow), Brad Pitt’s stuntman character, Cliff Booth, trades cocky insults with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), and the two agree to an informal, best two-out-of-three rounds fight on the set of “The Green Hornet” TV show. Lee easily knocks Booth down in the first round, but in the second, Booth slams Lee into a car, stunning him. The fight is interrupted before the third round.

    Shannon Lee said it’s disheartening to see her father portrayed as an arrogant blowhard, because in truth, as an Asian-American in 1960s Hollywood, he had to work much harder to succeed than Booth and Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio), the fictional, white protagonists of the film.

    “I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” she said. “I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen… and they’re portraying a period of time that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion.”

    She added: “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.”

    A representative for Tarantino didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

    Shannon Lee said Tarantino might be trying to make a point about how Lee was stereotyped, “but it doesn’t come across that way.”

    “He comes across as an arrogant ******* 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.”

    Shannon Lee saw the film Sunday. “It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father,” she said.

    She said that her father 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,” she said.

    She continues her father’s legacy through a website, BruceLee.com, her Bruce Lee Podcast, and the Bruce Lee Foundation, which hosts summer camps that teach children about her father’s martial arts and philosophy.

    “What I’m interested in is raising the consciousness of who Bruce Lee was as a human being and how he lived his life,” she added. “All of that was flushed down the toilet in this portrayal, and made my father into this arrogant punching bag.”

    She said she understood that many characters in the film are caricatures, but noted that the film didn’t make fun of Steve McQueen, who is played by Damian Lewis.

    She also pointed out that while “The Green Hornet’ ran from 1967-68, her father’s hair and sunglasses are reminiscent of his look in the 1970s “Enter the Dragon” era.

    She said she didn’t take issue, however, with Moh, the serious Bruce Lee fan who plays him in the film. She said he did a good job with some of her father’s mannerisms, and his voice.

    “But I think he was directed to be a caricature,” Shannon Lee said.

    Matthew Polly writes in his book “Bruce Lee: A Life” that Lee struggled to break into Hollywood — even while teaching martial arts to some of its biggest names, including McQueen, Sharon Tate, and her husband, Roman Polanski, all of whom are portrayed in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.” (We also see a quick clip of Lee training Tate (Margot Robbie) for her role in “The Wrecking Crew,” which he really did do.

    But he was often overlooked or cast as a sidekick, as he was in “The Green Hornet.” He was even passed over for roles as Asian characters, in favor of white actors who pretended to be Asian. He finally broke through when Hong Kong-produced martial arts epics crossed over to the United States.

    Polly was also unimpressed with the “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” portrayal of the man he researched for years.

    “The full scene with Bruce and Brad Pitt is far different than what was in the trailer. Bruce Lee was often a cocky, strutting, braggart, but Tarantino took those traits and exaggerated them to the point of a ‘SNL’ caricature,” Polly said.

    He said the argument that leads into the fight with Booth — in which Lee said he could turn Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) into a “cripple,” would never have happened.

    “Bruce revered Cassius Clay (Ali); he never trash talked him in real life. Bruce never used jumping kicks in an actual fight. And even if he did, there wasn’t a stuntman in Hollywood fast enough to catch his leg and throw him into a car,” Polly said.

    “Given how sympathetic Tarantino’s portrayal of Steve McQueen, Jay Sebring, and Sharon Tate is, I’m surprised he didn’t afford the same courtesy to Lee, the only non-white character in the film. He could have achieved the same effect–using Bruce to make Brad Pitt’s character look tough–without the mockery. I suspect the reason Tarantino felt the need to take Bruce down a notch is because Lee’s introduction of Eastern martial arts to Hollywood fight choreography represented a threat to the livelihood of old Western stuntmen like Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who were often incapable of adapting to a new era, and the film’s nostalgic, revisionist sympathies are entirely with the cowboys.”

    You can hear Polly tell many stories about Bruce Lee on the “Shoot This Now” podcast, available on Apple and right here.
    Ha. The Wrap quoted Matt again. I got him first tho, before he saw the film.

    On the whole, I concur with Shannon, only it seems she hasn't seen that many Bruceploitation flicks then.

    Quote Originally Posted by Design Sifu View Post
    Tarantino goes meta on Bruce Lee.
    The flaw in this point is that the point that Shwarz (Pacino's character) was making was that being defeated by an up-and-coming star was the hallmark of being a has-been. Bruce is far from that. Even now, some 46 years after he died, he's still gracing the covers of major newsstand magazines. Can we say that about Steve Mcqueen, or any other star from that era?
    Gene Ching
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  8. #38

    Mike Moh, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD’s Bruce Lee, Breaks Down His Fight With Cliff

    According to birthmoviesdeath.com's TODD GILCHRIST He says . . . "It was a draw"

    It’s funny how much ownership we claim over our heroes and their stories, especially when they’re fictionalized. Bruce Lee is of course a mythic figure not just within Hollywood lore, but the Asian community, and the world stage, and so much of his life remains a mystery. But in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, he squares off against Quentin Tarantino’s mostly fake, perhaps equally larger-than-life stunt man Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) - and contrary to perhaps every expectation, Lee does not conspicuously prevail. But according to Mike Moh, the actor who plays Lee in the film, the martial arts hero hardly gets his ass kicked. “It was a tie,” Moh insisted. “Five more seconds, and Bruce would have won.”

    Moh spoke with Birth.Movies.Death. about his small but important role in the film - which was partially and perhaps ironically to bolster the legend of Pitt’s stunt man. Talking about playing the influential and iconic martial artist and entertainer, Moh talked about his own trepidations portraying a big-mouthed Bruce Lee who gets served a heaping dose of humility, and offered some thoughts about how Lee’s presence in the film reinforces many of its themes - including but not limited to the private battles fought to become who we are meant to be, the skillful, sometimes indistinguishable blend of myth and reality that conquers our memories of a specific time or place, and finally, the determination and sometimes desperate pursuit of greatness in a world that’s ready to, well, throw you at a car and reduce you to a punchline.

    How did you first get the role of Bruce Lee, and what was your experience like discovering what the character would do in the film?

    I don't know how far into the process they were but I got a call from my agent. I live in Wisconsin, so I wasn't able to just go and pick up the material because the script is so secret, so my agent's like, we need you to fly [to Los Angeles] tonight so you can pick them up and audition 12 hours after that. Of course I paid my own way out there, and my first audition was with the casting director, Vicki Thomas. I had auditioned for Bruce a few times for different projects in the past, so I wasn't completely unprepared when it came to the accent - I was okay at it - and I had an idea what I wanted to do. But this was like 12 to 24 hours of prep for this pretty intense monologue; it was a good chunk of dialogue. So I did it, and a week later, my agent said, hey, Quentin responded to your tape.

    Here I'm thinking, wow, I made a new fan in Quentin - so if this doesn't work out, maybe something else will. It's always good to just make connections and let people know who you are. But I flew out again and this time it was with Quentin, and that was a surreal moment. I didn't realize how tall he was! But he was really loose and gave me a hug and it was all good. And the first part of our meeting was just talking with him about the ‘60s, about Bruce, and I don’t know if it was for him to make me more nervous or more comfortable, but either way I was ready and I went in the room and did my thing a bunch of different ways. He seemed to like it, and then we actually got into some of the ideas for what he wanted for the fight scene. We were up on our feet doing that as well as the dialogue, so that was fun. Before I left, he said, do you have any questions? And usually at the end of an audition I would just say, thank you so much for your time and be on my way, but at the request and encouragement of my wife, she told me to tell him you're the guy - you need to show him how supremely confident you are. So I took a page out of “what would Bruce do?” and Bruce was extremely confident, so I looked him in the eyes and said, “Mr. Tarantino, I just want to tell you that if you choose me to be in your movie, people are going to think Bruce came back to be in your film.” He kind of laughed it off, because at that time, I wasn't sure that I was going to get the role. I was sure that I would do a great job and that I was the right guy, but my hair was short and my accent wasn't fully there. So I wanted to reassure that I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that this is the rendition of Bruce that you want in your film.

    Another week or two goes by and they want me to fly in next day again, this time for a chemistry read. I'm prepping in my mind, thinking I'm probably going to read with Brad, so this is exciting. And then I get a call from the second AD and he's like, here are the directions to the table read! So I showed up and there is everybody, and he introduced me to Burt Reynolds. He said, “this is Mike Moh. He's playing Bruce Lee.” And at that time I still didn't have the role - or if I did, nobody told me - but I went in and everybody starts walking in, all the stars. And at that point I only knew of Brad, Leo and Margot being in the film, because this was pretty early on. And then I see Burt Reynolds and all sorts of other people. Al Pacino was the biggest surprise. But I just remember knowing in my mind I was treating this as an audition, so while everybody's mingling and getting to see each other, I'm in business mode, scrambling through the script. And I finally land on page 53 - I'll never forget 53, 53, 53 - so every page that they read through, I was getting more and more primed and amped and nervous and anxious about my final test. And then at page 53, I put on a great performance; Brad and I had great chemistry from the get-go. People were really responding, so that made me feel good. And then he even threw a couple of curve balls. I read for Business Bob Gilbert, who is played by Scoot McNairy, so it was a good chance for me to kind of say, I can do this. I'm not just Bruce. I'm an actor. I can be great in whatever role you put me in, but know you're making the right choice for me as Bruce, obviously.

    Did you have any concerns, personally or unfortunately representationally, about portraying a version of Bruce Lee who loses a fight to this other character, which seems impossible at least in our sense memory of who he was?

    Of course, when I first read it, I was like, wow. I'm not going to tell you what the original script had exactly, but when I read it, I was so conflicted because he’s my hero - Bruce in my mind was literally a God. He wasn't a person to me, he was a superhero. And I think that's how most people view Bruce. And the thing about it is, Number One, it's a Tarantino film. He's not going to do the thing that everybody expects anybody else to do. You’ve got to expect the unexpected. And Number Two, I knew from the jump, Tarantino loves Bruce Lee; he reveres him. So let me be clear; in the film it was a challenge - “best two out of three.” I got the first point - I knocked him on his ass first. And Bruce at that time was so cocky and maybe got a little excited and he didn't know Cliff Booth has killed dozens of people with his bare hands - and that's what people may not realize up until that moment in the film. It's a hugely important scene - what better way to show how dangerous Cliff is than for him to show up and even match him for a little bit with Bruce? And the only reason why I got thrown into that car is because I was so cocky, like, oh I'm going to do this again. And at that moment when I get slammed, that's when Bruce realizes, oh ****, this guy is not just a stunt guy. Because Bruce didn't always have the most affection for stuntmen; he didn't respect all of them, because he was better than all the stunt guys. So after I got slammed, I get serious. And then we get into this scuffle, which is stopped - so it's a tie. I can see how people might think Bruce got beat because of the impact with the car, but you give me five more seconds and Bruce would have won. So I know people are going to be up in arms about it, but when I went into my deep dive of studying Bruce, he more than anybody wanted people to know he's human. And I think I respect him more knowing that he had these challenges, these obstacles, just like everybody. I don't know any actor out there that doesn't have some sense of wanting to be more - and I think that's the sign of somebody that wants greatness, and will achieve greatness, always wanting more. And if you reference the legend of Wong Jack Man, this was Tarantino, so maybe in this universe, it's not Wong Jack Man, it's Cliff Booth who he runs into and gives him [a fight], like I know I could have taken him at the time if I wasn't so cocky. And now he's going to go back and refine his Jeet June Do and become the legend or a stronger version of himself because of this encounter with Cliff. At least, that's how I see it.

    continued . . .

  9. #39

    Mike Moh Breaks Down His Fight With Cliff Booth: continued...

    Part two of TODD GILCHRIST's interview -

    That take also reinforces some of the themes of the movie in that these are all people who to one extent or another are trying to establish or prove themselves. Were there discussions about deeper thematic ideas that Tarantino wanted to explore either in the overall script or with the character?

    Bruce wasn't the global sensation that everybody knows now at that point. At that time in his career, he was on Green Hornet, an ABC TV show, trying to battle against Asian stereotypes. He had to wear a mask. He was a sidekick. He was dealing with the stuff that I and many other Asian American actors have been dealing with, but because of what he went through and because of how he was able to bust through doors and make new waves, he made it easier for us to make our way. So at the time he was finding his way just like Rick was in the movie. Bruce wasn't a central character, but what better way to help people remember that Bruce also was - I don't want to say struggling, because he was a child actor and he was always very successful with that. But he was always searching for that next level. I know his ultimate goal was to be the Number One actor in the world, not martial arts actor. He wanted to be a bigger name than Steve McQueen, which, depending on who you ask, he definitely did that.

    Where did you draw the line between doing an impersonation of Bruce and really inhabiting him as a person or a character?

    That was the dangerous part, especially because it's a heightened sense of reality that Tarantino is so good at. You don't want to make it cheesy by going way over the top and making Bruce a character, so that's the fine line you want to straddle. But look - he's a big personality and I love his personality; I credit his ability to straddle confidence and cockiness as something that I strived for as a young kid who was kind of unsure of how I fit in growing up in the Midwest. That helped. But it wasn't about, I’ve got to hit this thing, I got to do this, got to make this move. It sounds cheesy, but I feel like I was channeling him because of the two months I had to prepare. I mean, give me a day to do it and yeah, I'm doing an impersonation, but give me two months and I'm doing my best to be him.

    Was there a particular scene or movie that you found especially inspirational or influential in terms of your performance or to help you get inside his head?

    No, I didn't use a movie. I mean, obviously I've watched them, just because I'm a fan. But during the scene they weren't rolling cameras, he was just holding court on the set of his show. So when you listen to him candidly in interviews, when he's not filming a TV show or a movie but maybe just being caught on video, he was always on, but in a different way - a very genuine, attractive way. There was something magnetic about him. So I used those as references - like his home videos, his Pierre Berton interview, all those things. That was the kind of attitude I wanted to portray.

    How would you characterize Tarantino as a director? How did he help you give the best performance that you could?

    Nobody can question how committed he is to it. And because he's in a unique position of having full control of everything, no studio is going to come in and tell him what to do, he wrote it, he lived it, he's dreamed it and he shot it in his head a million different ways already. So when he asks you to be prepared and when he asks you to do something, you don't belong in that set unless you've done a hundred percent preparation. I remember the final fight rehearsal that I had with Brad, on a Sunday. He was coming in just to see where we're at and give his input, and at the end of it, he was very happy with the fight but he pulled me aside. He says, the way I have this, it's going to be one continuous take. This was my first time hearing that it would be a one shot. He said, “it’s going to be very intricate. We're going to have to give it a bunch of times and there's going to be a lot of juggling and timing, and things have to work out. But it all rides on you. If you don't get it, I don't get the shot that I want. So I just want to let you know I believe in you and I wouldn't have hired you if you couldn't do this, but it's all on your shoulders.” I think I might've just paused for a second, and then I just confidently looked him in the eyes. I said, “Quentin, you made the right choice. I'm the guy for this and I'll be ready.” And off he went, and then two days later I was on set and we got that one shot. I think they blocked the whole day for just that sequence that they didn't cut, and we got it on like the third or fourth take, before lunch. And throughout the scene, you can sense the whole set just getting excited, like we're going to get this, we're going to get this right. And Quentin said, look, I'm going to cut if you don't do this perfectly. There's no sense in wasting film, and there's no sense in wasting your energy. So don't worry if I cut, we're just waiting for the right ingredients and the right timing. So on the third or fourth time, it's going great, I'm feeling it, and we're flowing. Even the extras, I feel like they helped me so much; they were also invested in it. And then he says, “cut!” Everybody's frozen. And then Quentin jumps up and down and he’s screaming, and as soon as we saw that reaction, everybody explodes into applause. Me and Brad run over to each other first and we’re checking each other, because I had just kicked him and he took a fall straight to the concrete. He's all good. We're hugging. That was definitely a Hollywood moment. And after that he said, “okay, that's the one that's going to be in the movie, but we're going to do it one more time.” And then he says, “why?” And everybody says, “because we love making movies!” I'm the only one that didn't know that thing, so I'm just like, what is happening? So we did it again and we got another great take. I'm not sure which one he used, but I just remember it so vividly and I think I always will.

    You talked about auditioning to play Bruce Lee in the past and now you have finally had an opportunity to do it in such a visible way. Do you feel a sense of catharsis, like you’re done playing him, or do you feel inspired to try to do that again in a larger way?

    Well, if people were thinking about doing it, I would hope that after they see me that they would think that I'm the guy to do it. Whether or not I would all depend on the story, and the team. I mean, although my appearance in the film is brief, I feel like I put in a good performance as Bruce, so I don't feel like I need to show more. But at the same time, it’s a good question. I don't know. I guess time will tell.

  10. #40
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    Guru Inosanto

    Quote Originally Posted by Design Sifu View Post
    Mike Moh, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD’s Bruce Lee, Breaks Down His Fight With Cliff
    Innerestin. I'm curious how Mike will be received in the Wulin from now on. I've already seen some social media posts from the Wong Jackman lineage that are celebrating his portrayal.

    Meanwhile, back in the Wulin...there's this:
    FEATURES JULY 31, 2019 3:24PM PT
    Bruce Lee’s Protégé Recalls His Humility Amid ‘Once Upon a Time’ Criticism
    By AUDREY CLEO YAP


    CREDIT: COURTESY OF DIANA LEE INOSANTO

    When it comes to martial arts and cinema, Bruce Lee is an icon. But his depiction in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” as an arrogant blowhard who brags about being able to “cripple” boxer Muhammad Ali could not be further from the truth, according to those closest to the real Lee.

    For one, Lee revered Ali and other boxers, often telling his martial students to mimic the ease and flow of Ali’s movements and footwork, according to Dan Inosanto, Lee’s protégé and training partner, speaking to Variety exclusively.

    “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,” says Inosanto, one of only three martial artists who were trained by Lee to teach Jeet Kune Do at Lee’s martial arts institutes. Jeet Kune Do is a philosophy of martial arts drawing from different disciplines invented by Lee that is often credited with paving the way for modern mixed martial arts (MMA).

    Inosanto continues to practice and teach it today. The now 83-year-old was featured alongside Lee in his final film, “Game of Death,” and was a frequent companion of Lee’s on TV shows and movie sets throughout the 1960s and up until Lee’s death in 1973 — sets including that of “The Green Hornet,” on which Lee played the sidekick character Kato.

    Incidentally, in Tarantino’s film, it’s outside of that set where Lee (played by Mike Moh) is shown bragging about his fighting prowess, only to be bested by ageing white stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).


    Dan Inosanto and Bruce Lee at Lee’s martial arts academy in Los Angeles’ Chinatown.
    (COURTESY OF DIANA LEE INOSANTO)

    Inosanto has not yet seen the film but says that from his memories of Lee on a working set, he never saw the San Francisco-born, Hong Kong-raised actor being braggadocious or engaging in scraps for the sake of showing off. He did, however, push back on portraying Asians practicing martial arts in a stereotypical way, what Inosanto calls the “chop-chop Hollywood stuff.”

    “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,” recalls Inosanto, adding that it’s highly dubious that a stuntman could have gotten the best of the “Enter the Dragon” star.

    Lee’s daughter, Shannon, calls the depiction of her late father disheartening and adds that, despite Tarantino drawing on aspects of her father’s films for use in his own (Uma Thurman’s yellow jumpsuit in “Kill Bill” is a nod to Lee’s outfit in “Game of Death”; the yakuza army, the Crazy 88, also don Kato-like masks), she doubts he is an actual fan of Lee’s.

    “I have always suspected that [Tarantino] is a fan of the kung-fu genre and a fan of things that kick ass in cool and stylish ways, which my father certainly did,” says Shannon Lee, who was 4 years old when her father died. “But whether he really knows anything about Bruce Lee as a human being, whether he’s interested in who Bruce Lee was as a human being, whether he admires who Bruce Lee was as a human being, I’m not really sure that I have any evidence to support that that would be true.”


    Dan Inosanto and Bruce Lee on the set of “Game of Death.”
    (COURTESY OF DIANA LEE INOSANTO)

    Tarantino did not consult the Lee family prior to or during the making of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Tarantino’s rep has not yet responded to Variety‘s request for comment.

    For both Inosanto and Lee, preserving Bruce Lee’s legacy — through martial arts or by developing the projects Lee himself was unable to pursue — is something they continue today. Inosanto teaches at his Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts while Shannon Lee works as a caretaker of her family’s estate and charity foundation and develops projects inspired by her father’s writings, like Cinemax’s “Warrior,” based on a treatment her father wrote and pitched (unsuccessfully) to Warner Bros. Lee is an executive producer of the show, which was renewed for a second season in April.

    She sees Tarantino’s film as another way Hollywood has, historically, tried to diminish her father’s accomplishments as one of its first prominent Asian Americans.

    “He was continuously marginalized and treated like kind of a nuisance of a human being by white Hollywood, which is how he’s treated in the film by Quentin Tarantino,” says Lee. “I hope people will take the opportunity to find out more about Bruce Lee because there’s a lot more to find out and a lot more to get excited about. This portrayal in this film is definitely not that.”

    Adds Inosanto, who says he received an outpouring of letters from fans all over the world following Lee’s death, “Bruce Lee broke ground for Asian Americans. Breaking in as an Asian was very, very difficult at that time. He paved the way for all the action stars.”
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  11. #41
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    I wouldn't be surprised if people in Wong Jack Man's lineage would be happy with seeing BL portrayed as a blowhard who gets humiliated. I can understand it, if that's how they feel.

    Still, I have a problem with QT portraying BL as a complete A-hole (from all the descriptions). I'll just have to wait and see. I definitely agree with Shannon Lee that I don't think QT really respected BL like some people have said. QT seems to only like the kung fu genre in so far as he can spoof it, like in Kill Bill, with the wire work, fast '70s-style camera zooms, exaggerated blood spill, sound effects, borrowed soundtracks, etc. All of which is unnecessary, because Hong Kong filmmakers like Sammo and Jackie had already spoofed the genre decades ago, and MUCH better than any American filmmaker could ever dream (Kung Pow is a perfect example of spoofing that, IMO, wasn't all that funny or creative). QT clearly approaches BL and the kung fu genre as a whole from more of a white hipster-type POV. Apparently, he hasn't got a clue what BL meant for the image of Asian-Americans in the media at the time. QT has absolutely no problem portraying African-American characters in a positive manner.

    Of course, I wasn't on set, but it seems that Mike Moh may be doing some rationalizing for QT. I distinctly recall some Asian-Americans rationalizing for Sacha Baron Cohen, when he made a particularly offensive Asian joke at the Oscars a few years ago. Sometimes rationalizing can make things seem more comfortable to you, but then again, sometimes if it acts like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck, no matter how you try to rationalize it away.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 08-01-2019 at 12:14 PM.

  12. #42
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    Shannon has taken it to Vanity Fair now

    The Kung Fu genre is self-spoofing. QT, Kung Pow, et.al. are more parodies for those unfamiliar with the Kung Fu genre. It really only gets good for us with something like Chow's Kung Fu Hustle or Shaolin Soccer, but then Shaolin Soccer became real - which is exactly what I mean by self-spoofing. (see what I did there? )

    ONCE UPON A TIME...
    Bruce Lee’s Daughter Has More Questions About Quentin Tarantino’s “Troubling” Depiction of Her Father

    Had Tarantino “been truly creative,” Shannon Lee told Vanity Fair, “he could have accomplished the goal of his narrative without taking down my father in the process.”
    BY JULIE MILLER
    AUGUST 1, 2019


    Mike Moh as Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood.
    COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES.

    On Monday Shannon Lee publicly criticized the way Quentin Tarantino depicts her father, Bruce Lee—the legendary martial arts instructor and actor—in his new film, Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood. Shannon, custodian of her father’s legacy, saw the Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt–starring film on Sunday, and was disturbed by its “caricature”-like portrayal of Bruce. As played by Mike Moh, the character is depicted as a brash, arrogant action star eager to prove his masculinity by fighting Pitt’s stunt-performer character, Cliff Booth, on set. After Moh’s Bruce picks on Cliff repeatedly, Cliff finally gives in—and throws Bruce into the side of a car before a crowd of bystanders.

    “For me, there was a lot wrong” with the scene, Shannon told Vanity Fair Tuesday night, explaining that she feels especially obligated to correct the narrative about her father, given how much of the film blurs fact and fiction. “I think part of what is so troubling to me is that it places a lot of responsibility on the audience to interpret what’s factual and what’s not factual.”

    The ending of the film—a Tarantino-esque spin on the Manson family murders—is clearly fiction. But for audiences unacquainted with Bruce Lee’s life off-screen, Shannon wants to make it clear that her father was not the fight-picking antagonist shown in the scene—which some posited could be a flashback or fantasy. Her only theory about the filmmaker’s motivation—aside from wanting to frame Cliff Booth as a Hollywood badass—is that “maybe Tarantino took all the things that he knew or heard about Bruce Lee and smashed them into one encounter.”

    Shannon admitted that her father “used to be much more brash” when he was a teenager living in Hong Kong, where “he would get into these sort of rooftop matches where one style [of fighter] would go up against another style—stuff like that.” But by 1969—the year that Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood takes place—Bruce was married with a son, and had thoughtfully developed his own style of hybrid martial arts, with a philosophical base. “As time went on, he would be challenged more and more,” she said. “But he didn’t want to fight those fights, and he would try not to.”

    Shannon said that there was a real-life incident in which Bruce fought a stuntman, on the set of 1973’s Enter the Dragon. But the circumstances were vastly different: “This [stunt]man continued to provoke him day after day after day, calling him a paper tiger and saying he wasn’t really a martial artist and wanting to challenge him,” Shannon recalled. “My dad kept brushing him aside. But he started getting the extras riled up, saying, ‘See, he’s nobody. He can’t do it. He’s afraid.’”

    By that point in Bruce’s career, according to Shannon, her father believed that “the important thing about a challenge is not that you’re being challenged, but what your reaction is to the challenge.” But because “the film set was becoming a disarray,” Bruce relented. Even in accepting the challenge, however, Shannon said her father “was very gentle of a man. He took him down a few times, but he didn’t hurt him.”

    It is important for Shannon to continue speaking out, she explained, because her father was regularly marginalized by the Hollywood power brokers of his era. “People said he was cocky and arrogant, when really he was confident and skilled,” said Shannon. In Tarantino’s hands, she said, her father has again been marginalized—this time onscreen: “I think when someone comes up against someone who’s passionate and confident, if they feel in any way threatened, they go right to, ‘Oh, that guy’s arrogant.’ My father has other quotes he would say, like, ‘It’s easy for me to come in, and be cocky, and put on a show, and do all kinds of fancy movements. But to honestly express myself as a human being without lying to myself, that’s a different thing.’ And that’s what he was all about.”

    Shannon was also irked by the Bruce character announcing that he would have kicked Muhammad Ali’s ass if they’d ever fought. “My father revered Muhammad Ali,” Shannon said. “He watched all of his fight films to emulate him. My father loved boxing in general. He would write letters to boxers, and ask them about techniques, and express his admiration.”

    Asked what she would say to Tarantino if he called her, Shannon replied, “My question would be: what does he have to say to me? I don’t really have anything to say to him.” Shannon said that she felt waves of dismay and discomfort sitting in the movie theater, “look[ing] at people laugh at my father as some kind of arrogant, obnoxious [joke].... It felt really unnecessary.... In the end, whatever the point of that portrayal of my father was in the mind of Tarantino, I feel like the portrayal he chose was unnecessary and obnoxious. Had he been truly creative, he could have accomplished the goal of his narrative without taking down my father in the process.”

    “For me, what was so upsetting is—the only reason that I steward my father’s legacy is that it has touched and inspired me in my life, and it has touched, inspired, and helped many people in their lives,” continued Shannon—who keeps her father’s memory alive through the Bruce Lee Foundation, a podcast about Bruce’s philosophy, educational summer programs for children, and inspiring messages on the foundation’s social media feeds. “My goal is to amplify his philosophy and his message and his energy. And a portrayal like this just paints a picture in the minds of the people who don’t know who Bruce Lee is that is false, [and] that just makes my work harder.”

    Vanity Fair has reached out to Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood’s representatives for comment.
    I totally get what Shannon is saying and I have a ton of respect for what she's done with the foundation, but it's important to keep in mind that she was only 3 when he died.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  13. #43
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    Zoe Bell

    The Stuntwoman Who Made the Stuntman of ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’
    To capture the old-school, rough-and-tumble aesthetic of 1960s moviemaking, Quentin Tarantino turned to his longtime collaborator, stuntwoman Zoë Bell, to help bring Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth to life
    By Eric Ducker Aug 2, 2019, 6:20am EDT


    Jason Raish

    In Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 film, a question gets asked from the bar of the Texas Chili Parlor. With platinum blond hair falling past her shoulders and a margarita in a glass boot in front of her, Pam (as played by Rose McGowan) asks, “How exactly does one become a stuntman, Stuntman Mike?”

    Wearing a silver satin jacket adorned with Icy Hot patches, Stuntman Mike (as played by Kurt Russell) replies, “Well, in Hollywood, anybody fool enough to throw himself down a flight of stairs can usually find somebody to pay him for it.”

    Stuntman Mike eventually reveals he actually got into the business through his brother, Stuntman Bob, but that self-deprecating boast about toughness captures what Tarantino adores about old-school stuntmen.

    Mike is the villain of Death Proof, but 12 years later, Tarantino’s brought back the archetype for Cliff Booth, Brad Pitt’s character in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. Tarantino presents Booth as the rugged hero of the film. Even if he possibly killed his wife.

    Booth is the quietly charming, unflappable force who’s willing to take a punch, fall off a roof, or get hit by a car for Leonardo DiCaprio’s insecure, often buffoonish actor Rick Dalton. And if the opportunities for Booth to get paid by putting his body in harm’s way have disappeared, he’ll happily just get drunk with Dalton or fix the TV antenna on his roof. But in order to help inform the audience about what a badass Booth is, Tarantino turned to the film’s stunt coordinator—Zoë Bell, a 40-year-old New Zealand native who’s been collaborating with the writer and director for more than a decade.

    Eruptions of violence have always been present in Tarantino’s films, but he didn’t get into heavy stunt work until the Kill Bill movies. Bell, who previously worked with Lucy Lawless on Xena: Warrior Princess, doubled for Uma Thurman during the movie’s vicious and acrobatic fight sequences. (Last year when Thurman revealed to The New York Times that she was injured in a car accident during the making of Kill Bill: Vol. 2, the film’s stunt coordinator, Keith Adams, told The Hollywood Reporter that he wasn’t on set that day and hadn’t been notified that Thurman would be driving the car herself.)

    At times Tarantino’s follow-up, Death Proof, feels like he made it explicitly to showcase Bell, who plays a version of herself in the film. In one scene where Tarantino references his own opening scene for Reservoir Dogs, rotating the camera around a restaurant’s table in a single shot, the characters aren’t talking about Madonna and dicks, but about how incredible Bell is. “Physically speaking, Zoë is amazing. I mean agility and reflexes, nimbleness, there are few human beings who can **** with Zoë,” says Tracie Thoms’s Kim. Bell proves just what she is capable of later as she hangs from the hood of a 1970 Dodge Challenger during one of the greatest cinematic car chases of this century.



    Under stunt coordinator Jeffrey Dashnaw, Bell continued to appear in and/or work on Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight. She also started getting more into acting and began to explore producing and directing. Her highest profile stunt work in years came in 2017 as she doubled Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Then Tarantino asked her to be the stunt coordinator on Once Upon a Time ... (She also briefly shows up as Janet, the wife of Kurt Russell’s fictional TV stunt coordinator, Randy, and the character who calls out Cliff’s rumored homicidal past.) While most stunt work now relies on digital effects, Tarantino tasked her with making the stunts as era-appropriate to the 1960s as possible. That meant, for one, a lot more pads and a lot fewer wires. I spoke with Bell about the roll that stunts (and stunt performers) play in Tarantino’s films and why Brad Pitt taking off his shirt on that roof wasn’t just a beefcake shot.

    Why did you decide to transition back into stunt work?

    I don’t perceive this as a transition back into stunt work. I perceive it as—I guess this sounds a little bit existential—making career choices that double as life choices. So there’s Thor—Taika [Waititi], the director, is a friend of mine; [stunt coordinator] Ben Cooke, he’s my stunt brother from way back. I was going to be working closely with Cate Blanchett; I was going to be close to New Zealand; it was a regular paycheck, which sometimes in the acting game hasn’t been quite as regular. There’s a bunch of things that went into it that I was like, I really want this as the life that I’m living.

    Then when Quentin comes along and offers me this epically moving, romantic, full-circle notion of being the stunt coordinator on a movie called Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood about an actor and a stunt guy, it’s a massive responsibility and a huge honor, and one of those life stories.


    Quentin Tarantino on the set of Death Proof (2007) with Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoë Bell, and Tracie Thomsin Dimension Films
    When you were discussing the stunt work that he wanted in this film, what type of direction did he give you?

    The most relaxed, natural part of the process for me was the creative stuff, because I’ve been back-and-forthing with Quentin in that manner for 10 years in various roles. A lot of that was watching period pieces, looking at the reference list that he had running, absorbing as much of that, and then really, at the end of the day, just listening and letting Quentin paint pictures in my head, which is not hard.

    In terms of painting pictures in your head, just as an example, there’s the scene where Cliff does this series of quick jumps to get up to Rick’s roof. Does Quentin say, “I see him doing three jumps”? Or is he more general like, “We need to find a cool way to get him up to the roof”?

    It depends. Some particular scenes that are drama-based or have either literal dialogue or physical dialogue, he’ll stand up and act it out. He kind of becomes each character and you become immersed in his imagination. For things like the jumping up on the roof, he’s like, “Zoë, I want something that’s easy for a stuntman, but everyone else would go, ‘What?! How?!’ He’s going to climb a chimney, or he jumps up something, or he pole vaults, or he flips up and over.” So he’s got an idea of it, but then he wants me to throw suggestions that would fit to the location, the scene, what happened before, what happens afterward, and then he’ll know it when he sees it.

    It’s interesting with Cliff’s character, because at the start of the film he admits he’s not even really a stuntman anymore, but we have to see what he’s capable of physically because of what he does later in the film. There’s got to be character development through the stunts he does in his everyday life.

    We as stunt people know that some of the most beat-up looking women and men in their 50s were probably some of the baddest asses, even if they’re maybe moving a little slower. A big part of it for us was just that [Cliff] was a very talented stuntman whose loyalties maybe cost him an amazing career because he was loyal to Rick, whose career didn’t take off the way Rick was hoping. It also tells you a lot about what Cliff’s priorities in life are.

    There are these layers that are so fun to peel back that speak to the fact that before getting paid to do the glossy version of action, [Cliff’s] a war vet. He’s actually been through some legitimately horrific stuff. And at the end of the day, rolling around on the movie set, drinking a carton of milk and smoking cigarettes is a dream compared to where he’d been. So I love those little glimmers of when you get to see “Holy ****, this dude is so capable.” He’s not just some stoner dude living in a trailer with his dog. Well, maybe he is, but he’s also, you know, a multidimensional character.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  14. #44
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    Continued from previous post


    Zoë Bell and Monica Staggs, winners of Best Fight award for “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” with Daryl Hannah (center) at the 2005 Taurus World Stunt Awards Photo by J. Vespa/WireImage for StellarQuest PR and Consulting

    You only learn he’s a war vet through a single line of Rick’s dialogue, halfway through the movie, and then it’s never mentioned again. Did you guys have more in-depth discussions exploring that history?

    We definitely explored it with Quentin and with Brad. It became an important thing for Cliff’s stunts. There was talks of “Do we show when he takes his top off that he’s scarred up?” The map of his life we see on his body. Then there’s the way that he stands and faces the world. Green Beret was the keystone for Quentin—[Booth] was a badass and he’d killed people and had to witness horrific things.

    Obviously Quentin has respect for all sorts of people in the movie industry, but looking at his filmography and his interests, do you feel like he has a special affinity for stunt performers?

    I feel like he does. I don’t mean to be putting words in his mouth, and maybe I’m projecting because I feel this way, but there’s something about stunts to this day that still carries a little bit of that old school. You still got to be a little rough and tumble. Stunts have definitely been gentrified, but you can’t be a stunt person and be worried about getting hurt. You need to be savvy about how to stay safe, but you can’t be doing it worried if you’re going to be getting a bruise or a scratch. I think that that lack of preciousness is probably one of the things that appeals to Quentin, the Wild West of it.

    Nowadays so much stunt work revolves around things like wires and CGI. How do you make a movie that features old-school stunt work but is still compelling to modern audiences?

    Some of the stuff we wanted to look stylistically authentic to the time— because it is [Rick Dalton’s fictional TV show] Bounty Law—or we are reenacting something. Because as audience members we’re far more savvy and educated now—you don’t want it to just look hokey unless you’re playing on the hoke. There was one sequence that ended up not making the film, but it was very much a haymaker-type fight and a bar brawl—flying over the tables and crashing over the bar. We still wanted the connections to look solid and we still wanted it to look painful, but we were playing into the heightened sort of slapstick of that time in that particular sequence.

    In one of the opening sequences [for Bounty Law] there is a balcony fall. Rick Dalton shoots him, he falls off the roof, he smashes through the balcony and he hits the bottom floor. That’s straight out of old-school westerns. I had done a bunch of research about it and people got pretty drilled doing free falls like that. When it came time to do that I took it upon myself to believe that the authenticity of a gag like that is an important piece of the movie. Whether you notice it or not, it had to be done as authentically to the old school as possible. It took weeks of prep and finding the right person. These days you’ve got so much technology and there’s so many techniques and tools and devices that we have that keep everyone safer. When you do something like a balcony fall, we have wires and we have CGI at our disposal. To consider not using those things, we have a responsibility to continue in the safest way possible.


    Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

    Are there generational differences between the attitudes of stunt people?

    I’ve found this weird thing where I sit between the two. I’m not the new generation, but my experience was more with an older generation than it would have been in America because I was in New Zealand. We were a little bit behind; the technology hadn’t reached. We were still a little bit ... I don’t mean “cowboy” in the irresponsible way, I mean cowboy in the “****, let’s give it a go” kind of way. But there are performers out there now, and most of their performance career has been flipping on wires, maybe on a green screen, lots of motion capture. The experience required is quite different to what it used to be.

    Now, people aren’t doing back falls as much, but they are being smashed into buildings two stories up. There’s a different level of required pain in jobs and each generation feels like the next generation has it too easy. Your parents are like, “You kids have got it so easy.” And then you’ll probably say that about your kids. Your kids will probably say that about their kids, until the world explodes and then no one cares.

    I think that’s probably why that balcony fall and this project was so exciting, because it was an opportunity to step outside of the polished, flawless action world and just get a little bit more rough and tumble again.

    I hadn’t really thought about it this way before, but the second half of Death Proof with the car chase could be seen as a metaphor about different generations of stunt performers, where the older generation is a little wilder and thinks it’s fun to push the limit of responsible danger, while the younger generation thinks the old way of behaving is going to get them killed.

    There’s an element of modern-day people that think they are taking it more seriously than—and I’m using air quotes here—the “cowboys” used to. But then the cowboys can turn around and say, “We’re way tougher than you because we didn’t use pads.” My basic feeling is if you’re going to be good, no matter what area you’re in, you need to have an appreciation and a respect for where you’ve come from and have a respect for those that are taking the torch and running with it. I do have a little bit of the old school in me where I’m like, if you’re not willing to eat **** and hit the ground occasionally in the middle of your job, then I personally think you’re spoiled. But that’s just me.

    In Death Proof there’s the scene where Stuntman Mike talks about working on shows like The Virginian and High Chaparral, which are the type of shows that Cliff could have worked on. Cliff is a hero in Once Upon a Time ... Hollywood, but was it ever talked about that there might be a sinister side to him? You get it a little bit during the scene of him with his wife on the boat.

    There were conversations around him being a war vet and the alleged killing of his wife, but in the same way we were discussing his relationship with work and his relationship with his dog and how long he had his dog and all that stuff that may or may not have any holding on anything. But no, I personally never read sinister into Cliff. I may be projecting, because I kind of fancy that if a woman could be a Cliff back in 1969, I might’ve been a bit of a Cliff. I liked that idea, but instead I was the stunt coordinator’s wife telling Cliff to get ****ed, which was kind of awesome, too.

    Eric Ducker is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
    Beyond the Bruce issue, here's a nice interview with Zoe Bell.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  15. #45

    Why Are You Laughing at Bruce Lee?

    Why Are You Laughing at Bruce Lee?
    By Walter Chaw
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    Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is filled with characters from American mythology. Beyond its primary protagonists — the men who played cowboys in movies past — there’s the murderous Manson Family, a collective bogey for those opposed to sixties counterculture. And there’s the murdered Sharon Tate, a venerated symbol of innocence lost during the decade. These figures are more than human, and in many ways, less than human, too. The side effect of elevating people to archetype, after all, is that they lose their humanity.

    Such was the case for another mythological figure of the sixties who appears in Tarantino’s film: Bruce Lee. In the U.S., Lee came to be perceived as an eastern mystic and berserker golem, two ends of an invincible image he himself helped to perpetuate. But in Once Upon a Time, Lee is less the archetype of American popular consciousness and more, well, human. The portrayal has been met with mixed reviews. Shannon Lee, the martial artist’s daughter and chief executive of the Bruce Lee Family Co., called the performance “disheartening” and “unnecessary.” Tarantino, she believes, “seems to have gone out of the way to make fun of my father and to portray him as a kind of buffoon.” Shannon’s mother, Linda Lee Caldwell, dubbed the performance a “caricature” made to be “insultingly ‘Chinesey.’”

    When I saw the character of Bruce Lee (played by actor Mike Moh) in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, my immediate reaction was to cry. Lee is my hero and has been since I first saw him, more than three decades ago, on a bootleg VHS my family borrowed from a local Asian grocer. My reverence for him grew as I got older, following him in movies like The Big Boss and Fist of Fury. I took inspiration from the Hong Kong–American’s struggle for acceptance in Hollywood, an industry that tended to ignore nonwhite faces. He was widely known to U.S. audiences as the sidekick Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet, a subordinate role standard for Asian males in Western cinema (something Jackie Chan and Jet Li would later learn the hard way when attempting their own incursions on these shores). But in China, where The Green Hornet was known as The Kato Show, Lee’s leading-man stardom only rose, catapulting his reputation in the States to that of an untouchable fighter from beyond. His career culminated in a starring part in the joint Hong Kong–American movie, Enter the Dragon, which premiered one month after his tragic death at age 32. By that time, Lee’s status in popular consciousness was iconic. There were dozens of imitators, but only one little dragon.

    Lee’s scene in Once Upon a Time is brief but noteworthy, in so far as it veers away from this image of Lee as iconic. He appears on the set of The Green Hornet, which in Tarantino’s universe features protagonist-cowboy Rick Dalton, too. Surrounded by a crowd of crew members, Lee bides his time between takes by monologuing on the abilities of “colored” fighters Joe Louis and Cassius Clay. Lee would “cripple” Clay, he cockily tells his onlookers, should the two fighters ever find themselves opponents. In reality, Lee never claimed he could take Clay; rather, he was quoted as saying Clay would handily beat him up. Yet despite the historical inaccuracy, Moh nails Lee — his voice, his look, his mannerisms. Moh portrays Lee as arrogant (he was), didactic (yes), and hot-tempered (famously), embodying the spirit of a man who had to establish himself as smarter and stronger just to earn second-fiddle roles in a racist industry.

    Listening from the sidelines during Lee’s speech is Rick Dalton’s stuntman, Cliff Booth, a pastiche of real-life men like Yakima Canutt and Hal Needham. Booth doesn’t think Lee could trounce Clay (or that Lee had to register his hands as “deadly weapons,” as he claimed), and Booth’s audible scoff makes as much clear. Lee responds by challenging Booth to a fight, and the stuntman agrees. At this point, Moh assumes the martial artist’s trademark fighting stance and begins firing off his familiar vocalizations. I don’t know whether he fought with such panache offscreen, but these are the affectations he assumed for his onscreen persona. This is the Bruce Lee we remember. It was at this point that I realized the audience members around me weren’t fighting back sentimental tears at the sight and sound of Lee like I was — they were laughing.

    Growing up as a Chinese kid in a predominantly white area, one of the most common ways people mocked me was by mimicking the noises Lee made. The reaction to Moh’s performance — the chuckles that followed his impression of Lee — felt like a similarly racist gesture. In truth, until very recently, the vast majority of appearances by Asian characters in mainstream American films carried with them the same potential for unintended, racially motivated laughter. (Think: cartoonish figures like Pai Mei, played by Gordon Liu, or Long Duk Dong, played by Gedde Watanabe.) I was less concerned with Tarantino’s depiction of Lee or the outcome of the fight onscreen — Tarantino chose to have Cliff, a fictional member of the director’s Hollywood dream pantheon, best the supposedly unstoppable Lee by throwing him into a car — than with the hardwired reaction to his appearance. I have no doubt there was a portion of my audience laughing at Lee in exhilaration or with nostalgia, just as I have no doubt that the larger portion was laughing because they’ve been programmed to do so. Lee’s legacy, far from insulating him from a white audience’s mocking, actually focuses it.

    In the days following Once Upon a Time’s release, it became clear that some people — maybe even some of the people I heard laughing in the theater — wished that Moh’s Lee had thrown Cliff into the sun, perhaps after dislocating all of his joints and ripping out his heart in the process. But I would argue Tarantino’s decision to have Booth fight Lee to a draw doesn’t doesn’t take the air out of Lee; it takes the air out of the constructed mystique that Lee was forced to maintain. That by allowing Lee to regain a portion of his humanity, Tarantino is offering a different, more generous kind of Asian-American representation onscreen. Watching Once Upon a Time, we are not operating under the fantasy that Lee never struggled against racism, or that he wasn’t forced into an outsider role in Hollywood. Here, Lee understands that his status depends on a carefully constructed reputation for supernatural indestructibility. At the end of his fight with Tarantino’s imaginary superhero, Moh’s Lee says “nobody beat the **** out of Bruce.” While some critics saw this as another example of Hollywood doing its best to humiliate an Asian legend, I see it as a man doing his best to hold on to the key to the kingdom.

    In real life, when Roman Polanski learned his wife and three houseguests had been murdered, perhaps by a single person, he immediately suspected Lee. Who else, after all, could kill four people with his bare hands? Already, and in his lifetime, the sanctification of Lee’s legend was doing Lee no favors. So Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opted not to perpetuate that image, and instead turns Lee into one of Tarantino’s numerous objects of reclamation, otherwise stuck in our collective, sometimes poisonous American dreamworld. If Tarantino’s not entirely successful here, he has at least revealed the desperate lengths many will go to preserve the viability of an illusion. I am entirely empathetic with the Lee family’s concerns about Lee’s portrayal in this film — hearing audiences laugh for the wrong reasons at a loved one can only be a painful experience. But for me, if only me, watching this attempt to reconfigure a god as a man is as emotional a moment as any in the film. Lee could have quit, but he fought. His legend is amplified by his imperfections, not diminished.

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