For a director and screenwriter, crafting a compelling biopic presents a formidable challenge. Striking the right balance between pivotal life events while avoiding an episodic feel can be daunting. In a recent interview at Collider’s TIFF media studio at the Cinema Center at MARBL, producer Lawrence Grey, known for “Pain Hustlers,” discussed this delicate equilibrium in the forthcoming Bruce Lee biopic, currently in its early production stages with the acclaimed Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”) set to direct.
Bruce Lee, an iconic Hollywood figure and martial arts virtuoso, remains a reference point for action movies. His mastery of multiple martial arts, leading to the creation of his own style, solidified his legacy. Even today, he continues to influence the genre and receives homage, such as the House of Lee anime series. The challenge lay in encapsulating his towering legacy within a movie’s duration. Grey revealed that the initial 350-page script forced them to make tough decisions about what to include and trim down.
“That script might have been something like 350 pages long, and we were seriously contemplating whether this could be a limited series. The reason we evolved away from it was Ang wanted to do something with the action, with being able to recreate the movements of Bruce Lee, which are so specific and unique to the movement of that man, the way that Michael Jackson dancing might be, or something like that. He didn’t feel he could fully realize that on the small screen, so we knew we were in this medium, and had to then be very diligent about finding creative ways to tell a story that, yes, we would have loved to tell over many, many more hours. But right now, I think we’re hovering at about two and a half.”
The Legacy of Bruce Lee is Enormous
Adapting Bruce Lee’s remarkable life into just two and a half hours is no small task. To put it in context, the Ip Man franchise, which revolves around Bruce Lee’s master Yip Wai-Shun (portrayed by Donnie Yen), is preparing for its fifth instalment. While martial arts enthusiasts may not get hours of footage in the upcoming biopic, having Ang Lee at the helm suggests the makings of a cinematic masterpiece.
Bruce Lee’s illustrious career featured prominent roles in titles like the Green Hornet TV series and Fist of Fury. However, “Enter the Dragon,” released in 1973, stands out as a massive hit and an enduring influence on martial arts cinema. Tragically, it marked his final film, as Lee, an actor and martial arts legend, passed away prematurely at the age of 32 due to a fatal cerebral edema.
Although specific details about the forthcoming biopic are limited, it’s confirmed that Mason Lee, under the direction of his father, will portray the legendary Bruce Lee. Grey also indicated that filming is poised to commence once the ongoing strikes conclude. Stay tuned for Weintraub’s complete conversation with Grey and explore our comprehensive coverage of TIFF 2023.