Martial arts expert, actor and philosopher, Bruce Lee was born on the 27th November 1940 in San Francisco. His father, an opera singer from Hong Kong, had moved with his family in the United States in 1939, in search of a new beginning.
During his short but active life, he appeared in numerous films, contributing to the change of the way in which Americans perceived Asians, and became the ultimate representative of martial arts, as well as a movie icon.
Bruce Lee, meaning “strong one” in Gaelic, moved back in Hong Kong at the age of one, where he spend his teens and expressed his love for acting. He appeared in 20 films as a child, learned dancing, but also entered a street fighting gang in 1953, where he revealed his martial arts skills and also started learning kung-fu to perfect his technique.
In 1958, Bruce defeated the three time amateur boxing champion, Gary Elms in the Hong KongInter-school amateur boxing Championship and managed to get into trouble with the police in the following year, for a violent street fight.
He flew to America to pursue a higher education, although it is believed that his mother made the decision and sent him to live with their relatives outside Seattle in order to keep him away from the bad environment.
He graduated in Edison, Washington, and chose a major in philosophy at the University of Washington. Although of an artistic nature, Bruce focused on his main love, martial arts and got a job teaching Wing Chun to his fellow students. In 1964, he started out his own martial arts courses and also found his partner, Linda Emery, whom he married.
Shortly after, Lee moved to California, where he opened two schools and taught a martial arts technique called Jeet Kune Do. During that same time, a controversial fight with Wong Jack Man, an expert in special fighting techniques in Chinatown boosted Bruce’s popularity. Blamed for teaching martial arts to non-Chinese, Bruce confronted Wong and won after three minutes, revealing his efficient tactic and expertise.
Bruce Lee started his acting career by starring in the television series The Green Hornet, aired from 1966 to 1967, where he portrayed Kato, the hornet’s loyal sidekick. Although, Bruce’s theatrical appearance was much more complex than those of other Asian actors at that time and was based on real and fine fighting technique, certain stereotypes and producer’s wish for him to embody them, determined him to move back to Hong Kong with his wife and two children, in 1971.
Back home, Bruce launched his own production company, Concord Pictures and starred in movies, turned box office hits in Hong Kong, such as The Chinese Connection or Fists of Fury. Although the productions had poor critics in America, Bruce Lee became a movie star in Asia and was determined to conquer the American public as well. Therefore, in 1972, he started working on Enter of the Dragon, which he had never seen as a post production due to his premature death.
Bruce died under suspicious conditions in 1973, at only 32. The autopsy revealed a strange brain edema, caused by a reaction to a painkiller he had taken for his back pain. To this day, his death is wrapped in mystery and the exact cause is yet to be known.
Bruce Lee remains one of the most popular actions heroes in movie history and has become a role model for movie action stars such as Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal.