The story behind the death of Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, during the filming of a movie

Father and son Lee passed away under unusual circumstances

Photo: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

Brandon Lee was the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee., whose performance in Enter the Dragon (1973) catapulted him to fame in America and Europe. Already a big star in Hong Kong thanks to movies like Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon, Bruce didn’t live to see the film’s release.

On July 20, 1973, Bruce died at the age of 32 after being found unresponsive in his Hong Kong home. His death was attributed to cerebral edema or excess fluid. Controversy swirled around the incident and rumors persisted that he may have been killed by gangsters from the Hong Kong film industry or a drug gang.

Brandon Lee made his own acting debut at age 21, in the television movie Kung Fu: The Movie, based on the 1970s Kung Fu series.

He starred in a Hong Kong action film, Legacy of Rage (1986), and He made his American big screen debut opposite Dolph Lundgren in the cops-and-buddies action film Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991).

In early 1993, Lee landed the lead role of Eric Draven in The Crow, based on the popular underground gothic comic book series about a rock musician who returns from the dead to avenge his and his fiancée’s murders.

Filming for The Crow began in February 1993. Around midnight on March 31, the cast and crew were filming a scene at Carolco Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina, when Lee walked into a room, another actor shot him from 15 to 20 feet away.

Although the gun was supposed to be loaded with blank bullets, police later discovered that a .44 bullet entered Lee’s abdomen and lodged in his spine, fatally wounding him. He died in hospital hours later from internal injuries, blood loss and heart failure.

When the police investigation began, little was known for certain about how Lee died, with rumors circulating that the film set was haunted (there were a number of accidents) or that his death had been planned by some unknown enemy.

In the end, the truth was much less sinister, but no less tragic. Hollowed-out cartridges are often used to shoot close-ups of a gun being loaded; “dummy” cartridges are supposed to be removed and replaced with blanks before firing. The police investigation into Lee’s death concluded that the tip of one of the cartridge’s bullets dislodged from the cartridge and lodged in the gun, then shot Lee along with the blank.

Ultimately, it was decided not to press charges against Crowvision, the production company that made the film. Although Lee was to have appeared in almost every scene that remained to be shot, the filmmakers completed The Raven using another actor as a stunt double and a lot of digital technology.

The film grossed $50 million at the box office.

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The story behind the death of Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, during the filming of a movie

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