Brandon Bruce Lee was born on February 1, 1965 in Oakland, California, United States & died on March 31, 1993 in Wilmington, North Carolina, United States, was a Chinese-American actor and martial artist. He was the son of martial arts film star Bruce Lee.
After a promising start in action movies and the signing of a multi-film contract with 20th Century Fox, Lee was accidentally shot and killed in North Carolina at the age of 28 while filming The Crow.
Brandon Lee, the son of martial artist and actor Bruce Lee and Linda Emery. A week after his birth, his grandfather Lee Hoi-Chuen died. The family moved to Los Angeles, California when he was three months old. When offers for film roles became limited for his father, he and his family moved back to Hong Kong in 1965. His heritage on his mother’s side is English and Swedish and his father is Chinese and German.
When Brandon was eight, his father died suddenly from cerebral edema. After his father’s death, his family moved back to the United States. They lived briefly in his mother’s hometown of Seattle, Washington, and then in Los Angeles, where Lee grew up in the affluent area of Rolling Hills.
He attended high school at Chadwick School, but was asked to leave for insubordination—more specifically, driving down the school’s hill backwards, only three months before graduating. It is not known when exactly, but he did briefly attend Bishop Montgomery High School, located in Torrance. He received his GED in 1983 at the age of 18, and then went to Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where he majored in theater. After one year, Lee moved to New York City where he took acting lessons at the famed Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and was part of the American New Theatre group founded by his friend John Lee Hancock. The bulk of Lee’s martial arts instruction came from his father’s top students, Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo.
Lee returned to Los Angeles in 1985, where he worked for Ruddy Morgan Productions as a script reader. He was asked to audition for a role by casting director Lyn Stalmaster and got his first acting role in Kung Fu: The Movie, a feature-length television movie which was a follow-up to the 1970s television series Kung Fu. The film aired on ABC on February 1, 1986 which was also Lee’s 21 birthday. In Kung Fu: The Movie, Lee played Chung Wang, the suspected son of Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine). Lee’s father was originally intended to have played the leading role in the Kung Fu TV series. Bruce Lee had also developed the original concept for the TV series.
On March 31, 1993, while making The Crow, the crew filmed a scene in which his character walks into his apartment and discovers his fiancée being beaten and raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee, who played one of the film’s villains, was supposed to fire a pistol at Lee as he walked onto the scene.
Because the movie’s second unit was running behind schedule, they decided to make dummy cartridges from real cartridges by pulling out the bullets, dumping out the propellant and reinserting the bullets. However, the team neglected to remove the primers, which, if fired, could still produce just enough force to push the bullet out of the cartridge and into the barrel. At some point prior to the fatal scene, the live primer in one of the improperly constructed dummy rounds was discharged by an unknown person while in the pistol, leaving the bullet stuck in the barrel.
This malfunction went unnoticed by the crew, and the same gun was later reloaded with blank cartridges and used in the scene in which Lee was shot. When the first blank cartridge was fired, the stuck bullet was propelled out of the barrel and struck Lee in the abdomen, lodging in his spine. He fell down instantly, and director Alex Proyas shouted “Cut!”. When Lee did not get up, the cast and crew rushed to him and found that he was wounded. He was immediately rushed to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington by ambulance, but following a six-hour operation to remove the bullet, Lee was pronounced dead at 1:04 pm on March 31, 1993. He was 28 years old.
Lee’s body was flown to Jacksonville, North Carolina, where an autopsy was performed. He was then flown to Seattle, Washington, where he was buried next to his father at Lakeview Cemetery, Seattle in a plot that Linda Lee Cadwell had originally reserved for herself.
The private funeral took place in Seattle, Washington, on April 3, 1993. Only close family and friends were permitted to attend, including Lee’s immediate family as well as fiancée Eliza Hutton’s parents and younger sister, who flew in from Missouri. The following day, 250 of Lee’s family, friends and business associates attended a memorial service in Los Angeles, held at the house of actress Polly Bergen.
The gravestone, designed by North Snohomish County sculptor Kirk McLean, is a tribute to Lee and Hutton. Its two twisting rectangles of charcoal granite join at the bottom and pull apart at the top. “It represents Eliza and Brandon, the two of them, and how the tragedy of his death separated their mortal life together”, said his mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, who described son, like father, as a poetic, romantic person. The shooting was ruled an accident.
After Lee’s death, his fiancée Eliza Hutton and his mother supported director Alex Proyas’ decision to complete The Crow. At the time of Lee’s death, only eight days were left before completion of the movie. A majority of the film had already been completed with Lee and only a few scenes remained to be done.
To complete the film, stunt double Chad Stahelski, who was a friend of Lee’s at Inosanto Academy, served as a stand-in; special effects were used to give him Lee’s face. Another stunt double named Jeff Cadiente was also used to complete the movie. The Crow was released in May 1994 and became a box office hit, grossing over $50 million dollars in the U.S., and gaining a loyal cult following many years after its release. The film is dedicated to Lee and Hutton.
In 1990, Lee met Eliza “Lisa” Hutton at director Renny Harlin’s office, located at the headquarters of 20th Century Fox. Hutton was working as a personal assistant to Harlin, and later became a story editor for Stillwater Productions, in 1991. Lee and Hutton moved in together in early 1991 and became engaged in October 1992.
They were due to be married in Ensenada, Mexico on April 17, 1993, a week after Lee was to complete filming on The Crow, just 17 days after he died. At the time of Lee’s death, Hutton was working as a casting assistant and was on set of The Crow so much that she was later credited with being Lee’s on-set assistant. After his death, Hutton petitioned to have gun safety regulations tightened on film sets. The Crow is dedicated to the couple.