Brandon Lee

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For other uses, see Brandon Lee (disambiguation).
Brandon Lee
Brandon Lee.jpg
Chinese name 李國豪 (traditional)
Chinese name 李国豪 (simplified)
Pinyin Lǐ Guóháo (Mandarin)
Jyutping Lei5 Gwok3 Hou4 (Cantonese)
Birth name Brandon Bruce Lee
Ancestry Shunde, Guangdong, China
Born (1965-02-01)February 1, 1965
Oakland, California, U.S.
Died March 31, 1993(1993-03-31) (aged 28)
Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S.
Resting place Lake View Cemetery, Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Years active 1985–1993
Partner(s) Eliza Hutton (1990–1993, his death)
Parents Bruce Lee (1940–1973)
Linda Lee Cadwell (born 1945)

Brandon Bruce Lee (February 1, 1965 – March 31, 1993) was an American actor and martial artist. He was the son of martial arts film star Bruce Lee and the grandson of Cantonese opera singer Lee Hoi-chuen.[1]

Starting his career with a supporting role in Kung Fu: The Movie in 1986, he appeared in a handful of action films before he died in an accident while filming The Crow. The film was released posthumously after a stunt double and special effects were used to complete the film.

Early life[edit]

Brandon Lee with his father, Bruce, in 1966.

Lee was born on February 1, 1965 in Oakland, California, the son of martial artist and actor Bruce Lee and Linda Emery. The family moved to Los Angeles, California when he was three months old, but they spent some of his early years in Hong Kong as well.


He attended high school at Chadwick School, but was asked to leave for insubordination—more specifically, driving down the school's hill backwards, only 23 months before graduating. It is not known when exactly, but he did briefly attend Bishop Montgomery High School, located in Torrance. He received his GED in 1983 at the age of 18, and then went to Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where he majored in theater. After one year, Lee moved to New York City where he took acting lessons at the famed Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and was part of the American New Theatre group founded by his friend John Lee Hancock. The bulk of Lee's martial arts instruction came from his father's top students, and best friends Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo.

Career[edit]

Lee returned to Los Angeles in 1985, where he worked for Ruddy Morgan Productions as a script reader. He was asked to audition for a role by casting director Lyn Stalmaster and got his first acting role in Kung Fu: The Movie, a feature-length television movie which was a follow-up to the 1970s television series Kung Fu. The film aired on ABC on February 1, 1986 which was also Lee's 21st birthday. In Kung Fu: The Movie, Lee played Chung Wang, the suspected son of Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine). Lee's real life father was originally considered to play the leading role in the Kung Fu TV series.

Lee got his first leading film role later that year in the Hong Kong action crime thriller Legacy of Rage in which he starred alongside Michael Wong, Regina Kent and Mang Hoi (Look-alike of film star Yuen Biao). It also featured a cameo appearance by Bolo Yeung who appeared in his father's film, Enter the Dragon. Made in Cantonese and directed by Ronny Yu, it was the only film Lee made in Hong Kong. He was also nominated for a Hong Kong Film Award in this role.

In 1987, Lee starred in the unsold television pilot Kung Fu: The Next Generation which aired on CBS Summer Playhouse and was another follow-up to the Kung Fu TV series. In this film the story moved to the present day, and centered on the story of Johnny Caine (Lee), the great-grandson of Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine).[2]

In 1988, Lee made a guest appearance alongside Pat Morita in an episode of the short-lived American television series Ohara playing a villainous character named Kenji. In the summer of 1988, Lee also started filming his first English-language B-grade action film, Laser Mission; it was filmed cheaply in South Africa, and was eventually released on the European market in 1990.

In 1991, he starred opposite Dolph Lundgren in the buddy cop action film Showdown in Little Tokyo. This was marked as his first studio film and American film debut. Lee signed a multi-picture deal with 20th Century Fox in 1991. He had his first starring role in the action thriller Rapid Fire in 1992, and was scheduled to do two more films for them. In August of that year, Bruce Lee biographer John Little asked Brandon Lee what his philosophy in life was, and he replied, "Eat—or die!"[3] Brandon later spoke of the martial arts and self-knowledge:

Well, I would say this: when you move down the road towards mastery of the martial arts—and you know, you are constantly moving down that road—you end up coming up against these barriers inside yourself that will attempt to stop you from continuing to pursue the mastery of the martial arts. And these barriers are such things as when you come up against your own limitations, when you come up against the limitations of your will, your ability, your natural ability, your courage, how you deal with success—and failure as well, for that matter. And as you overcome each one of these barriers, you end up learning something about yourself. And sometimes, the things you learn about yourself can, to the individual, seem to convey a certain spiritual sense along with them.

...It's funny, every time you come up against a true barrier to your progress, you are a child again. And it's a very interesting experience to be reduced, once again, to the level of knowing nothing about what you're doing. I think there's a lot of room for learning and growth when that happens—if you face it head on and don't choose to say, "Ah, screw that! I'm going to do something else!"

We reduce ourselves at a certain point in our lives to kind of solely pursuing things that we already know how to do. You know, because you don't want to have that experience of not knowing what you're doing and being an amateur again. And I think that's rather unfortunate. It's so much more interesting and usually illuminating to put yourself in a situation where you don't know what's going to happen, than to do something again that you already know essentially what the outcome will be within three or four points either way.[4]

In 1992, Lee landed the lead role of Eric Draven, in the movie adaptation of The Crow, a popular underground comic book. About his character, an undead rock musician avenging his murder and that of his fiancée, Lee said, "He has something he has to do and he is forced to put aside his own pain long enough to go do it". It was Lee's last film. Filming began on February 1, 1993, which was his 28th birthday.

Personal life[edit]

In 1990, Lee met Eliza "Lisa" Hutton at director Renny Harlin's office, located at the headquarters of 20th Century Fox. Hutton was working as a personal assistant to Harlin, and later became a story editor for Stillwater Productions, in 1991. Lee and Hutton moved in together in early 1991 and became engaged in October 1992.

They were due to be married in Ensenada, Mexico on April 17, 1993, a week after Lee was to complete filming on The Crow. At the time of Lee's death, Hutton was working as a casting assistant and was on set of The Crow so much that she was later credited with being Lee's on-set assistant. After his death, Hutton petitioned to have gun safety regulations tightened on film sets. The Crow is dedicated to the couple.

Death[edit]

Lee died of a gunshot wound on March 31, 1993 in Wilmington, North Carolina, at the age of 28, after an accidental shooting on set of The Crow.[5]

In the scene in which Lee was accidentally shot, Lee’s character walks into his apartment and discovers his fiancée being beaten and raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee's character fires a .44 Magnum revolver at Lee as he walks into the room.[6] A previous scene using the same gun had called for inert dummy cartridges fitted with bullets (but no powder or percussion primer) to be loaded in the revolver for a close-up scene; for film scenes which utilize a revolver (where the bullets are visible from the front) and do not require the gun to actually be fired, dummy cartridges provide the realistic appearance of actual rounds. Instead of purchasing commercial dummy cartridges, the film's prop crew created their own by pulling the bullets from live rounds, dumping the powder charge then reinserting the bullets. However, they unknowingly or unintentionally left the live percussion primer in place at the rear of the cartridge. At some point during filming the revolver was apparently discharged with one of these improperly-deactivated cartridges in the chamber, setting off the primer with enough force to drive the bullet partway into the barrel, where it became stuck (a condition known as a squib load). The prop crew either failed to notice this or failed to recognize the significance of this issue.

In the fatal scene, which called for the revolver to be actually fired at Lee from a distance of 3.6 - 4.5 meters (12–15 feet), the dummy cartridges were exchanged with blank rounds, which feature a live powder charge and primer, but no bullet, thus allowing the gun to be fired without the risk of an actual projectile. But since the bullet from the dummy round was already trapped in the barrel, this caused the .44 Magnum bullet to be fired out of the barrel with virtually the same force as if the gun had been loaded with a live round, and it struck Lee in the abdomen, mortally wounding him.[7] He was rushed to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina where he underwent 6 hours of surgery. However, attempts to save him were unsuccessful, and Lee was pronounced dead at 1:03 p.m. EST on March 31, 1993, at the age of 28. The shooting was ruled an accident.

The video footage of his death was used as evidence in the investigation, then later destroyed as part of the lawsuit settlement.[8]

Lee's body was flown to Jacksonville, North Carolina, where an autopsy was performed. He was then flown to Seattle, Washington, where he was buried next to his father at the Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, Washington[9] in a plot that Linda Lee Cadwell had originally reserved for herself. A private funeral took place in Seattle on April 3, 1993. Only close family and friends were permitted to attend, including Lee's immediate family as well as fiancée Eliza Hutton's parents and younger sister, who flew in from Missouri. The following day, 250 of Lee's family, friends and business associates attended a memorial service in Los Angeles, held at the house of actress Polly Bergen.

The gravestone, designed by North Snohomish County sculptor Kirk McLean, is a tribute to Lee and Hutton. Its two twisting rectangles of charcoal granite join at the bottom and pull apart at the top. "It represents Eliza and Brandon, the two of them, and how the tragedy of his death separated their mortal life together", said his mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, who described her son, like his father before him, as a poetic, romantic person.[10]

Legacy[edit]

After Lee's death, his fiancée Eliza Hutton and his mother supported director Alex Proyas' decision to complete The Crow. At the time of Lee's death, only eight days were left before completion of the movie. A majority of the film had already been completed with Lee and only a few scenes remained to be done. To complete the film, stunt double Chad Stahelski, who was a friend of Lee's at Inosanto Academy, served as a stand-in; special effects were used to give him Lee's face. Another stunt double, Jeff Cadiente, was also used to complete Lee's parts for the movie.

The Crow was released in May 1994 and became a box office hit, grossing over $50 million in the U.S., and retaining a loyal cult following many years after its release. Lee's portrayal of Eric Draven in particular was met with much critical acclaim and the performance is often considered to have been his most iconic. The film is dedicated to Brandon and Eliza.

The grave site of Brandon Lee and his father, Bruce Lee

In an interview just prior to his death, Lee quoted a passage from Paul Bowles' book The Sheltering Sky that he had chosen for his wedding invitations; it is now inscribed on his tombstone:

Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless...

The quotation is not attributed to Bowles on his tombstone. The interview can be seen on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Crow.

At the time of his death, his father's biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was ready for release. The film was released two months after Lee's death, with a dedication to his memory in the end credits. In the film, his father was portrayed by actor Jason Scott Lee (no relation).[11]

Seven years after Lee's death, a direct-to-video Swedish film titled Sex, Lögner & Videovåld (Sex, Lies & Video Violence) was released in which Lee had a very brief cameo appearance. Lee had filmed his cameo appearance in 1992 at the time he was promoting Rapid Fire in Sweden, but the film was delayed for seven years before finally being released in 2000. It, too, was dedicated to Lee during the end credits.

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1985 Crime Killer Gangster Uncredited
1986 Legacy of Rage Brandon Ma Alternative title: Long Zai Jiang Hu
1989 Laser Mission Michael Gold Alternative titles: Mercenary Man, Soldier of Fortune
1991 Showdown in Little Tokyo Johnny Murata
1992 Rapid Fire Jake Lo
Sex, Lies and Video Violence Cameo Not released until 2000.
1993 The Crow Eric Draven Shot and killed as a result of negligence during filming.
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1986 Kung Fu: The Movie Chung Wang Television Film
1987 Kung Fu: The Next Generation Johnny Caine Television Pilot. Aired on CBS Summer Playhouse
1988 Ohara Kenji Episode: What's in a Name

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brandon Lee follows father's footsteps". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  2. ^ Coleman, Jim (April 1, 1986). "Bruce Lee's Son Speaks Out". Black Belt 24 (4): 20–24, 104. 
  3. ^ Little, John (1996). The Warrior Within - The philosophies of Bruce Lee to better understand the world around you and achieve a rewarding life. Contemporary Books. p. 129. ISBN 0-8092-3194-8. 
  4. ^ Little, John (1996). The Warrior Within - The philosophies of Bruce Lee to better understand the world around you and achieve a rewarding life. Contemporary Books. p. 150. ISBN 0-8092-3194-8. 
  5. ^ http://mostfamousdeaths.blogspot.com/
  6. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (April 1, 1993). "Bruce Lee's Son, Brandon, Killed in Movie Accident". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  7. ^ Harris, Mark (April 16, 1993). "The Brief Life and Unnecessary Death of Brandon Lee". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  8. ^ The Crow (1994) - Trivia - IMDb
  9. ^ Lakeview Cemetery website. Search for Lee. Only use last name.
  10. ^ "New Gravestone Marks Brandon Lee's Final Rest", By M.L. LYKE Seattle P-I Reporter - June 1, 1995
  11. ^ Higgins, Bill (April 30, 1993). "A Film Premiere Tempered by Loss : Memories: Brandon Lee's death made the opening of Bruce Lee's bio a poignant event. But the elder Lee's widow said it was a tribute to both.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 

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