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Shannon Lee, the daughter of the late kung fu movie star Bruce Lee, announced on Friday plans for a new screen biography of her father, to be produced in association with Janet Yang, Lawrence Grey and Ben Everard.
Although there have been movies featuring Lee — including a 1993 biopic produced by Universal — Shannon Lee said there has never been a feature film that captured his philosophy, extensive writings and entire life history, as well as his skill as a martial artist, which is the goal of this latest development effort.
“There have been projects out there involving my father,” said Lee, “but they’ve lacked a complete understanding of his philosophies and artistry. They haven’t captured the essence of his beliefs in martial arts or storytelling. The only way to get audiences to understand the depth and uniqueness of my father is to generate our own material.”
Lee, who was 4 years old when her dad died, may be announcing the development project now because other movies are in the works that feature Lee without the input or authorization of the estate or Bruce Lee Entertainment, which was formed nearly two years ago to bring about a range of projects and commercial tie-ins.
For instance, earlier this week, producer Bill Block — as part of his settlement agreement with Media Content Capital as he exits QED — said they are moving forward with Birth of the Dragon, a project based on a magazine article for which they acquired rights. There were discussions with the Lee estate, but those did not lead to any agreement that would involve Bruce Lee Entertainment.
Since Bruce Lee Entertainment was formed, they have also licensed the use of Lee’s name and image for commercials, including spots in the past year by Mazda and Johnny Walker whiskey.
It is not clear if the movie would portray Shannon’s late brother, Brandon, who was a budding movie star when his life was cut short in a tragic accident on the set of the movie The Crow in 1993 in North Carolina.
Grey, whose credits include Last Vegas and Hope Springs, is apparently financing the development of a script. They are seeking a filmmaker and possibly stars to attach to the project.
Bruce Lee Entertainment also has a TV series in development with director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6), and there is a reality show in development for the Chinese market with Keanu Reeves and Stephen Hamel of Company Films (John Wick).
The estate has already produced a video game, Bruce Lee: Enter the Game, which, according to the announcement, has sold 5 million downloads in the first month of availability.
Yang, who began her career working with Steven Spielberg and later Oliver Stone, is expected to play a key role in making a deal for the proposed feature once there is a treatment, script or other attachments.
Yang also played a role in the 1993 movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, which Rob Cohen wrote and directed for Universal. That movie took a lot of license with Lee’s life story for dramatic effect and even made it seem as if Lee did not have brothers and sisters.
Bruce Lee was a child actor in China before moving to the U.S. at age 18. He later starred in the TV series The Green Hornet as Kato but had to return to his native Hong Kong to ignite his movie career as an adult. He made his first big American movie Enter the Dragon but then died shortly before it was released. It made him into the first Asian superstar on a global scale and an icon along with James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and a handful of others.
Shannon Lee has said she wants a movie that goes to the heart of who her father was and tells the true story. Yang will also consult on the China market.
When Bruce Lee died in 1973, the Chinese government wanted nothing to do with him. Over the years, the Chinese have seen the value of having an iconic Asian superstar and have now backed a museum and several projects, including a multipart TV miniseries called The Legend of Bruce Lee (not to be confused with this author’s 1974 best-selling book on Lee written shortly after his sudden death at age 32).
“In this age of an increasingly globalized culture,” said Yang, “I can’t think of a more talented and innovative individual who embodies the best of East and West and who can inspire future generations.”
Bruce Lee Entertainment is represented by UTA.
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