Bruce Lee was a martial arts legend as well as a movie star, and it all started with a fight with Wong Jack Man in a California gym. This historic fight, as well as Lee’s beginning in film, will be documented in the new movie “Birth of the Dragon.”
Wong Jack Man is an accomplished martial artist in his own right and taught classes for decades. His name is linked to Lee's thanks to a fight that occurred in Lee’s Oakland gym in 1964. Few details about the fight between Wong and Lee are known, but their feud began because Wong was upset with Lee teaching martial artists to everyone, including non-Asians. This led to a challenge by Wong. There were only a handful of witnesses to the fight, including Lee’s wife, Linda Lee Caldwell, James Lee and William Chen. It has become the stuff of legend and a perfect story for a movie.
“Birth of the Dragon” will be produced by QED International and Groundswell Productions, reports Deadline. The movie will center on the 1964 fight and will be written by Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele, who wrote the screenplays for “Ali” and “Nixon.” The new movie will focus on the Wong-Lee fight but will also look at the seedier side of 1960s San Francisco, including criminal activity in Chinatown and the Chinese Triad gangs. Lee’s fight with Wong was his last before his career as a movie star and public figure expounding on martial arts and philosophy.
Bill Block, QED International’s CEO, told Deadline, “We’re excited to retell the fantastic origin story of the world’s most famous martial arts icon, which in the hands of Christopher and Stephen, lends itself to an action thriller we’re sure will enthrall movie fans around the world.”
“Birth of the Dragon” will not be another Lee biopic, like “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story,” but will instead tell the story of Wong and their pivotal fight from multiple viewpoints. Speaking to Yahoo! Sports, Groundswell Productions CEO Michael London said, “I think that's a natural impression people might get. The idea, actually, is to take that battle, which has been so mysterious and so powerful and so interesting to so many, and tell the lead-up to that story, which is Wong Jack Man's arrival in San Francisco.”
London also hopes Wong and the Lee family will provide insight on the story. According to Shannon Lee, Lee’s daughter, the fight with Wong led to her father to rethink his training and paved the way for the creation of Jeet Kune Do and Lee’s martial arts philosophy. London is hopeful that filming could begin in 2014, notes Yahoo! Sports.