Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio Share Brushes With Industry Tragedy Ahead of 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'

Pitt recalls Brandon Lee expressing fears he'd die young like his father Bruce Lee.
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Brandon Lee (left), Brad Pitt

One night in 1992, Brandon Lee told fellow actor Brad Pitt that he feared he would die young, just like his father, Bruce Lee.

During an interview with Esquire that published Tuesday, Pitt, who stars as Cliff Booth alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, recalled one particularly eerie evening from his early days in Tinseltown when he found himself partying with the younger Lee.

"He drove a hearse and lived in Echo Park," Pitt recalled of Lee. "We went out one night and everyone else had peeled off, and we ended up back at his place and it was like six in the morning. A real, you know, drunk and stony night, and he proceeded that night to tell me how he thought he was going to die young like his dad. And I just chalked it up to, you know, stony 6 a.m. talk. Then he got The Crow the next year."

Lee was shot and killed with a defective blank, a freak accident on the set of The Crow. He was 28.

The Alex Proyas film based on the Caliber comic was released in 1994 and became a hit spawning sequels (which were panned).

Lee's father, martial arts master and star Bruce Lee, died at the age of 32 in 1973.

The elder Lee is portrayed in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Mike Moh. The character is prominently featured in both trailers for the upcoming film, Tarantino's ninth.

In the same Esquire interview, DiCaprio revealed that he saw River Phoenix the night the actor died.

The Oscar winner, who plays Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time, said he always revered Phoenix, but their paths had never crossed — that is, until the evening of Oct. 31, 1993.

"All I ever wanted was to have just an opportunity to shake his hand," DiCaprio began. "And one night, at a party in Silver Lake, I saw him walk up a flight of stairs. And then the crowd got in my way, and I looked back and he was gone. I walked back up the stairs and back down, and I was like, 'Where did he go?'"

Phoenix was on his way to the Viper Room. There he would die of an overdose. He was 23.

"It was almost as if — I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s this existential thing where I felt like ... he disappeared in front of my very eyes, and the tragedy that I felt afterward of having lost this great influence for me and all of my friends," DiCaprio said. "The actor we all talked about. Just to be able to have that, always wanting to just — and I remember extending my hand out, and then ... Two people came in front and then I looked back, and then he wasn’t there."

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood premiered Tuesday at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received a six-minute standing ovation. It is set to open wide July 26.