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Bruce Lee’s training partner counters ‘Once Upon a Time’ portrayal of the late icon

Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee in 1973’s “Enter the Dragon.”
(Bruce Lee Enterprise)

Bruce Lee was many things during his tragically short life: a master martial artist, an actor, director, philosopher and even a poet.

But according to his former training partner, Dan Inosanto, he was not arrogant and ungracious the way he is depicted in “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”

In Quentin Taranto’s acclaimed new film, Lee (played by Mike Moh) claims, while on the set of “The Green Hornet,” he could easily defeat boxer Muhammad Ali in a fight and talks down the former heavyweight champ.

In an interview with Variety, Inosanto claims that wouldn’t have happened.

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“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,” Inosanto said, adding to a growing chorus of criticism about Lee’s portrayal in the movie. (Inosanto also admitted to Variety that he hasn’t seen the film yet.)

After spending years training with Lee and being at his side during movie shoots, Inosanto is upset at the notion that Lee, who he says “broke ground for Asian Americans,” would be so brazen and pompous while on set.

“He was never, in my opinion, cocky,” noted Inosanto. “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.”

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Inosanto is speaking out just days after Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, voiced her displeasure with the unfavorable depiction of her father.

“I feel like [Tarantino] turned [Lee’s] confidence into arrogance and his intelligence into mockery,” Lee told The Times. “I feel like he was picked on in the way that he was picked on in life by white Hollywood.”


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