How do you cast a legend like Bruce Lee? Upcoming film Birth of the Dragon is not a traditional biopic. It blends real-life events leading up to the 1964 San Francisco fight between young martial arts artist Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) and China’s kung fu master Wong Jack Man with the fiction of Lee taking on a a group of Chinatown gangsters. The epic fight is seen through the eyes of white martial arts artist Steve McKee (Billy Magnussen) who doesn’t know how to choose between the two warriors.
Philip Ng. Once Upon a Time in Shanghai image.
Directed by George Nolfi with martial arts fight choreography by Corey Yuen, Birth of the Dragon starts filming tomorrow in south Vancouver’s former Ideal Laundry near the Arthur Laing Bridge. Could this be the filming location for the fight?
Born in 1940 in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Bruce Lee grew up in Hong Kong where he worked in film as a child actor and trained in Chinese marital arts. On return to the U.S, the 18-year-old taught his own version of Kung Fu to Americans and later opened a martial arts studio in Oakland. Reportedly, the fight with Wong Jack Men happened after Lee refused to stop teaching martial arts to Caucasions. Not long after, Lee started choreographing Hollywood fight scenes and playing supporting roles in American TV series and films — but never the lead. He had to go back to Hong Kong to do that, starring in Asian box office hits The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon (which introduced Chuck Norris to the world). Lee’s first American-Hong Kong production was Enter the Dragon. Sadly, Lee died at age 32 before its release.
Birth of the Dragon is expected to film in metro Vancouver from November 17th to January 24th next year (dates subject to change) according to the DGC-BC Production List.