The release of Tarantino’s latest has been cancelled in China

It may or may not have something to do with the much-discussed Bruce Lee scene.


Charles Bramesco


Quentin Tarantino‘s no stranger to controversy, it’s just that for him, the dustups usually concern whether or not he is racist or sexist or insufficiently reverent of Bruce Lee. Headlines with the slight flavor of ‘international incident,’ however — that’s a new one.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news early this morning that China’s National Film Administration has decided to cancel the release of Tarantino’s new film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood just one short week prior to the scheduled rollout. It was to be the first proper debut of a Quentin Tarantino production in the Chinese market, a key piece of the global box-office puzzle, but sudden governmental action has barred the film from theaters.

While it’s standard operating procedure for China’s governing bodies to give no rationale for their decision to blackball a motion picture, THR’s item cites an unnamed source suggesting that the much fussed-about Bruce Lee scene — in which the Brad Pitt-played stuntman Cliff Booth goes mano a mano with the martial arts legend — may have been the cause of the sudden change in plan. Word on the street, as they hear it, is that Lee’s daughter Shannon brought the complaints she’s been airing in the US all year to the higher-ups in China.

It’s a surprising move from China’s film board in part because Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was notably financed in part by the Bona Film Group, a distribution/production/financing outfit based in China. The THR article confirms that the head honchos at Bona have begun working “frantically” with Tarantino to ready an alternate cut that will appease the censors in time for the release on 25 October.

This is just the latest in a series of eyebrow-raising censorship decisions coming from China, an increasingly significant force in Hollywood as well as global film culture. As the NBA and video gaming sectors in the US continue to experience friction with Chinese national policy, Hollywood may arrive at the same difficult conversations about the price of acquiescence that has already consumed sports, e- and otherwise.

Published 18 Oct 2019

Tags: Quentin Tarantino

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