New Film Will Follow Bruce Lee’s Life-Changing Fight
In 1973, martial arts legend Bruce Lee set the Asian action movie world on fire with ENTER THE DRAGON. Building his movie reputation with such films as THE BIG BOSS, THE WAY OF THE DRAGON, and FISTS OF FURY, DRAGON rocketed Lee, with his natural charisma and mastery of the Wing Chun art viscerally depicted onscreen, to worldwide stardom.
In the forty-plus years since ENTER THE DRAGON’s release, Lee has been the subject of a host of artistic tributes to his pop culture legacy. There have been biopics, hip-hop homages, and even, this winter, a CGI replication. Now, an upcoming film will explore an infamous battle that may have been a major turning point for Lee.
Per a November 16 Variety report, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON “recreates the mid-1960’s fight between Lee and Wong Jack Man from the point of view of [martial arts student Steve] McKee.” The film will begin shooting next week in Vancouver, Canada.
A Mental Floss article on the showdown between Lee and Wong, which went down in 1964, notes “Lee [told] Black Belt magazine his encounter with Wong would change his way of thinking forever, evolving from a strict Wing Chun style to his own Jeet Kune Do.” In the decade following the Wolf battle, Lee built a martial arts movie legacy of international renown.
Starring as the Asian action movie icon is Philip Ng. While filling Lee’s shoes would be a daunting task for any actor, but Ng’s resume, like Lee’s, combines both martial arts study and acting. The Hong Kong-born Ng has featured in such films as ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHANGHAI and PRINCESS AND THE SEVEN KUNG FU MASTERS, while overseeing martial arts choreography for several movies.
Further BIRTH OF THE DRAGON acting credits, per Variety, include Yu Xia (as Lee’s counterpart Wong Jack Man), Billy Magnussen (Steve McKee), Jinging Qu, and Jin Xing. American George Nolfi, who wrote the script for 2007 action hit THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, will handle directing duties.
Pulling off a successful biopic is never an easy task, and working in the shadow of Bruce Lee’s legacy will only up the stakes. How many biopics have you watched that made you yearn for the real thing rather than some hagiographic plea for prestige: “I should’ve just watched this actor’s movie,” or “listened to this band’s song,” or “read this author’s novel,” than seen a clumsy recreation of the original.
However, perhaps by pinpointing a specific moment, in Lee’s life, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON can come alive, rather than dulling its subject down with a prolonged, overly reverential “epic.” Lee found, in cinemas, a venue to viscerally capture his action-packed art. What could be a more fitting movie tribute than one about the fight that changed his life?