Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)

PG-13 | 120 mins | Biography, Drama, Romance | 7 May 1993

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HISTORY

The film concludes with voice-over narration by Lauren Holly as “Linda Lee”: “Three weeks before the opening of Enter the Dragon, the film that brought him international fame, Bruce fell into a mysterious coma and died. He was thirty-two. Over 25,000 people attended his funeral in Hong Kong, but I buried him back home in America to be close to us. All these years later, people still wonder about the way he died. I prefer to remember the way he lived.”
       On the DVD viewed for this record, opening credits are preceded by a seven-minute slideshow of photographs from Bruce Lee’s life. The following quote by Lee is displayed onscreen: “As long as I can remember I feel I have had this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these combined. My brain becomes magnetized with this dominating force which I hold in my hand.”
       End credits state: “The filmmakers would like to thank Linda Lee Cadwell; Shannon Lee; Fred Weintraub; Van Williams; Ed Parker, Jr.; Adrian Marshall, Esq.; and Bonnie Timmerman for their invaluable participation,” and acknowledge the following: “Scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s courtesy of Paramount Pictures”; “Film clip from Kung Fu courtesy of Warner Bros. Television”; “Footage from Fists of Fury and Return of the Dragon courtesy of Singel Films B.V., Copyright ©Paragon Films Ltd. All rights reserved.”; “Characters from The Green Hornet appear through the courtesy of ‘The Green Hornet, Inc.’”; “News clip from 1963 courtesy of ©NBC News Video Archives”; “Footage from ...

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The film concludes with voice-over narration by Lauren Holly as “Linda Lee”: “Three weeks before the opening of Enter the Dragon, the film that brought him international fame, Bruce fell into a mysterious coma and died. He was thirty-two. Over 25,000 people attended his funeral in Hong Kong, but I buried him back home in America to be close to us. All these years later, people still wonder about the way he died. I prefer to remember the way he lived.”
       On the DVD viewed for this record, opening credits are preceded by a seven-minute slideshow of photographs from Bruce Lee’s life. The following quote by Lee is displayed onscreen: “As long as I can remember I feel I have had this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these combined. My brain becomes magnetized with this dominating force which I hold in my hand.”
       End credits state: “The filmmakers would like to thank Linda Lee Cadwell; Shannon Lee; Fred Weintraub; Van Williams; Ed Parker, Jr.; Adrian Marshall, Esq.; and Bonnie Timmerman for their invaluable participation,” and acknowledge the following: “Scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s courtesy of Paramount Pictures”; “Film clip from Kung Fu courtesy of Warner Bros. Television”; “Footage from Fists of Fury and Return of the Dragon courtesy of Singel Films B.V., Copyright ©Paragon Films Ltd. All rights reserved.”; “Characters from The Green Hornet appear through the courtesy of ‘The Green Hornet, Inc.’”; “News clip from 1963 courtesy of ©NBC News Video Archives”; “Footage from General Hospital courtesy of Capital Cities, Inc., ABC Television”; “James Dean poster courtesy of the 1992 James Dean Foundation, under license authorized by Curtis Management Group, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.”; and, “Permission for use of Big Boss posters courtesy of Golden Harvest Films.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Rob Cohen was a long-time admirer of actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, and attended the 1973 U.S. premiere of Enter the Dragon (see entry). Although several filmmakers expressed interest in producing a motion picture biography of Lee’s life, Cohen’s project was supposedly the first proposal approved by Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell. On 30 Jul 1989, LAT announced that Universal Pictures had purchased film rights to The Man Only I Knew, Cadwell’s 1975 biography of her husband. The deal also included rights to Bruce Lee: The Biography (1989), written by Enter the Dragon director Robert Clouse, which is cited as “additional source material” in end credit acknowledgments. Both Clouse and Linda Lee Cadwell served as consultants on the picture.
       According to the 27 Apr 1992 DV, the screenplay was originally written by Edward Khmara, with two subsequent drafts completed by John Raffo and Cohen, who was hired to direct. A 5 Apr 1989 Var article stated that the $6—$10 million production was the first of several low-budget projects planned for Universal. However, the 2 Jun 1992 HR indicated a cost of $13.5 million, which was raised through producer Rafaella De Laurentiis’ Old Code Productions, Ltd., based in London, England.
       While casting was expected to begin in early 1990, an 8 Apr 1991 HR brief more than a year later indicated that Universal was still considering actors for the lead role, including Lee’s own son, Brandon Lee. Production notes stated that Cohen’s friend, casting director Bonnie Timmermann, suggested Jason Scott Lee (no relation), whom she discovered while casting The Last of the Mohicans (1992, see entry). Timmermann’s onscreen acknowledgment credits her as “Bonnie Timmerman.”
       Although the 14—20 Nov 1991 Hollywood Drama-Logue reported an expected start date of Mar 1992, production notes confirmed that principal photography began 11 May 1992 in Hong Kong. Overseas filming continued for six weeks, with locations including the Tsing Ling Temple, where the opening sequence was shot; the Mongkok Kai Fong Association, which stood in for the “Cha Cha” dance hall; and a movie theater in the Portuguese territory of Macau. A 23 Mar 1993 LADN brief claimed that Hong Kong police intervened when an organized crime group known as the “Triads” attempted to extort money from the production company. Filming concluded 14 Aug 1992 in Valencia, CA. End credits also acknowledge that portions of the picture were filmed at Santa Clarita Studios in Santa Clarita, CA.
       According to the 16 May 1993 LAT, the film contained a cameo appearance by Van Williams, star of the 1966 ABC television series, The Green Hornet, in which Bruce Lee appeared as “Kato.” In Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Williams portrays a director in a recreation of Lee’s debut in the series. The 2 Jun 1992 HR also stated that the character of “Philip Tan” was based on Raymond Chow, founder of the Hong Kong film company Golden Harvest, who was instrumental in launching Lee’s film career. Golden Harvest was not involved with the production of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, and reportedly offered “commercial rates” for rights to footage, posters, and additional material related to Lee’s films.
       The premiere was held 28 Apr 1993 at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA, according to the 30 Apr 1993 LAT. The event was considered a “tribute to father and son,” following Brandon Lee’s accidental death on the set of The Crow (1994, see entry) on 31 Mar 1993. The picture is dedicated to Brandon Lee through the onscreen statement, “Dedicated to the Memory of Brandon Bruce Lee, February 1, 1965—March 31, 1993,” accompanied by the quote: “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”
       The 10 May 1993 LAT “Morning Report” column stated that the film took in roughly $10 million from 1,887 screens, which was considered the biggest opening to date for the “typically slow first weekend in May.”
       A 29 May 1993 LAT news item reported that Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story had been banned from release in the U.K. by the British Board of Film Classification, due to the use of the outlawed nunchaku weapons in one of the film’s fight sequences. Although Cohen initially stated he would prefer to “keep the movie out of British release than edit it,” he ultimately agreed to replace one-third of the scene with previously unused footage.
       On 15 May 1995, HR announced that Acclaim Entertainment planned to release a video game based on the film later that year, which would be available for 3DO, Nintendo Super NES, Sega Genesis, and Sega Game Gear platforms. Although the article stated that the game was to be titled “The Dragon,” it was released under the same name as the motion picture. End credits state: “Play the Virgin video games.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Apr 1992
---
Hollywood Drama-Logue
14-20 Nov 1991
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 1991
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1992
Section I, pp. 6-7
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1993
p. 5, 19
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1995
p. 6, 18
Los Angeles Daily News
23 Mar 1993
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Jul 1989
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Apr 1993
---
Los Angeles Times
7 May 1993
p. 1
Los Angeles Times
10 May 1993
Section F, p. 2
Los Angeles Times
16 May 1993
---
Los Angeles Times
29 May 1993
---
New York Times
7 May 1993
p. 19
Variety
5 Apr 1989
p. 26
Variety
3 May 1993
pp. 40-41
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures Presents
A Raffaella De Laurentiis Production
A Rob Cohen Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Hong Kong prod mgr
Hong Kong 1st asst dir
DGA trainee
2d 2d asst dir, United States
2d 2d asst dir, Hong Kong
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Hong Kong assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
1st asst cam, United States
1st asst cam, United States
1st asst cam, Hong Kong
1st asst cam, Hong Kong
2d asst cam, United States
2d asst cam, United States
2d asst cam, Hong Kong
2d asst cam, Hong Kong
Steadicam op, United States
Asst Steadicam, United States
Video assist, United States
Still photog, United States
Still photog, Hong Kong
Gaffer, United States
Gaffer, Hong Kong
Key grip, United States
Key grip, Hong Kong
Dolly grip, United States
Dolly grip, Hong Kong
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Storyboard artist
Asst art dir, United States
Asst art dir, United States
Asst art dir, Hong Kong
Asst art dir, Hong Kong
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Const foreman
Leadman, United States
Leadman, Hong Kong
Set dresser, United States
Set dresser, United States
Set dresser, Hong Kong
Set dresser, Hong Kong
Swing gang, United States
Swing gang, Hong Kong
Swing gang, Hong Kong
Standby painter, United States
Standby painter, Hong Kong
Prop master, United States
Prop master, Hong Kong
COSTUMES
Cost des
Assoc cost des
Cost supv, United States
Cost supv, Hong Kong
Ward asst, United States
Ward asst, Hong Kong
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus contractor
Mus scoring mixer
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd des
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley artist
Prod sd mixer, United States
Prod sd mixer, Hong Kong
Boom op, United States
Boom op, Hong Kong
Demon sounds played by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Spec eff coord
Digital eff ed
Titles and opticals
Title des
Unit eff, United States
Unit eff, United States
Unit eff, Hong Kong
Unit eff, Hong Kong
Visual eff
Visual eff, VCE, Inc.
MAKEUP
Key make-up
Key hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Jeet Kune Do trainer and tech adv
Post-prod supv
Transportation coord
Consultant
Consultant
Demon fabricator
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
2d asst accountant
Unit pub
Safety coord
Asst to Mr. Cohen
Asst to Mr. Cohen
Asst to Miss de Laurentiis
Driver
Driver
Driver
Prod supv, United States
Prod supv, Hong Kong
Prod coord, United States
Prod coord, Hong Kong
Prod secy, United States
Prod secy, Hong Kong
Loc mgr, United States
Loc mgr, Hong Kong
Asst loc mgr, United States
Asst loc mgr, Hong Kong
Casting asst, United States
Casting asst, United States
Casting asst, Hong Kong
Casting asst, Hong Kong
Extras casting, United States
Extras casting, United States
Transportation capt, United States
Transportation capt, Hong Kong
Prod asst, United States
Prod asst, United States
Prod asst, United States
Prod asst, United States
Prod asst, Hong Kong
Prod asst, Hong Kong
Prod asst, Hong Kong
Prod asst, Hong Kong
ADR casting
STAND INS
Fight choreog
Jeet Kune Do choreog
Jeet Kune Do choreog
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew by Linda Lee Cadwell (New York, 1975).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
"Hong Kong Cha Cha," performed by Lynn Ray and Xiao Fen Min, lyrics by Rob Cohen, music by Robert Randles, Chinese translation by Ling Ling Li and Yvette Lau, produced by Robert Randles; "California Dreaming," performed by Shannon Lee, written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips; "Party Lights," written and performed by Claudine Clark, courtesy of Chancellor Records, Inc., by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.; "Er Hu Bye Bye," performed by Jiebing Chen, written by Robert Randles, produced by Ling Ling Li and Robert Randles; "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence," performed by Gene Pitney, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, courtesy of Highland Music, Inc., by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing, Inc.; "Green Onions," performed by Marty Blasick, written by Al Jackson, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper and Lewis Steinberg; "Drunken Princess," performed by Grace Zhan, arranged by Robert Randles, produced by Ling Ling Li and Robert Randles; "Cues 'Big Boss' (a/k/a 'Fists of Fury')," written by Joseph Koo, courtesy of Golden Harvest Films and Next Decade Entertainment; "'Kung Fu' Main Title Theme," written by James Helms; "Runaway," performed by Del Shannon, written by Del Shannon and Max Crook, courtesy of Mole Hole Records, by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.; "Tightrope," written and performed by Leon Russell, courtesy of Compact Classics, Inc., by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 May 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 28 Apr 1993; Los Angeles and New York openings: 7 May 1993
Production Date:
11 May--14 Aug 1992
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Universal City Studios, Inc.
13 July 1993
PA640651
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Filmed in Fujicolor
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32381
SYNOPSIS

In 1949 Hong Kong, Bruce Lee’s father awakens from a nightmare in which a demon dressed in black samurai armor threatens his son. Later that morning, the elder Lee takes young Bruce to begin martial arts training, which he continues throughout his adolescence. In 1961, Bruce, now a teenager, fights a group of intoxicated British sailors harassing a Chinese girl during the town Lantern Festival. Bruce easily defeats them, but the incident gets him into trouble with police. Bruce’s father suggests he leave Hong Kong to escape the demon that haunts him. Revealing that Bruce was actually born in San Francisco, California, during his U.S. tour with the Cantonese Opera Company, Bruce’s father presents his son with money and an American birth certificate, and makes him promise to achieve international fame. By the following year, Bruce gets a job as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant and begins an affair with one of the waitresses. When he gets into a fight with a jealous cook, the restaurant owner fires Bruce with two weeks’ severance and an all-purpose loan, which she encourages him to use to enroll in school. At university, Bruce brawls with several racist athletes on campus, and decides to utilize his fighting skills by teaching a martial arts class. A woman named Linda Emery expresses interest in lessons, and they begin dating. With Linda’s encouragement, Bruce opens the successful Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute. Over time, Bruce becomes frustrated that Linda has kept their relationship a secret from her racist mother, Vivian Emery. Despite her mother’s objections to an interracial union, Linda marries Bruce in 1964. Bruce expands his studio franchise to Oakland, California, and quickly gains ...

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In 1949 Hong Kong, Bruce Lee’s father awakens from a nightmare in which a demon dressed in black samurai armor threatens his son. Later that morning, the elder Lee takes young Bruce to begin martial arts training, which he continues throughout his adolescence. In 1961, Bruce, now a teenager, fights a group of intoxicated British sailors harassing a Chinese girl during the town Lantern Festival. Bruce easily defeats them, but the incident gets him into trouble with police. Bruce’s father suggests he leave Hong Kong to escape the demon that haunts him. Revealing that Bruce was actually born in San Francisco, California, during his U.S. tour with the Cantonese Opera Company, Bruce’s father presents his son with money and an American birth certificate, and makes him promise to achieve international fame. By the following year, Bruce gets a job as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant and begins an affair with one of the waitresses. When he gets into a fight with a jealous cook, the restaurant owner fires Bruce with two weeks’ severance and an all-purpose loan, which she encourages him to use to enroll in school. At university, Bruce brawls with several racist athletes on campus, and decides to utilize his fighting skills by teaching a martial arts class. A woman named Linda Emery expresses interest in lessons, and they begin dating. With Linda’s encouragement, Bruce opens the successful Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute. Over time, Bruce becomes frustrated that Linda has kept their relationship a secret from her racist mother, Vivian Emery. Despite her mother’s objections to an interracial union, Linda marries Bruce in 1964. Bruce expands his studio franchise to Oakland, California, and quickly gains a diverse following. Elder members of the martial arts community ban him from accepting non-Chinese students, but Bruce refuses to stop teaching and agrees to resolve the dispute by challenging a fighter named Johnny Sun. Although Bruce wins, Sun kicks Bruce in the back after fight is over, which causes serious spinal injury. Throughout his recovery, Linda helps him write The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, and gives birth to their son, Brandon. The baby reunites the couple with Linda’s mother, whose prejudice dissolves upon seeing the happy family. Once his back is fully healed, Bruce attends Ed Parker’s International Karate Championship, where he promises to defeat any challenger in under sixty seconds. Johnny Sun steps forward, and Bruce easily kicks Sun out of the ring. The performance captures the attention of television producer Bill Krieger, who hires Bruce for the television series The Green Hornet. Bruce impresses Krieger as the title character’s assistant, “Kato,” and together they brainstorm ideas for Lee to star in his own television series, Kung Fu. However, network executives disapprove of an Asian lead, and David Carradine is cast instead. When his father dies, Bruce returns to Hong Kong for the funeral and reunites with his former Kung Fu teacher, who advises him to face the evil spirit from his father’s visions so that his demons are not passed down to Brandon. Just before Bruce returns home, a Hong Kong film producer named Philip Tan informs him that he has gained substantial fan following from The Green Hornet, popularly known by locals as The Kato Show, and hires him to star in a feature film titled The Big Boss. During the final scene, Johnny Sun’s vengeful brother Luke attacks Bruce on set. When the fight is over, Bruce destroys the film footage and returns to his family, including his new daughter, Shannon, in San Francisco. In the wake of Bruce’s sudden overseas success, the Lees move to the suburbs of Hong Kong as he continues his acting career for Pearl of the Orient Studios. One day, Bill Krieger suggests Bruce for the lead role in the Warner Bros. feature, Enter the Dragon. Meanwhile, Linda has grown frustrated with her husband’s oppressive work schedule and wishes to take the children back to San Francisco, but Bruce remains disillusioned by his inability to overcome racist Hollywood stereotypes and chooses to stay. On the thirty-second day of filming, Bruce envisions facing off against the samurai demon, which shows him his gravestone inscribed with the death date, “July 20, 1973.” When Brandon screams in the distance, the demon turns toward the boy, but Bruce finally defeats the spirit with a pair of nunchaku. Moved by the prophecy, Bruce walks off the set and rushes home to play with his children. On the final day of production, Bruce kisses Linda and tells her he loves her before returning to set to film the last shot of the movie.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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