The Tragically Sad Deaths of Bruce Lee and His Son Brandon Lee
Accident, Murder or curse?
Bruce Lee is one of the best known Asian stars ever. His mix of humour and martial arts made him a box office hit. Many people will have heard his name; fewer may have heard of his son Brandon. Both died in tragic circumstances; much has been made of their deaths.
The deaths of these stars gained as much notoriety as the films that they made. Although both appeared straightforward, both were steeped in mystery. This mystery led to many conspiracy theories, including curses and Triad murder. So what is the truth about the deaths of father and son?
Bruce Lee in Life
Bruce Lee’s father was a Chinese opera star touring the US at his birth. Christened, Jun Fan (Bruce) Lee was born on 27th November 1940 in San Francisco. He was born in the year of the dragon, which was considered very lucky to the young man. He was nicknamed Little Phoenix in early life. Chinese tradition states that avoiding using a male name would ward off evil spirits.
In 1941 the family moved back to Hong Kong. Even at a young age, he started appearing in films as early as age three. By the time he was a teenager, he had starred in approximately twenty films. He studied both dance and Wing Chun, a type of Kung Fu, whilst living in Hong Kong.
In 1959, Bruce returned to the US and studied at Washington University. During this time, he also opened a martial arts school in Seattle. One of his early students would train his son, Brandon.
In 1964, he married Linda Emery. One year later, she gave birth to their son, Brandon Lee. After that, Bruce hit fame in the top-rated The Green Hornet series, playing Kato. In 1969, the Lee family were increased by the birth of a daughter, Shannon.
The whole family would return to Hong Kong in 1970 as Bruce felt this was a way to secure better film roles. He was right with this prediction as in 1973; he starred in Enter the Dragon, which went on to gross more than $200 million. Unfortunately, the film’s success was never realised until after his death. Bruce Lee failed to see the success from his career.
Bruce Lee died on 20th July 1973 of a brain aneurysm. The bleed was said to originate from painkilling drugs that a friend had given him. Two months before his death, Bruce had been hospitalised with seizures and headaches. He was stabilised and said to have oedema.
Although he recovered, he suffered from headaches. Whilst working on a new film, he complained to a friend he had a headache. They offered him a simple painkilling muscle relaxant. Bruce went upstairs to take a nap; when he did not return for dinner, his absence was investigated and he was found dead in bed. Bruce Lee was returned to the US and buried in Seattle.
How did a simple muscle relaxant kill someone as fit as Bruce, has been a question that many have asked? There were also questions about whether Bruce was alone in the room or having an affair. Why then was he not taken to hospital when it was apparent he was in trouble. These questions can not be easily explained that have led to the speculation of murder rather than a tragic death.
The last film he was working on was rewritten after his death. The producers and writers added additional scenes. Many film fans point out the similarities between these scenes and the death of Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon, twenty years later.
Brandon Lee in Life
Brandon Lee was born in Oakland, California, on 1st February 1965. He spent time living between the US and Hong Kong throughout his life. His father started teaching him martial arts from a young age. The young Brandon would visit his father on film sets; he developed a love of the profession. Brandon was eight when his father died.
As a teenager in the US, his father’s death led him to struggle with his identity. His behaviour was affected and he was asked to leave school before graduating due to this. After this, he chose to pursue an acting career in New York. He trained whilst there in martial arts, acting and fight choreography.
His first break came when he appeared in the film, Legend of Rage with Dolph Lundgren. He appeared in several other films that received mixed reviews. When he was cast as the main character in The Crow, many felt that this would launch his career.
The Crow was a cult film with its origins in a comic book of the same name. The film centres around a murdered musician, Eric Draven. Draven has been resurrected to avenge his death and that of his fiancee. Although Brandon was killed during the filming of The Crow, the film was finished using digital technology and discarded scenes. It remains a cult film today.
Many accidents plagued the Crow; Brandon’s was the last tragic accident. During the shooting of the film, a worker was electrocuted, an employee crashed their car through the studio wall. In addition, bad weather had damaged the set and the publicist for the film had a minor car accident; none of these, though, would prepare them for the last accident on set.
During a scene where Draven confronts the people responsible for killing his fiancee, he is shot in the stomach. The prop team had decided that they needed to make their dummy bullets to increase the film’s realism. They removed the gun powder from the bullets but failed to remove the primer. As a result, when the gun was initially shot, it drove the bullet into the barrel and became stuck, something the props department failed to notice.
When the gun was fired at twenty-eight-year-old Brandon, it misfired, driving the bullet into his stomach. Brandon was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent hours of surgery to no avail. He left behind a fiancee he was due to marry at the end of the film, his mother and sister. He was buried in Seattle next to his father.
Again several questions were asked about the incident, and much was made of the irregularities. The first main question was how the accident was allowed to happen and why the props department created their own bullets. Why was the autopsy signed off by a different doctor than had performed it? Finally, many theorists have asked why there is no footage of the shooting? This can be answered by the police department, which confiscated the footage, destroying it out of respect for the family.
The Cursed Theory
The theories of a curse have grown over the years. The death of Brandon twenty years after his father increased this. Some say that the family built a house on sacred land; three male Lee’s were killed to avenge it. Bruce Lee’s brother died from causes unknown before his birth. Theorists will support this argument by citing how superstitious and spiritual the Lee family were.
Bruce Lee is said to have had a premonition of his death. He stated that he believed he would live half the time his father had. His father died at sixty-four; Bruce was thirty-two. He stated he also saw that his son would die young.
Another theory that has been popular amongst theorists was that the Chinese Mafia, the Triads, had murdered both father and son. Bruce had shared martial arts skills which had angered them, they said he was betraying his cultural heritage. Bruce Lee also refused to pay them protection money. Bruce was said to have been killed by a single blow to the head; they then went on to tamper with the prop gun that killed Brandon.
Many of these theories draw from tiny details that do not make sense. Whenever a famous star dies suddenly, these theories emerge. They have more to do with the grieving process, the unwillingness to admit that these people have been killed. Both were tragic deaths that caused people to examine their own mortality.
Both these amazing men are survived by Shannon Emery Lee, a martial arts expert and spokesperson. Like her brother and father, she went into acting and has starred in many programs, including the sci-fi program Epoch.
To talk about these conspiracy theories in relation to their death deters from the life that they lived. The question that should be asked is how after the tragic death of Brandon Lee, was security not put in place that stopped the accident from happening again.