Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commended director Quentin Tarantino for refusing to amend his latest film to placate the communist Chinese government’s censors.
Tarantino’s new hit film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, features scenes depicting violence, including one that features Bruce Lee sparring with Pitt’s character.
Days before the film was set to play in Chinese theaters, China informed Sony Pictures it was pulling the movie from airing in the country. The head of the Chinese propaganda department reportedly took issue with the iconic martial artist’s depiction in the film.
Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, reportedly complained to China’s National Film Administration about the film, asking that it be removed because it depicts her father negatively.
Tarantino’s film has already grossed $366 million worldwide on a $90 million budget. Deadline reports, China would give U.S. studios 25 cents of every dollar it would make off the film, but not enough for Tarantino to water down his vision for the Chinese marketplace.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Tarantino on Saturday for refusing to appease the tyrannical Chinese regime.
“I applaud Quentin Tarantino’s refusal to recut his film to appease China’s censorship. Unalienable rights such as free speech should not be for sale,” he wrote.
The secretary of state on Monday warned China’s retaliation against U.S. businesses that refuse to bend over backwards for its totalitarian government is “completely inappropriate.”
Asked whether U.S companies should do business with China at all amid the nation’s censorship efforts, Pompeo warned in an interview with CNBC deals with China will ultimately be financially disadvantageous.
“Look, every company’s gotta make its own set of decisions,” he said. “But what we’ve seen over the last few weeks publicly, but we’ve known now for an awfully long time, is that the long arm of Beijing is reaching out into these companies, stealing their intellectual property, forcing technology transfer, making it very difficult to, in fact, make a profit in China for many, many companies.”
“From a foreign policy perspective, we think it’s completely inappropriate for China to attack U.S. businesses whose employees or customers exercise their fundamental freedoms here in the United States,” he continued. “We just think that makes no sense. And we’d encourage every company to make — take a good, close look ensuring that the kinds of things, the reciprocity that President [Donald] Trump has been demanding from China, actually takes place.”
Pompeo also urged Hollywood not to kowtow to China in exchange for gaining access to the large Chinese audience in a speech to the Motion Picture Association of American in September.
“Pompeo explained that bending to Chinese censors prevents telling the truth about the authoritarian Chinese regime and furthers Chinese information operations and soft power activities,” Washington Free Beacon reports. “He questioned whether a film like Seven Years in Tibet would be made today. The 1997 film depicted the Chinese military takeover of Tibet in 1950 as seen through the eyes of an Austrian mountain climber played by Brad Pitt.”
Despite the push back from China and Lee’s daughter, Tarantino maintains he accurately portrayed the legendary martial artist in his film, basing his character on statements Lee himself has made.
“The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up,” Tarantino said, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
The communist government has frequently set the guidelines for Hollywood, as studios compete to have their films featured among the few that are accepted in the country each year. Most notably, the 2012 remake of Red Dawn featured the Chinese invading the United States, rather than the Soviet and Cuban military invasion as depicted in the original version of the film. But after facing backlash from Beijing, MGM studios capitulated to Chinese censors, altering the identities of the invading troops to forces from North Korea instead of China in post-production.
In the Paramount Pictures trailer of soon to be released “Top Gun: Maverick,” actor Tom Cruise is seen wearing his signature bomber jacket. However, the jacket featured an alteration that ignited controversy. The jacket Cruise wore in the original Top Gun was decorated with the flags of Japan and Taiwan, Chinese rivals. Yet, the two flags appear to have been swapped out and replaced with ambiguous symbols, prompting social media users to speculate the jacket was altered to appease China.
“Hollywood’s embrace of China has not come without strings attached,” the New York Times reports. “So when the creators of “Pixels” wanted to show aliens blasting a hole in the Great Wall of China, Sony executives worried that the scene might prevent the 2015 movie’s release in China, leaked studio emails show. They blew up the Taj Mahal instead.”
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