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Brandon Bruce Lee (February 1, 1965 – March 31, 1993) was an American actor. He was the son of the late legendary martial arts film star Bruce Lee and Linda Lee Cadwell and the brother of actress Shannon Lee. He was also the nephew of Robert Lee, a musician and member of various Hong Kong beat bands.

Like his father, Brandon died before his time. After a promising start in action movies and the signing of a multi-film contract with 20th Century Fox, the younger Lee was accidentally shot and killed at the age of 28 while filming The Crow (1994). Leading film critic Roger Ebert wrote that "Lee clearly demonstrate[d] that he might have become an action star, had he lived."

Early life

Brandon Lee was born in Oakland, Californiamarker, son of the legendary martial artist actor Bruce Lee. Only a week after his birth, his grandfather Lee Hoi-Chuen died. The family moved to Los Angeles, Californiamarker when he was three months old. When offers for film roles became limited for his father, he and his family moved back to Hong Kong in 1971.

When Lee was eight, his father died suddenly from cerebral edema. After her husband's death, Linda Lee moved the family (including daughter Shannon Lee b.1969) back to the United States. They lived briefly in his mother's hometown of Seattlemarker, Washingtonmarker, and then in Los Angeles, where Lee grew up in the affluent area of Rolling Hillsmarker.

He attended high school at Chadwick School, but was asked to leave for insubordination—more specifically, driving down the school's hill backwards, only three months before graduating. It is not known when exactly, but he did briefly attend Bishop Montgomery High School, located in Torrance. He received his GED in 1983 at the age of 18, and then went to Emerson Collegemarker in Boston, Massachusettsmarker where he majored in theater. After one year, Lee moved to New York City where he took acting lessons at the famed Lee Strasberg Academy and was part of the American New Theatre group founded by his friend John Lee Hancock. The bulk of Lee's martial arts instruction came from his father's top student, Dan Inosanto.


Lee returned to Los Angeles in 1985, where he worked for Ruddy Morgan Productions as a script reader. He was asked to audition for a role by casting director Lyn Stalmaster and got his first acting role in Kung Fu: The Movie, a feature-length television movie which was a follow-up to the 1970s television series Kung Fu. The film aired on ABC on February 1, 1986 which was also Lee's 21 birthday. In Kung Fu: The Movie, Lee played Chung Wang, the suspected son of Kwai Chang Caine (played by David Carradine). Lee's father was originally intended to have played the leading role in the Kung Fu TV series. Bruce Lee had also developed the original concept for the TV series.

Lee got his first major film role later that year in the Hong Kong action thriller Legacy of Rage in which he starred alongside Michael Wong. This film also featured a cameo appearance by Bolo Yeung who appeared in his father's film, Enter the Dragon. The film was made in Cantonese, and directed by Ronny Yu. It was the only film Lee made in Hong Kong.

In 1987, Lee starred in the unsold television pilot Kung Fu: The Next Generation which aired on the CBS Summer Playhouse and was another follow-up to the Kung Fu TV series. In this film the story moved to the present day, and centered on the story of Johnny Caine (played by Lee), the great-grandson of Kwai Chang Caine (played by David Barlow).

In 1988, Lee made a guest appearance alongside Pat Morita in an episode of the short-lived American television series Ohara playing a villainous character named Kenji. In the summer of 1988, Lee also started filming his first English-language B-grade action film, Laser Mission; it was filmed cheaply in South Africa, and was eventually released on the European market in 1990.

In 1991, he starred opposite Dolph Lundgren in the buddy cop action film Showdown in Little Tokyo. This was marked as his first studio film and American film debut. Lee signed a multi-picture deal with 20th Century Fox in 1991. He had his first starring role in the action thriller Rapid Fire in 1992, and was scheduled to do two more films for them. In August of that year, Bruce Lee biographer John Little asked Brandon Lee what his philosophy in life was, and he replied, "Eat — or die!" Brandon later spoke of the martial arts and self-knowledge:

In 1992, Lee landed the lead role of Eric Draven, in the movie adaptation of The Crow, a popular underground comic book. About his character, an undead rock musician avenging his murder and that of his fiancée, Lee said, "He has something he has to do and he is forced to put aside his own pain long enough to go do it". It would be Lee's last film. Filming began on February 1, 1993, which was his 28th birthday.

Personal life

In 1990, Lee met Eliza "Lisa" Hutton at director Renny Harlin's office, located at the headquarters of 20th Century Fox. Hutton was working as a personal assistant to Harlin, and later became a story editor for Stillwater Productions, in 1991. Lee and Hutton moved in together in early 1991 and became engaged in October 1992.

They were due to be married in Ensenada, Mexicomarker on April 17, 1993, a week after Lee was to complete filming on The Crow, just 17 days after he died. At the time of Lee's death, Hutton was working as a casting assistant and was on set of The Crow so much that she was later credited with being Lee's on-set assistant. After his death, Hutton petitioned to have gun safety regulations tightened on film sets. The Crow is dedicated to the couple.


On March 31, 1993, while making The Crow, the crew filmed a scene in which Lee's character walked into his apartment and discovered his girlfriend being beaten and raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee, who played one of the film's villains (Fun-boy), was supposed to fire a gun at Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) as he walked into his apartment.

Because the movie's second unit team was running behind schedule, it was decided that dummy cartridges (cartridges that outwardly appear to be functional but contain no gunpowder or primer) would be made from real cartridges by pulling out the bullet, dumping out the gunpowder and reinserting the bullet. However, the team neglected to consider that the primer was still live and, if fired, could still produce enough force to push the bullet off the end of the cartridge. At some point prior to the fatal scene, the live primer on one of the constructed dummy rounds was discharged by persons unknown while in the pistol's chamber. It caused a squib load, in which the primer provided just enough force to push the bullet out of the cartridge and into the barrel of the revolver.

The malfunction went unnoticed by the crew, and the same gun was used again later to shoot the death scene, having been re-loaded with low-power black powder blanks. However, the squib load was still lodged in the barrel, and was propelled by the blank cartridge's explosion out of the barrel and into Lee's body. Although the bullet was traveling much slower than a normally fired bullet would be, the bullet's large size and the point-blank firing distancemade it powerful enough to fatally wound Lee.

When the blank was fired, the bullet shot out and hit Lee in the abdomen and lodged in his spine. He fell down instantly and the director shouted "Cut!". When Lee did not respond, the cast and crew rushed to him and found that he was wounded. He was immediately rushed to the hospital. Lee’s heart stopped once on the set and once in the ambulance. Following a six hour operation to remove the bullet, and despite being given 60 pints (or 28 liters) of blood , Lee was pronounced dead at 1:03 pm on March 31, 1993. He was 28 years old.

Lee's body was flown to Jacksonville, North Carolina, where an autopsy was performed. He was then flown to Seattle, Washington, where he was buried next to his father at Lake View cemetery, a cemetery plot that Linda Lee Cadwell had originally reserved for herself.

The private funeral took place in Seattle, Washington, on April 3, 1993. Only close family and friends were permitted to attend, including Lee's immediate family as well as Eliza's parents and younger sister, who flew in from Missouri. The following day, 250 of Lee's family, friends and business associates attended a memorial service in Los Angeles, held at the house of actress Polly Bergen, with whom Lee had regularly played backgammon.

The gravestone, designed by North Snohomish County sculptor Kirk McLean, is a tribute to Lee and Eliza's 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 his mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, who described son, like father, as a poetic and romantic person.

The shooting was ruled an accident.


After Lee's death, his fiancée Eliza Hutton and his mother supported director Alex Proyas' decision to complete The Crow. At the time of Lee's death, only eight days were left before completion of the movie. A majority of the film had already been completed with Lee and only a few scenes remained to be done.

To complete the film, stunt double Chad Stahelski, who was a friend of Lee's at the famed Inosanto Academy, was used as a stand-in; special effects were used to add Lee's face onto the stunt double. Another stunt double named Jeff Cadiente was also used to complete the movie.The Crow was released in May 1994 and became a box office hit, grossing over $50 million dollars in the U.S., and gaining a loyal cult following many years after its release. The film is dedicated to Lee and Hutton.

In an interview just prior to his death, Lee quoted a passage from Paul Bowles' book The Sheltering Sky that he had chosen for his wedding invitations; it is now inscribed on his tombstone:
"Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well.
And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really.
How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it?
Perhaps four, or five times more?
Perhaps not even that.
How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?
Perhaps twenty.
And yet it all seems limitless..."
The quotation is not attributed to Bowles on his tombstone. The interview can be seen on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the The Crow.

At the time of his death, his father's biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was ready for release. The film was released two months after Lee's death, with a dedication to his memory in the end credits. In the film, Lee was portrayed by child actor Iain M. Parker.

Seven years after Lee's death, a direct-to-video Swedish film titled Sex, Lögner and Videovåld (Sex, Lies and Video Violence) was released in which Lee had a very brief cameo appearance. Lee had filmed his cameo appearance in 1992 at the time he was promoting Rapid Fire in Sweden, but the film was delayed for seven years, finally releasing in 2000. It, too, was dedicated to Lee during the end credits.


Year Film Role Notes
1985 Crime Killer Gangster Uncredited
1986 Legacy of Rage Brandon Ma Alternative title: Long Zai jiang hu
1990 Laser Mission Michael Gold Alternative title: Soldier of Fortune
1991 Showdown in Little Tokyo Johnny Murata
1992 Rapid Fire Jake Lo
1994 The Crow Eric Draven
2000 Sex, Lögner and Videovåld Man in line to night club Lee filmed his cameo in 1992. Released Direct-to-DVD
Year Title Role Notes
1986 Kung Fu: The Movie Chung Wang Television movie
1987 Kung Fu: The Next Generation Johnny Caine Television Pilot. Aired on CBS Summer Playhouse
1988 Ohara Kenji Episode: "What's in a Name?"


  2. "New Gravestone Marks Brandon Lee's Final Rest", By M.L. LYKE Seattle P-I Reporter - June 1, 1995


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