Ed Spielman came up with the idea for Kung Fu in the 1960s in New York. The original script was optioned and written as a movie by Spielman and Howard Friedlander in February 1970. The script hung around at Warner Brothers for a long time until they decided not to make it as a movie after all, but as a TV series instead. They took it to ABC television in 1971. This is when TV writers and producers Jerry Thorpe and Herman Miller also joined the project.
Ed Spielman's idea for Kung Fu is what actually became the Kung Fu TV series, not Bruce's idea for The Warrior. There's no evidence that Spielman's script was originally called The Warrior and "retitled to Kung Fu. Spielman is given full and sole credit for the show's creation. Hollywood is extremely careful about attributing credits, because if they get it wrong, lawyers will pounce, and people and production companies can get sued for very large amounts of money. Every screenwriter also has their own entertainment lawyer. If Warners had really stolen Bruce's idea, Bruce would have had every reason to sue them, and there would have been no shortage of lawyers lining up to help him do that.
When screenwriters write a script, they immediately register it with the Writer's Guild of America BEFORE they shop it around. That's how screenwriters protect and copyright their work. Spielman would have done this in the 1960s, and it would be on record. When Spielman sold his movie script for Kung Fu to Warner Brothers, this would also be on record.
It takes several months of lead time to create a TV series. The Kung Fu pilot ('Way of the Tiger, Sign of the Dragon') aired February 22, 1972, so the pilot was probably already in production by December 1971. David Carradine had probably already been cast as Caine. That's why Bruce told Pierre Berton on December 9th that The Warrior (his idea's title) was "probably not going to be on".
If Bruce created a kung fu western called The Warrior, it was a similar but SEPARATE idea from Ed Spielman's Kung Fu which became the TV show.
"Ed Spielman is the creator of the Kung Fu series. Any claims to the contrary are incorrect, and an injustice. As a teenager, Mr. Spielman worked as a page at ABC-TV in New York. He discovered the secret arts of kung-fu in the early 1960s, and he studied Mandarin Chinese in college at night. He spent years doing his research in New York's Chinatown and elsewhere unearthing this heretofore secret knowledge. At that time, kung-fu was not known in the Western world and was denied to non-Chinese. It was taught by master–student relationships and within families. It was never revealed to non-Chinese. But, Spielman pressed on.
By the mid-1960s, Ed had acquired a depth of information, and wrote a forty-four-page treatment for film, TV and publishing titled, Kung Fu: The Way of the Tiger, The Sign of the Dragon. He spent the next few years trying to move it forward to film or television. In 1969, he was introduced to young agent Peter Lampack at the William Morris Agency in New York. Lampack liked the material and made a deal with Warner's executive Bennett Sims in New York.
In February of 1970, Lampack bartered a deal for Spielman and his friend and collaborator, Howard Friedlander, to write a theatrical motion picture screenplay from Spielman's original story. All of this occurred in New York.
At the end of this development, Warner Bros. chose not to make the theatrical film. But, studio executive Harvey Frand had faith in the project, and took it to ABC, which by that time, had introduced a pioneering Movie of The Week format.
The Spielman–Friedlander script was pared down for budget, produced and shown on ABC, February 22, 1972. It was an immediate hit. The iconic Kung Fu monthly-then-weekly series followed ...
Undoubtedly, Bruce Lee had his own ideas and aspirations, but that has nothing to do with Ed Spielman's groundbreaking and original work. The Writers Guild of America West awarded sole credit to Ed Spielman as the creator of Kung Fu ... And no allegation of Bruce Lee's having to do with the creation of Kung Fu appeared in public until The Bruce Lee Story (1993) in which the allegation was made.
Ed Spielman told me specifically: "In 1993, I was preparing a major law suit against Universal, DeLaurentis Productions and all of those who were responsible for the false allegations in The Bruce Lee Story to deprive me of the authorship of my work and defame me. But, Bruce Lee died in 1973 and his son Brandon also tragically died in 1993. A lawsuit by me would have fallen on Bruce Lee's widow, Linda. She had lost enough. I didn't think she would have survived those years in court. I thought about it ... then told the lawyers to forget about it. The documents speak for themselves for anyone who cares to look ... I was greatly disappointed that Bruce Lee did not appear as a principal in the Kung Fu series. But he had nothing to do with its creation. My work and the Kung Fu project was on the East Coast; his was on the West Coast. My work predated his by years. The complete story and characters were registered in the mid-1960s. The documents and contracts prove that."
— Herbie J. Pilato