Bruce Lee & His Scriptwriting TeamNovember 1 2016 at 8:29 AM
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Camera, Bruce Lee and His Scriptwriting Journey
Camera loves Bruce and vice-versa. Bruce's relationship with the film industry began with his first cameo appearance for the Golden Gate Girl when he was only 3 months old. He officially started filming since at a tender age of 6. After making over 20 childhood movies, he went abroad for further study. His last HK teenage film was “The Orphan” shot between late 1958 to early 1959. While studying in the University of Washington, some of his Gung Fu demos (circa between 1960-1963) in the campus were captured by the University staff’s 8mm camera. Then, Bruce also appeared with his students and Sifu Fook Young in the Seattle KCTS 9 TV program in early 1961 to promote his Gung Fu. Bruce then shot his Jun Fan Gung Fu training with Taky Kimura using his own 8mm home camera as early as 1963. Subsequently, Ed Parker captured Bruce’s demo in the 1964 Long Beach Karate Tournament. After witnessing this footage, William Dozier invited Bruce for the “Number 1 Son” audition in early 1965 which did not make it to the TV screen eventually. However, Bruce shot The Green Hornet TV series from 1966-67. From then onwards, Bruce rekindles the flame with the film industry. The rest is history.
Besides working in front of the camera, Bruce also loved to work behind the camera. Not only drawings, Bruce was good in writing too. As early as 1966, Bruce had already started to write plots for The Green Hornet. According to The Green Hornet’s researcher, Martin Grams, Bruce wrote 13-page plot proposal for a Hornet’s episode but there’s only plot proposal submitted by Bruce that never made it to production. The title was “The Cobra From The East” dated Oct 28, 1966. Probably, this might be the beginning of Bruce's journey in writing TV series/movies plot, which contributed to his strong foundation in writing movie scripts later on, such as The Warrior, Silent Flute, Green Bamboo Warrior, Southern Fist, Northern Legs and The Game of Death etc. Especially Silent Flute, Bruce was particularly excited to make this movie. So, he formed a trio script writing group with Stirling Silliphant and James Coburn in 1969. They would meet and discuss about the script many times from 1969-1970. However, the plan of filming Silent Flute was cancelled in early 1971. Then, Bruce worked on a story called “The Warrior” which he initially thought he would play the main lead. But the TV station got David Carradine to play “The Warrior” which was later re-titled “Kung Fu” in late 1971. Bruce was disappointed but then concentrated his film career in HK.
After completing FOF in early Dec 1971, Bruce started to write script by himself (source: HK Commercial Press, Dec 71). By end 1971, he and Raymond Chow founded Concorde Production Company. To Bruce, it’s a dream come true. He wanted to produce top quality martial arts movies and to do so, he knew first of all, he ought to have good scripts. Hence, immediately after establishing Concorde, Bruce formed his own GH/Concorde’s scriptwriting team (about 6-7 members including his assistant director Ricky Chik. Other possible members include Hoh Seung-Ling, Kuang Chih-Chung, Louis Sit Chi-Hung, Mao Lu, David Chan and Benson Cheng Bing-Sam).
The team headed by Bruce, used to hold regular meetings in GH’s office located at Tong Eng Building and occasionally at Bruce’s house. They discussed and brainstormed ideas for new scripts and Bruce would often tape record the storyline (source: “Bruce Lee, The Legend” - 1984). The discussions usually took about 3 hours and were conducted in Cantonese with a mixture of Mandarin and sometimes, a little bit of English. Most of the scripts were generally written in Chinese first before translating into English for Bruce’s easy reading and reference. However, it was the other way round sometimes. For instance, WOTD. Bruce wrote in English first but he thought some of the meanings were not right, so, got Ricky Chik to translate it into Chinese (source: Ricky Chik’s interview in WOTD special – 1972). Before Bruce’s death, some of the scripts done by Bruce and his scriptwriting team were completed but some were still in progress. Therefore, there should be notes/scripts, tape/voice recordings, or other records/materials left behind, most likely in the possession of Raymond Chow.
The list of scripts includes:
Completed & Filmed:
1. Way of The Dragon (completed in 1972)
Completed but not filmed:
1. The Green Bamboo Warrior ((aka The Conqueror of the Golden Mountain (San Francisco); Completed in end 1971) – Planned to be shot in San Francisco with the financial support from Warner Brothers.
2. Southern Fist, Northern Leg (aka Budo; Completed circa 1972) – portion of Bruce’s voice recording and illustrations/notes on the storyline were released in Bruce Lee, The Legend documentary (1984). – A martial arts movie story with great philosophical theme which Bruce intended to shoot probably in 1974.
3. Sai Fung (aka Little Phoenix; Completed circa 1972) – Period film. There is another script of the same title (modern melodrama film) written by Mdm Tang Neng (independent script writer hired by Leung Fung and Ricky Chik on behalf of Bruce) – The period movie was planned to be directed by Chor Yuen and the modern one Bruce planned to cast Josephine Siew Fung-Fung, a good friend from his childhood movie.
(Note: Except for the modern Sai Fung script which was retained by Mdm Tang Neng, Shannon Lee has a copy each of the above scripts and Raymond Chow should also has retained either the original or duplicate copies)
1. The Game of Death (’72 version; aka Yellow Faced Tiger/ Song of The Dark Night) – 1/3 was filmed by Bruce in 1972 (Note: As this was Bruce’s dream project, he might have kept a lot of the storyline to himself rather than revealing to his team and Raymond Chow, except maybe his close working buddy/ assistant director, Ricky Chik)
Scripts with Bruce’s contributions or completed by GH for Bruce:
1. Silent Flute – Written under the name of Stirling Silliphant with many contributions by Bruce and James Coburn. Completed by 1970. Bruce, Silliphant and Coburn scout locations in India, Pakistan and Nepal for several weeks in early 1971. It was made in 1979, redubbed, “Circle of Iron” starring David Carradine. Bruce and Coburn should have kept a copy of the script.
2. The Warrior – Shannon found many Bruce’s handwritten notes and his concept on this. It was made and redubbed, “Kung Fu,” starring David Carradine in 1972. Shannon would be working with Director, Justin Lin to remake this project.
3. Cold Faced Tiger (aka A Man Called Tiger) (GH script written specially for Bruce but he refused to play in that movie directed by Lo Wei; Jimmy Wang Yu replaced Bruce as the lead actor)
4. Hero of the city street (Another GH script written specially for Bruce as claimed by Lo Wei in his biography but was shelved due to Bruce reluctance to worked with Lo Wei. It has similar theme to Black Alley Princess)
5. Battle With The Black Panther (written by GH director Jeong Chang Hwa aka Cheng Chang-Ho. It was to be played by Bruce after GAME)
6. San Lung aka The Mystic Dragon - FBI Movie (written by GH & to be co-produced with Warner Bros; incomplete, later rename The Shrine of Ultimate Bliss/ Stoner, played by George Lazenby)
(Note: The above excludes those scripts completed by Shaw Brothers and other Movie Companies)
Photos of Bruce & scripts discussion (photoshopped): https://postimg.org/image/772ln3q25/
A group of GH Screenplay members could be seen in this 1978 Game of Death promotional documentary (with Bey Logan audio commentary):
Great stuff LJF like always!! nt - Leon on Nov 1, 2016, 11:37 AM
Questions about footage & scripts - S.Wira on Nov 1, 2016, 11:40 AM
- Footage of Bruce's Kung Fu demo in University? - shaolinguy on Nov 1, 2016, 5:28 PM
- Re: Questions about footage & scripts - LJF on Nov 2, 2016, 7:33 AM
- Thanks for the reply, LJF! - S.Wira on Nov 2, 2016, 11:22 AM
- Shame, University demo footage & Seattle footage were destroyed. (NT) - Jon on Nov 2, 2016, 6:15 PM