The Story Of Bruce Lee's Infamous Brawl With A Stuntman Finally Comes To Light

Anyone who’s seen Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood will remember the infamous scene where Brad Pitt’s stuntman character squares up to Bruce Lee, who’s played by Mike Moh. While entertaining, the sequence has proven controversial because of the way it depicts the legendary martial arts master. Many people consider the scene to be insulting – but the truth is that Bruce Lee really did once get in a fight with a stuntman on set. And while it didn’t quite play out the same way as in Tarantino’s epic, it was still pretty dramatic.

On the set of The Green Hornet

The real-life brawl took place in 1966, when Lee was in the middle of filming The Green Hornet. This was the show that gave the martial artist his first real taste of fame, with his performance as Kato really capturing people’s attention. After all, American viewers had never really seen anything like Lee’s distinct fighting style before.

Issues with stuntment

While audiences lapped up Lee’s performance in The Green Hornet, though, behind the scenes there were some issues. Lee was apparently going too hard on the stuntmen he worked with, often leaving them beaten up from their scenes together. So, the producers brought in “Judo” Gene LeBell, a stuntman who’d developed a reputation as “the toughest man alive.”

What triggered it all

LeBell was instructed to stand up to Lee and give him a little taste of his own medicine. And that’s exactly what he set out to do. One day on the Green Hornet set, he approached Lee and made a grab for him. As you might imagine, Lee wasn’t overly happy about that.

Inspired Tarantino

This brawl between Lee and LeBell is clearly what inspired Tarantino to shoot the fight scene in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. Many people have spoken out against the sequence, whereas Tarantino has come out to vehemently defend it. But how accurate was the director’s depiction of the fight?