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The Scriptwriter Who Wrote “Sai Fung”

August 22 2015 at 9:01 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)

Before Bruce’s passing, the script “Sai Fung” (or “Little Phoenix) was completed but Bruce did not have a chance to make this movie and it was shelved together with other scripts, “Southern Fist & Northern Legs” and the “Green Bamboo Warrior.”

After some research, the writer for this script was found. It was written by a quite well-known 1960s-1980s HK movies cum TV series scriptwriter called Madam Tam Neng. Her career in the film industry started from 1952 and ended in 1990. In her early years, She worked along with famous director Doe Ching (aka Tao Qin) in Shaw Brothers, started from script supervisor and worked her up to become a scriptwriter. Madam Tam Neng is a very low profile person yet maintains very good relationships with the people in the HK’s and Taiwan’s entertainment industry.

She worked as a script supervisor at a very young age and was involved in 5 of Bruce Lee’s childhood movies, i.e. In the Face of Demolition (1953), Love (Part 1), Love (Part 2) (both 1955), Thunderstorm (1957), The Orphan (1959). She personally acted along with Bruce in the above 2 movies - In the Face of Demolition (1953) and The Orphan (1959). Thus, both Bruce and Madam Tam Neng knew each other quite well. They did not see each other after Bruce left for U.S. in 1959. Until Bruce returned to HK in 1971 to begin his Kung Fu movie career, they met again. Later, Bruce and GH hired her to write a script called “Sai Fung” (aka “Little Phoenix”). Below is an article (translated from Chinese) written by her on 19 Mar 2010, posted in Taiwanese actor, Chin Fung’s web blog.

In fact, after Bruce became a superstar, I seldom had a chance to see him. It was his assistant director Ricky Chik (they were relatives) who was communicating with me pertaining to the script of “Sai Fung.” Ricky Chik previously assisted Chun Kim, HK famous director who had directed popular melodrama movies like “Pink Tears”(1965),“Till The End of Time”(1966), “Four Sisters”(1967). I too, had helped Chun Kim to write movie scripts, thus, I got to know Ricky Chik then.

I remembered the first thing which Ricky Chik said to me was, “Bruce wanted you to help him write a script.” I laughed and replied, “But I don’t know anything about Kung Fu.” He said, “Yeah, he doesn’t want Kung Fu. He wants to change his film genre and wants to play melodrama with emotions. He still couldn’t forget about his last childhood movie – “The Orphan”(1959). Then, I asked, “What expectations does he have for the theme and story?” Chik said, “No, it’s all up to you to decide. But he has one condition, that is, he insists that the title of the film must be called “Sai Fung.” I wondered, he was an international Kung Fu star, yet he wanted a title called “Sai Fung” (note: it is a female name in Cantonese, meaning little phoenix.). Wasn’t it strange?

Then, Chik explained, “This is Bruce’s childhood nickname.” I immediately thought he never forgot his root, so, I agreed straight away. For this movie, Bruce had another request, i.e. to write a role for Unicorn Chan. Unicorn Chan (aka Little Unicorn) was a movie stuntman who came from an opera group. He was a good “brother” of Bruce, real good buddy. Then I asked Chik, “How are Bruce and I going to discuss the script if we don’t meet each other?” Chik explained, “He is too busy with his “Game of Death.” After completing that movie, he will talk to you.”

My job was pretty smooth and I handed the entire story over. Everyone had no opinions. Subsequently, I finished dividing the scenes. Leonard Ho (The co-founder of GH with Raymond Chow, whom had produced many popular movies as well as groomed many big stars) sent me a simple contract, mainly stating how the remuneration was going to be paid to me. I have designed a role of a young motor car mechanic for Bruce; how he was adopted by his master from the orphanage; then became a mechanic; what obstacles he encountered etc. It is a very inspiring story. Bruce loved it very much after reading the script. Of course, I also insisted to add in some action scenes otherwise the audience would be very disappointed. Eventually, I started preparing to write the dialogue parts.

At that time, the movie company kept this matter confidential, therefore, only a few of us were aware of this. After Bruce’s passing, I talked about this matter but I never reveal anything about the story or the script. This is the first time I touch on this subject.

Few years ago, Bruce’s sister – Phoebe Lee and brother – Robert Lee came to Hong Kong. They were living in the states and had heard about my younger sister talked about the script which I wrote for Bruce, thus, they specially came to meet me and wanted to know more info about their brother. I then asked them about the name of “Sai Fung.” When the words came out from my mouth, they both nodded their heads, and said with some sorrows, “Yes, it’s Sai Fung.”

It sounds a bit like fate or destiny. When Bruce passed away not long after, Unicorn too, died in a car accident while he was filming overseas, the location looks like Thailand. (note: Unicorn passed away in 1987 in Malaysia). After sometime, Ricky Chik also gone, it’s cancer, and he had just married not long. They all died so young……

Photos of Bruce and Tung Neng:

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  • Remembering a childhood friend, Bruce Lee. - LJF on Aug 22, 2015, 9:03 AM
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