Tarantino film runs afoul of China as release halted

Still from Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood starring (from left) Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Pacino.
Still from Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood starring (from left) Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Pacino.PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese authorities halted a planned Oct 25 release of director Quentin Tarantino's newest film, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, the latest in a growing number of costly trade and cultural disputes between the US and the world's most-populous country.

The decision to halt the release may have been tied to the violence in the film or the portrayal of Bruce Lee, the late martial arts movie star.

Lee's daughter made a direct appeal to China's National Film Administration requesting changes to the scenes that depict her father, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The director is refusing to make any changes.

Once Upon a Time has taken in US$366.7 million (S$500.3 million) globally since its US debut in July. It's the second-highest grossing release of the year for Sony Corp, after the latest Spider-Man installment.

Lee comes off badly in the film, boasting about his fighting skills and then getting whipped by Brad Pitt's character.

Although the indefinite postponement doesn't appear to be related to US-China trade negotiations or pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, it underscores the delicate nature of doing business in the country.

The NBA recently lost a number of local sponsors in China when the general manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted his support for protesters in Hong Kong. Commissioner Adam Silver said "the financial consequences may go on and be fairly dramatic".