In what will no doubt be seen as a major financial blow for Sony’s overseas box office stats, Quentin Tarantino’s latest film will not be receiving distribution across Chinese theaters. The reason? Rumors would indicate some artistic interpretation on Tarantino’s part might be the culprit for the cancellation.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was scheduled to hit Chinese theaters next Friday, October 25th, but the film’s depiction of cultural icon Bruce Lee would seem to be the reason for the holdup.
Most will recall the controversy that stemmed from the depiction of Bruce Lee (portrayed in the film by Mike Moh) in Tarantino’s film, wherein Lee’s daughter Shannon expressed disappointment over her father’s depiction in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Lee accused Tarantino of being superficial in his admiration of the Hong Kong legend, saying “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.”
The conversation went back and forth, with Tarantino defending himself, and Shannon Lee shooting back (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar too!). It wasn’t a spat that really found resolution. Not publicly, at least.
Sources from Bona Film Group, the Chinese distributors with a stake in Hollywood‘s release overseas, report that Lee made a direct appeal to China’s National Film Administration, “demanding changes to her father’s portrayal.” Though there has been no official statement from Chinese financiers or government officials, it could be speculated that the last-minute pull can be attributed at least in part to Lee’s request, with no edits yet made to Hollywood for a Chinese release.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood would have been Tarantino’s first proper release in China, with 2012’s Django Unchained scheduled for distribution but was pulled “seconds into its first screening” in 2013.
Tarantino shouldn’t feel too singled out though, with censorship even running rampant across films produced by Chinese cultural and artistic representatives like Zhang Yimou (Shadow), whose film One Second was pulled and censored from film festivals this year. Likely due to its sensitive Cultural Revolution-era subject matter.
Whether Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood will see Chinese screens remains to be seen, but for now Rick Dalton might have to stick with Italy for his foreign film projects.
China Cancels Release of Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ (Exclusive) [The Hollywood Reporter]