Brandon Bruce Lee was born on February 1 in 1965.
He died on 31 March 1993 in the New Hanover Regional Medical Centre in Wilmington, North-Carolina, after a shooting accident on the set of The Crow ... 17 days before he was to be married to his fiancÚ, Eliza Hutton, in Mexico. On April 3 Brandon Bruce Lee was buried next to his father in Lake View Cemetary, Capitol Hill, Seattle.
It is hard not to consider what might have been lost through the death of Brandon, a growing screen presence who manifested innocence and soul even with his characters' fits of rage. In time, Lee surely would have been a worthier action hero for the movies than a one-dimensional, feel-good clod like Steven Seagal. Now we'll have to wait for the wheel to turn again to produce someone worth caring about.
from the Film.com review of The Crow
Brandon appeared in an episode of the Ohara TV series in 1987.
Brandon's career spanned seven films. They were - in chronological order:
- Legacy of Rage (1986)
- Kung Fu: The Movie (TV) (1986)
- Kung Fu: The Next Generation (TV) (1987)
- Laser Mission (1990)
- Showdown In Little Tokyo (1992)
- Rapid Fire (1992)
- The Crow (1994)
TEARS OF THE DRAGON
BRANDON LEE'S DEATH TURNS A FILM ABOUT HIS FATHER INTO A
POIGNANT DOUBLE MEMORIAL
by Tim Appelo
When Bruce Lee died three weeks before the premiere of his 1973
martial-arts classic, Enter the Dragon, one Hollywood producer
enthused, "His death was like a $2 million publicity campaign!" Such
tasteless ghoulishness can repeat itself. When Lee's 28-year-old son,
Brandon, was killed in an accidental shooting on the set of The Crow
just a month before the premiere of Universal's Dragon: The Bruce
Lee Story, a rival studio marketing executive said, "I'd kill for a break
But Dragon's cowriter-director Rob Cohen did not feel fortunate.
After four years spent working with Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee's
widow and Brandon's mother, to film the biography of the
action-film legend, he felt devastated. "This thing with Brandon-
it would have completely destroyed me, but she has this strength. I love
Linda," says Cohen.
Although the director says Cadwell had no veto
power over Dragon's marketing or release, he says he called her soon
after Brandon died and placed the film's fate in her hands. Universal
had been holding test screenings of Dragon, which stars newcomer
Jason Scott Lee (no relation) and Lauren Holly of Picket Fences,
since February, but Cohen says he was willing to risk the studio's
wrath if Cadwell wanted him to alter the film or delay its May 7
"I asked her, 'Do you want me to cancel the premiere (or) get
Universal to change the movie? I'll do my best,'" says Cohen.
Cadwell, who had just buried her son next to his father in their
hometown of Seattle, asked for a day or two to think it over. "It's
all so horribly fresh," she told him. Cohen gave her time, still
assuming that she might want to cancel not only the premiere but also
her promotional appearances, including the dedication of Bruce Lee's
posthumous star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame.
Instead, Cadwell asked that the release of Dragon go forward as
planned, with the now-painful scenes of Brandon as a baby kept intact
throughout the film. She requested only one change: an end title
dedicating Dragon to Brandon Bruce Lee, with an appropriate quote.
Recalls Cohen, "I said, 'How about the Saint Augustine quote I had
on the frontispiece of the original script: "The key to immortality is
first living a life worth remembering." It applies to Brandon as much
as it does to Bruce.' She said, 'Oh, that's perfect.'"
Actually, Dragon was lucky to get made at all. Back in August
1991, Universal took a look at an early script, based on Cadwell's
1975 book about her husband, Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew, but the
studio eventually rejected its strange mix of martial-arts action
and woman's-eye-view romance.
When Cohen later sold another screenplay
to Universal, MCA Motion Picture Group chairman Thomas Pollock and vice
president of production Nina Jacobson suggested he take a crack at
rewriting Dragon. The project then came alive, but a problem-plagued
shoot in Hong Kong and Macao last year almost sank the $13.7 million
Even before cameras rolled, there were setbacks: Cohen had a heart
attack on Feb. 6, 1992, and filming was delayed for one month while
the then-43-year- old director recuperated. "Rob was a changed man
afterward," says Jacobson. "He cut his cholesterol in half (and)
became a die-hard vegetarian." But other woes followed. Like Brandon
Lee's The Crow, Dragon lost time and money to storms. Monsoons and
mishaps cost Cohen his entire $1.3 million contingency fund (a safety
cushion for such emergencies), swelling the budget to $15 million.
Cohen then had to face the fearsome Completion Bond Company, which
monitors films' expenditures and can assume control of productions
that go over budget. "They set a date for pulling the plug," he says.
"They wanted Dragon done and their money back ASAP."
Cohen edited Dragon in six weeks, four fewer than the directors'
union minimum. When Universal saw the first cut, the studio repaid
the bondsmen and ponied up $1 million more for Dragon's Dolby digital
fight-scene sound effects, as well as a lush symphonic score by Randy
The investment in a romantic soundtrack was appropriate. Dragon's
love story between Linda and Bruce Lee, with its exploration of
interracial love between a Caucasian and an Asian, is even more
central to Dragon than its eight fight scenes are. All along, the
filmmakers made a conscious attempt to create a movie that would
appeal to both men and women.
"Ordinarily, action is skewed to men,"
says Jacobson, a veteran of Joel Silver's action-movie company. "You
figure, well, maybe a few of them will drag their dates to see it."
But Cohen deliberately infused Dragon with scenes of courtship and
longing. "I think those moments really mean something for women,"
he says. "And this is not a difficult guy to watch with his shirt off."
Despite the stunning blow of Brandon Lee's death, Cohen and
Universal maintain that no eleventh-hour changes were made in
Dragon's advertising campaign. "Brandon's death was never part of
the marketing," insists Cohen. Even the decision to change the poster
to emphasize the love story, he says, was made before Brandon's death.
"If it were a chopsocky picture, you could just use a poster with
Jason Scott Lee jumping across the sun," says Cohen.
"But I asked
them to ghost in an image of Bruce kissing Linda above that."
Inevitably, the sad, unsought publicity surrounding Brandon Lee's
death has put Dragon in the spotlight, and given its climactic
scene, a dream sequence in which Bruce Lee saves his young son from a
demonic apparition, an emotional force it would otherwise lack.
Ironically, the sequence was one of those that could have fallen
victim to the belt-tightening when Dragon ran over budget; now Cohen
is especially glad he was able to film it.
"It was always a touching scene," the director says. "Now it's
touching and chilling."
Copyright 1993 Time Inc.
Linda Lee Remembers
BRANDON LEE'S MOM REMEMBERS HIS LIFE AT GRAVESITE VISIT
Linda Lee Cadwell stared at the side-by-side graves strewn with
objects of devotion: pennies, poems, smooth stones, burning incense,
notes and flowers turning dry in the morning sun at Lake View
One grave was that of her husband, the famed martial-arts hero
The other, the freshest, was that of her son, actor Brandon
"You just never think your kids are going to die before you,"
she said softly.
It was Cadwell's first look at a newly installed gravestone for
her son, killed two years ago at 28 during filming of "The Crow,"
a shadowy, surreal film about a cult comic-book character who rises
from his grave to avenge his killers.
Brandon Bruce Lee died 17 days before he was to marry Eliza
Hutton, and the gravestone is a tribute to their young love.
Its two twisting rectangles of charcoal granite join at the
bottom and pull apart at the top.
"It represents Eliza and Brandon, the two of them, and how the
tragedy of his death separated their mortal life together," said
Cadwell, who described her son, like his father, as a poetic and
The inscription, in gold leaf, is a quote Brandon Lee had chosen
for the wedding invitations, from Paul Bowles' book "The Sheltering
"Because we don't know when we will die," it begins with eerie
foreshadowing, "we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well.
"Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very
small number, really."
Cadwell said that finally seeing her son's gravestone in place
gave her a sense of peace. "It brings a kind of closure. It has
been 26 months to the day since Brandon died."
Her son was in the final days of production on the North
Carolina set of "The Crow" when he was shot with an improperly
loaded stunt gun.
The bullet entered his abdomen and severed his spine. Cadwell,
charging negligence, eventually reached an out-of-court settlement
with the film company of "The Crow." It included an agreement with
Producers excised the fatal scene from the film.
Cadwell, who lives in Boise, Idaho, with her third husband,
Bruce Cadwell, said she initially was reluctant to see the film.
"I kept saying, `I'm not going to see it, I can't bear it.' But
I finally said, `I think Brandon would want me to go see it on the
big screen.' "
She went to a 5 p.m. showing at a Boise theater and cried
through most of it. "The whole thing is so haunting, with everything
Cadwell and Bruce Lee, a philosophy graduate of the University
of Washington, raised Brandon and daughter Shannon in Hong Kong,
California and, briefly, Bellevue, Wash. She describes her son as
handful" growing up, bright and playful. "He liked to pull practical
jokes and pranks," she said. "He was either the teacher's pet or the
His first role in a movie was at 6, kicking his way across the
screen in one of his father's early martial-arts films. Brandon
wanted to be an actor from the beginning, Cadwell said. He spent two
years in drama at Emerson College in Boston before quitting to head
Cadwell, who has helped set up a drama scholarship in her son's
name at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., said Brandon finally
was realizing his dream with "The Crow," a movie that propelled him
beyond action-film stereotypes. "It was a time in Brandon's life
when everything was coming together," she said. "He could have done
Copyright 1995 Star Tribune.