The Adjustment Bureau director George Nolfi has signed on to direct the Bruce Lee “biopic” Birth of the Dragon, an upcoming action movie inspired by one of the legendary martial artist’s most infamous real-life fights. The story of the match is told from the perspective of Steve Macklin. Wait, who the hell is Steve Macklin?
Birth of the Dragon is inspired by the true story of Lee’s historic 1965 Oakland duel with kung fu master Wong Jack Man — a fight that’s already been fodder for considerable mythmaking over the years. According to Variety, this tale is told from the perspective of Steve Macklin, a fictional young disciple of Lee, who ultimately joins forces with Lee and Wong to battle a vicious band of Chinatown gangsters. Um, okay.
You might remember Jason Scott Lee’s turn as Bruce Lee in 1993’s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, which dramatized its own version of the duel. Instead of Wong Jack Man, Dragon’s Bruce fought a bad dude named Johnny Sun in some kind of dark Chinatown dungeon arena thing. It’s highly entertaining, but pretty much a large load of bullshit. Here’s the scene:
Do we need another movie about the life of Bruce Lee? Sure. Why not? I’ll always have a soft spot for a little more Bruce hero worship. Though this one can barely be called a “biopic,” as it appears to be playing decidedly fast and loose with the details of Lee’s life — it wouldn’t be the first — particularly the part where two kung fu rivals team up to take down the evil Hong Kong Triads. Bruce Lee, crimefighter?
I’ve got no problem with this. As I said when the project was first announced, Bruce Lee has already become a kind of mythic pop culture folk hero anyway. Make a movie about the legendary fight, make it more legendary by throwing in cool action, gangsters and all that stuff. Hell, make a movie about Bruce fighting vampires.
But are you telling me Bruce Lee is not interesting enough to warrant being the star of his own story? Does this story really need to be told through a (presumably non-Asian) audience surrogate?
Might as well make it a white guy. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again, Hollywood can make a movie set anywhere in the world, in any era of history… and still somehow find a way for the movie to star a white guy. Even a movie about Bruce Lee.
But yeah, I’ll still watch this.
For me, the big question is about casting. Who will play the young Bruce Lee?
Phil Yu is the founder, editor, and primary blogger behind Angry Asian Man, the web’s foremost destination for all things Asian American. He also co-hosts the YouTube series Angry Asian America for ISAtv.