Quentin Tarantino Pushes Back on China

quentin-tarantino-and-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood-cast

Someone in Hollywood is finally standing up to China.

Bucking the trend of the big studios, which have been routinely allowing Chinese censors to dictate movie content, Quentin Tarantino has made it clear that he will not alter his latest film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” as Chinese officials had demanded.

As a result, China has cancelled the release of Tarantino’s fantasy-dramedy, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. The homage to 1960s Hollywood had originally been scheduled to hit Chinese movie screens on October 25.

Chinese officials have not publicly revealed exactly what they found to be objectionable in the movie. Reportedly, the reason that the demand to modify came about was because of the filmmaker’s depiction of legendary martial arts practitioner and actor Bruce Lee.

Lee’s daughter Shannon had reportedly requested that the National Film Administration of China intervene over the portrayal of her father in the movie as a conceited braggart.

In a recent interview with The Wrap, Shannon inserted a broader controversy into her objections concerning the film.

“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie, 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. I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-a** who could beat up Bruce Lee,” Shannon stated.

“But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive,” she added.

When the subject came up at a recent press conference in Moscow, Tarantino defended the depiction of Lee in the film, telling reporters the following:

“I heard him say things like that, to that effect. If people are saying, ‘Well he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali,’ well yeah, he did. Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read… She absolutely said it. Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy. The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up.”

Media content is routinely and strictly controlled by communist bureaucrats in China as has been recently observed with the banning of Winnie the Pooh, the animated series “South Park,” and the NBA pre-season games.

It is yet to be seen whether Tarantino will hold the line and remain solid in his refusal to bend to the Chinese powers that be. In the past, the filmmaker made cuts to scenes in the movie “Django Unchained” after Chinese censors exerted pressure and the film’s release was cancelled.

After “Django Unchained” was re-edited and released in China, it ended up flopping, taking in a meager $2.7 million, despite a global box office of $425 million. However, Tarantino’s current offering, “Once Upon a Time,” features DiCaprio, an actor fave of Chinese audiences. Expectations were that the film was going to do much better than the above described re-edit debacle.

A critics’ favorite, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has increasingly become a part of the buzz surrounding next year’s Academy Awards. The movie’s performance has been a solid one at the box office, with a $367 million take. Its profit margin has been even more impressive, thanks to a budget of a mere $90 million.

If it were solely up to the studio, which is Sony Pictures, the Chinese censors might have had an easier time getting their way. However, Tarantino was able to obtain the contractual right to the final edited version of the movie, and that puts the filmmaker in the catbird seat in terms of decisions regarding any modifications to the final cut.

Uma Thurman Tells Her Quentin Tarantino Story

Film director Quentin Tarantino has come under fire in the wake of Uma Thurman’s recent revelations to the New York Times that she was treated abysmally on the set of her star vehicle, “Kill Bill.”

Ever since the predatory behavior of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein went public, Thurman has been haunted by her own arduous encounters with Weinstein. In the Times article, though, Thurman emotionally recounts the painful injuries she suffered due to an on-set accident that she claims was covered up by Weinstein and others associated with the movie. The actress also reveals that she was spit on and choked by Tarantino during the filming.

According to Thurman, she was “dehumanized to the point of death” during the movie shoot. She now indicates that Tarantino pressured her into doing a car stunt while the final days of filming were in progress.

Thurman claims that she initially objected to participating in the scene after being told that the car, which had been converted from a stick shift to an automatic, might not be safe.

“I was scared,” she said. “The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road.”

After the car crash, Thurman came back from a visit to the hospital wearing a neck brace. She had a concussion, a neck injury, and her knees were severely injured. She still deals with physical problems from the accident.

Keith Adams, the stunt coordinator who worked on the “Kill Bill“ films, is now speaking out concerning Uma’s allegations, and it may be causing Tarantino to feel more than a bit uncomfortable with what is being said. In an email sent to The Hollywood Reporter, Adams recalled the day that Thurman suffered the accident and remembered that he and all of his stunt staffers were kept away from the set.

“No stunts of any kind were scheduled for the day of Ms. Thurman’s accident. All of the stunt department was put on hold and no one from the stunt department was called to set,” Adams noted.

“At no point was I notified or consulted about Ms. Thurman driving a car on camera that day,” Adams added. “Had I been involved I would have insisted not only on putting a professional driver behind the wheel but also insuring that the car itself was road worthy and safe.”

Adams remarks have served to bolster Thurman’s allegations. In her Times interview, the actress had described the 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible used in the scene as a “deathbox” and additionally claimed that “the seat wasn’t screwed down properly.”

Tarantino, in an apologetic interview with Deadline, characterized Thurman’s car accident as “one of the biggest regrets” of his life. The director admitted that he had engaged in both the choking and the spitting but claimed that the actress had given her consent. The film director also maintained that no one involved in the production had “ever considered it a stunt” but rather viewed it as “just driving.”

Older vehicles that are used for stunt driving during movie productions are frequently inadequately maintained. In watching the video of the crash, which is posted on Thurman’s Instragram account, it can easily be seen that the vehicle is lacking head restraints, shoulder belts, and roll bars.

The actors and broadcast union, SAG-AFTRA, indicated in a statement that the scene in question “sounds like a stunt and would be a likely safety violation.”

Clearly, the footage one sees in the video, depicting an old convertible traveling down a curved sandy road at 40 mph, is the kind of scene that should have been handled by a professional stunt person under the supervision of a stunt coordinator following proper safety procedures, thereby avoiding the exposure of undue risk to a lead actress.

Tarantino has admitted that the road Thurman drove upon while shooting the scene ended up taking a “little S-curve” for which Thurman had not been prepared.

“The circumstances of this event were negligent to the point of criminality,” Thurman stated on her Instagram account. “I do not believe though with malicious intent.”

However, the actress called the cover-up after the fact “unforgivable.” The spitting and choking episodes add to the cumulative impression that Tarantino took advantage of his leverage as a director.

Unfortunately, the director has partnered with Weinstein throughout his career. It is common knowledge in the entertainment community that anyone who worked closely with Weinstein on multiple projects, as Tarantino did, would have been well aware of Weinstein’s predatory proclivities.

Tarantino acknowledged he feels ashamed that he did not take a stronger stand and cut his ties to Weinstein.

“I knew enough to do more than I did,” the director said.