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“Audiences Were Grieving”: Jackie Chan Once Revealed How the Martial Arts Legend Bruce Lee’s Death Had a Tragic Effect on Kung Fu Films

Published 11/23/2022, 8:15 AM EST

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Bruce Lee, a name synonymous with super-speedy kicks and punches, was the first Asian American to have a lead role in an American film. His untimely passing not only left a void in martial arts movies but also made people mourn the loss. Jackie Chan, an Oscar-winning actor, and martial arts star, wrote in his book, ‘Never Grow Up’ about the impact of Lee’s death on action movies.

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Jackie Chan grew up idolizing Bruce Lee. Lee and Chan shared a brief screen presence in two films- Fist of Fury and, Enter the Dragon. Notably, the latter was Lee’s last movie as well.


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People refused to watch action movies without Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee, the iconic martial arts actor who changed the narrative about Asians presented in American films, passed away at 33 due to an allergic reaction to pain medication. It was during the same time that Jackie Chan, then 19-year-old, was a budding artist trying to etch a place in the same field.

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In his book, Chan wrote that Kung Fu films lost their popularity after the demise of its pioneer, Bruce Lee. “It was as if audiences were grieving for Lee, and refused to watch action films without him in them,” he wrote. Furthermore, Chan described how filmmakers’ efforts to fill the void were futile.


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“When You Shake Your Eyes, You Cannot See Bruce Lee Kick”: Jackie Chan Once Described the Inhumanly Skill of the Martial Arts Legend

Having understood that people missed Lee’s presence, many filmmakers endeavored to recreate his legacy of Lee, but no one could achieve it. The legend employed a unique style of combat sports, which was unprecedented.


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Lee made a lasting impact

When no one succeeded in creating ‘the next Bruce Lee,’ the industry began making rom-com and comedy movies. “..anyone associated with martial arts was toast,” Chan said. Chan hardly had any opportunities. “My career was stuck in the doldrums.” He had nothing left except the apartment his dad had bought him. It was becoming increasingly difficult to live in Hong Kong. Years later, Chan got his break in a comedy cum action movie genre he spearheaded.

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Decades have passed, yet Lee is a huge phenomenon in the field of martial arts. People still look up to the passion and the inventive spirit he displayed in the brief span of his life and career.


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Watch This Story: The Real Reason Why Bruce Lee had his Armpit Sweat Glands Removed

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Written by:

Ramya Bachu


One take at a time

Ramya Bachu is a US Sports author for Essentially Sports. Ramya has a Master’s degree in Psychology. She strongly believes in the power of discipline, consistency, and willingness to learn to achieve greater heights.
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Edited by:

Simar Singh Wadhwa