Birth of the Dragon: the Bruce Lee 'origins story' takes a flying leap forward

The martial arts star is to get another biopic, kicking off with the story of a real-life fight in the mid-1960s

Bruce Lee is to return to the big screen in an "origins story" which will use a legendary incident in the martial arts icon's life to spin off into action movie territory, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Birth of the Dragon does not appear to be a traditional biopic, but it does begin with a fight which really took place between Lee and the famed Chinese kung fu master Wong Jack Man in San Francisco in 1964, when the city's Chinatown was ruled by triad gangs from Hong Kong. Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J Rivele's screenplay then transfers into strict fantasy territory as the former combatants team up to battle Chinatown gangsters.

The utilisation of real-life figures as characters in an original story is unusual (if not unheard of) in Hollywood, and it is not clear whether Lee's famously protective estate is involved in Birth of the Dragon, nor whether it would legally need to be for the film to go ahead. Wilkinson and Rivele have previously paid their dues in more traditional biopic fare such as Oliver Stone's Nixon and Michael Mann's Ali.

Lee, the star of martial arts movies such as Enter the Dragon and the earlier Fists of Fury, died in mysterious circumstances in 1973, just as his fame was beginning to spiral into the spectacular. Intriguingly, Wong Jack Man, who claims to have defeated Lee, is still alive and said to be in his 70s. He retired from teaching martial arts in 2005. It is not known whether the film-makers behind Birth of the Dragon have recruited the latter to their cause.

There were few witnesses to the 1964 fight between Lee and Wong, but the former's widow Linda Lee Cadwell reported a comprehensive victory for her husband. His opponent, perhaps inevitably, later published his own, wildly divergent account of the contest.

The best known biopics of Lee are probably the Hollywood-produced 1993 film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, starring Jason Scott Lee, and 2010's Cantonese-language Bruce Lee, My Brother, featuring Aarif Rahman in the lead.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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