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BRANDON LEE

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Brandon Bruce Lee (李國豪 Cantonese: Li Gwokhu Pinyin: Lǐ Guho; February 1, 1965 March 31, 1993) was an American actor of Chinese, English and Swedish descent. He was the son of the late legendary martial arts film star Bruce Lee and his wife Linda Lee Emery.

Blackbelt Magazine's 1993 Man of the Year

Brandon Lee was born in Oakland, California, to the legendary martial artist actor Bruce Lee and his wife Linda Emery. Only a week after his birth, his grandfather Lee Hoi-Chuen died. The family moved to Los Angeles, California when he was three months old, but when offers for film roles became limited for his father the family moved back to Hong Kong in 1971; Bruce Lee made three films there between 1971 and 1973.

When Lee was eight, his father died suddenly from a cerebral edema. After her husband's death, Linda Lee moved the family (including daughter Wendy Lee, who was born in 1969) back to the United States. They lived briefly in his mother's hometown of Seattle, Washington, and then in Los Angeles, where Lee grew up in the affluent area of Rolling Hills. According to his mother, he was "a handful... either the teacher's pet, or the teacher's nightmare."

He attended high school at Chadwick School, but was expelled for insubordination three months before graduating. He received his GED in 1983, 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 Academy 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 student,
Dan Inosanto.

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 then made his acting debut in Kung Fu: The Movie, which was a feature-length television movie and a follow-up to the 1970s television series Kung Fu. The film aired on ABC on February 1, 1986 which was also Lee's birthday.

In Kung Fu: The Movie, Lee played Chung Wang, the suspected son of Kwai Chang Caine (played by David Carradine). This seemed ironic at the time as Brandon's father Bruce Lee was originally intended to have played the leading role in the Kung Fu TV series as he had also come up with the original concept for the TV series but in the end he was turned down for playing the lead in favor for Carradine.

Herbie Pilato, in his 1993 book The Kung Fu Book of Caine: The Complete Guide to TV's First Mystical Eastern Western, commented on the casting of the original Kung Fu series:

"Before the filming of the Kung Fu TV series began, there was some discussion as to whether or not an Asian actor should play Kwai Chang Caine. Bruce Lee was considered for the role. In 1971, Bruce Lee wasn't the cult film hero he later became for his roles in The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury (1972), Way of the Dragon (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973). At that point he was best known as Kato on TV's Green Hornet (1966-1967). After Bruce Lee lost the part to Carradine, he went back to China, where he made The Big Boss, the film that began his legendary career in martial arts movies."

Later that same year in 1986 Lee got his first major film role in the Hong Kong action thriller Legacy of Rage in which he starred alongside Michael Wong and Bolo Yeung, the latter of whom also appeared in his father's last film, Enter the Dragon. The film was made in Cantonese, and directed by Ronny Yu. It was the only film Lee made in Hong Kong in his entire career.

Lee then went onto star in a unsuccessful television pilot which was another follow-up to the television series Kung Fu and was titled Kung Fu: The Next Generation. In this film the story moved to the present day, and centered on the story of Johnny Caine (played by Lee), who is the great-grandson of Kwai Chang Caine. The pilot was not picked up for a series but did air on CBS Summer Playhouse, a series that aired unsold television pilots during the summer of 1987.

Lee then made a guest appearance in an episode of the short-lived American television series Ohara (1988) as a villainious character named Kenji opposite Pat Morita who played the title role.

In 1990, Lee starred in his first English language B-grade film, Laser Mission, which was filmed cheaply in South Africa. In 1991, he starred opposite Dolph Lundgren in the buddy cop action thriller Showdown in Little Tokyo which marked 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 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 and his fiance's murder, 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 would be Lee's last film. Filming began on February 1, 1993, which was his 28th birthday.

On March 31, 1993, the film crew filmed a scene in which Lee's character walked into his apartment and discovered his girlfriend being raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee, who played one of the film's villains, was supposed to fire a gun at Lee as he walked into his apartment with groceries.

Because the movie's second unit team were running behind schedule, it was decided that dummy cartridges (cartridges that outwardly appear to be functional, but contain no gunpowder) would be made from real cartridges. A cartridge with only a primer and a bullet was fired in the pistol prior to the scene. It caused a squib load, in which the primer provided enough force to push the bullet out of the cartridge and into the barrel of the revolver, where it became stuck.

The malfunction went unnoticed by the crew, and the same gun was used again later to shoot the death scene, having been re-loaded with blanks. However, the squib load was still lodged in the barrel, and was propelled by the blank cartridge's explosion out of the barrel and into Lee's body. Although the bullet was traveling much more slowly than a normally fired bullet would be, the bullet's large size and the nearly point-blank firing distance made it powerful enough to mortally wound Lee.

When the blank was fired, the bullet shot out and hit Lee in the abdomen. He fell down instantly and the director shouted "CUT!," but Lee did not respond. The cast and crew filming rushed to him and noticed he was wounded. He was immediately rushed to the hospital where the doctors tried to revive him for five hours. It was too late however and he was pronounced dead at 1.00am.

The footage of the incident was soon destroyed without ever being developed.

His funeral was held several days later; he was buried next to his father in Lake View Cemetery, Seattle. The following day, a memorial service was held in Los Angeles.

The shooting was ruled as an accident, although many fans suspected foul play. (Bruce Lee's own death in 1973, at the age of 32, apparently from a reaction to an analgesic he had taken, was also considered suspicious.) The theory of the Lee "family curse" was also carried over from Bruce Lee's death to Brandon's death as he had died almost 20 years after his father and before the release of the film which could have potentially catapulted him to stardom.

At the time of his death, he was allegedly in talks with filmmakers about making sequels to Rapid Fire and The Crow.

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