Quentin Tarantino won’t bend. As we reported earlier, China—and Beijing-based investor Bona Film Group—has canceled the release of his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, originally slated for October 25. Though an explanation was never given to Sony Pictures Entertainment as to why the release was halted, Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce Lee, strongly objected to the portrayal of her father in the movie. As for Quentin? He doesn’t much care what she thinks. The movie is the movie and he’s not changing it, he says.
Perhaps he’s learned from the last time. When China pulled Django Unchained from theaters, unhappy with its graphic violence and nudity, Tarantino reluctantly agreed to make some edits, eliminating the material the country found tasteless. When the new version of the film was released, it tanked at the Chinese box office.
Tarantino taking a hard stance this time around means the movie will likely never make its way to Chinese theaters. It’s nice to see art winning out over bucks, regardless of how you feel about the movie. Tarantino is a principled man—the kind of guy who makes what he wants to make, doesn’t much aim to change your mind about the world, and lets his work do the talking (save for his many interviews and thoughts on cinema). He also has final approval on the film, which means that even if Sony had desired to cower to the Chinese in the hopes of mitigating the impact of this ordeal, they couldn’t. Judging by China’s overwhelming positive opinion of Leonardo DiCaprio and his movies, One Upon a Time’s absence from that market means the studio is taking a significant hit.
If you haven’t seen the movie, the scene that put off Shannon Lee features [spoilers] Bruce Lee, on the set of The Green Hornet, wandering around as an obnoxious braggart, only to be embarrassed minutes later in a fight with Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth, a fictitious stuntman whose exploits border on folklore. Tarantino defended the depiction of Lee, stating at a Moscow press conference, “Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy. The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up.”
So there you have it. An artist is standing by his art. Rejoice, cinephiles; not everyone in Hollywood is a sellout after all.