China Cancels Release Of 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood' Over Bruce Lee Scene

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is not having a fairy tale release in China. The Quentin Tarantino comedy-drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt would be the filmmaker's first proper release in China, but a week before Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was set to debut in theaters, regulators abruptly reversed course. No official reason was given, but according to reports, the country's regulators took issue with the film's polarizing depiction of Bruce Lee.The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood China release was canceled just a week before the film was set to hit theaters. The film's release has reportedly been put on hold indefinitely despite the film's Chinese financier, Beijing-based Bona Film Group, frantically working with Tarantino to produce a cut of the film that would be approved ahead of the original release date of October 25, 2019.

While no official reason was given for the abrupt cancellation, sources tell THR that Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon Lee, who has been vocal in her disapproval of the film's depiction of her father, "made a direct appeal to China's National Film Administration, asking that it demand changes to her father's portrayal." The talk around the cancellation seems to agree that it's the controversial depiction of Bruce Lee — a national idol in China and a Hollywood icon, as an arrogant blowhard who is easily defeated by Pitt's stuntman Cliff — that prompted Beijing regulators to cancel the release.

I have my own reservations about the Bruce Lee scene (which I find to be the one stumble in a remarkably contemplative Tarantino film), but Lee appealing to the censors in China comes at a politically tumultuous time when the country has become more severe about slights to its government. This issue isn't related to the political situation in China, of course, but it does come at a tenuous time for China-Hollywood relations.

This isn't Tarantino's first brush with China's censors. In 2012, his Western Django Unchained was set to get a proper theatrical rollout in China and even received permission to screen before it was similarly pulled from cinemas minutes before its opening night — reportedly due to the film's graphic violence. But Sony was banking on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to get that lucrative China release, which would help push the film's worldwide box office total to the $400 million mark. The film has made $366 million worldwide to date.