Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood takes place during a tumultuous time in 1969 Los Angeles. The film centers on the bromance between Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Rick Dalton, a fading Western star, and Brad Pitt‘s Cliff Booth, his loyal stuntman. Throughout the film, both of these fictional characters interact with a number of real-life famous figures of the time, including Sharon Tate, Steve McQueen, Charles Manson, and martial arts icon Bruce Lee.
Actor Mike Moh dons Lee’s signature shades and brings the martial arts icon back to life in Tarantino’s film, and with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood now in theaters, the actor recently stopped by the Collider studio for an interview and martial arts display. He talked about experiences working with Tarantino, how he’s been preparing to play Bruce Lee his whole life, and why the cancellation of ABC’s Inhumans proved fortuitous for him.
A self-professed lifelong Bruce Lee fan, Moh told me that he fought hard for this opportunity and even assured Tarantino at his audition that he was the right man for the job (an acting no-no). I asked him what it was like to work with the director and what his impressions were of Tarantino as a Bruce Lee fan, and Moh revealed how their first meeting went:
“[Tarantino] is a massive Bruce Lee fan and he knows so much about every single movie ever made. It’s unbelievable, actually. I remember the first time I met him when I auditioned for him. We just talked Bruce [Lee] for like 20 to 30 minutes. After I met him, I just felt how important this was to him and how important Bruce was to him personally and to this film.”
Moh is a 5th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. When I asked him what inspired him to pursue this demanding and rigorous fight discipline, he told me that watching Jackie Chan in Rumble in the Bronx got him “hooked”. However, it wasn’t until he saw Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, when he was 12 years old, that he knew he had to pursue this discipline.
“My Dad and I would watch other (martial arts) movies and then I saw Enter the Dragon. It busted the door wide open. It was like the wormhole to, not only Bruce Lee, but just martial arts. And I was like I need to learn! I need to learn!”
Moh spent the next two years convincing his parents that their self-described “small” and “weak” son could do martial arts, and eventually they signed him up at a local Tae Kwon Do school. From that moment on, the study of martial arts and, by extension, Bruce Lee has been a major part of Moh’s life. He would spend hours perfecting Lee’s voice and his fight movements.
He also followed in his idol’s footsteps and became an actor. Moh played Ryu in Street Fighter: Resurrection, and in TV, he recurred as Steve Cho in Empire and Triton in Inhumans. Speaking of Inhumans, I asked the martial artist about his experiences on the ill-fated Marvel adaptation. He was very magnanimous about it:
“Obviously things don’t always work out the way you plan them to. Maybe that door closed. But because of that opportunity, other doors opened. Paths zig and zag. Who knows? If that show didn’t get cancelled maybe I’m not available to do this. I’m very grateful for Scott Buck, ABC and Marvel.”
Moh certainly makes the most of his opportunity in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and leaves the viewer with an impression about his acting talent and his incredible martial arts skills. He’s certainly an exciting actor to keep your eye on for the future. To watch the whole interview click on the YouTube link at the top of this article. To see a display of Moh’s extensive martial arts skills (at my expense), feel free to click here.