Bruce Lee flew from Los Angeles to Bangkok via Hong Kong on 12 July 1971. Raymond Chow, concerned about renewed interest from Shaw Brothers, had wanted him to fly directly to Bangkok, but Bruce refused, stopping in Hong Kong briefly to greet a friend and make a few phone calls. Bruce stayed in Bangkok for five nights, and it was here that he met most of the cast and crew and also Raymond Chow for the first time. Filming commenced on 22 July in Pak Chong, a small town situated some 90 miles northeast of Bangkok, on the northern edge of the Khao Yai National Park, Thailand’s oldest reserve; it also serves as the gateway to the northeast (Isan) of Thailand from the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. Pak Chong would be Bruce’s home for about four weeks, and he made no secret of his dislike for it in letters to wife Linda, describing it as a lawless, impoverished and undeveloped village. Due to the lack of fresh food, Bruce was losing weight due to a lack of proper diet, having to eat canned meat and supplement his diet with vitamins, which he had thankfully brought along. He occasionally lost his voice through trying to shout above the noise on set; mosquitoes and cockroaches were everywhere, and the tap water in the hotel was yellow.
When Bruce arrived in Pak Chong, rival film companies tried desperately to poach him away from Golden Harvest, including Shaw Brothers, with a new and improved offer. A film producer from Taiwan told Bruce to rip up his contract and promised to take care of any lawsuit. Bruce, a man of his word, had no intention of considering the offers, although it did add some extra tension on the film set.
Shooting did not go smoothly at first. After just a few days, the “uncertain” original director, Wu Chia Hsiang, was replaced by Lo Wei (the husband of associate producer Liu Liang-Hua). Bruce was initially sceptical of Lo, describing him in letters to Linda as a “fame lover” and “another so-so one with an almost unbearable air of superiority”. Bruce badly cut his right hand while washing a thin glass, the wound requiring ten stitches and a large plaster, which is very noticeable throughout the movie, especially the scenes filmed at the Thamrongthai ice factory, the first filming location used in Pak Chong. Fatty Ma had a contact who knew the owner of the factory, and arranged for Golden Harvest to film there for a few days.
One night, filming of the big fight in the ice house had to be stopped for an hour as Bruce had lost a contact lens, and dozens of people were on their hands and knees looking for it amongst thousands of ice chips. Eventually Bruce found it himself, leading Lo Wei to wonder if he had it in his pocket all along, and was deliberately being disruptive.
Aside from the factory, other locations in Pak Chong used for filming include the Lam Ta Khong river (a tributary of the Mun River), and a local brothel (the Mitsumphun Hotel), which has since burnt down. The actual bedroom scenes however were filmed in a riverside bungalow owned by the nearby New Wan Chai Hotel (now the Rimtarninn), where the film crew stayed during filming, due to the bedrooms in the brothel being smelly and unhygienic. The prostitutes charged only fifteen Baht in Thai money per client, but the film crew paid them one to two hundred Baht each to appear as extras in the film.
Perhaps the most iconic location seen in the film is the titular big boss’s mansion and gardens, which was a Buddhist temple situated on the main road called Wat Siri Samphan, built in 1963. Like the ice factory, it is still in Pak Chong today and remains largely unchanged, much to the delight of the dedicated fans who have made the pilgrimage to Thailand to view the filming locations.
There has been some speculation that Bruce was involved in a real fight on the set of The Big Boss, as depicted in the 1993 biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Although no such fight actually took place, Bruce did interact extensively with a few of the Thai stuntmen (one of whom was a former Muay Thai bantamweight champion), and exchanged info and skills with them between takes. Bruce reportedly though seemed unimpressed and called their kicks “telegraphed”, while the Hong Kong stunt team (Lam Ching-Ying, Billy Chan and his brother Peter Chan Lung) were initially unimpressed with Bruce, and doubted his abilities. Their opinion of him soon changed when Lam challenged Bruce in the hotel, and Bruce sidekicked him across the room.
After an eventful and at times chaotic first few days’ filming in Pak Chong, by early August 1971 the filming had picked up speed, and was progressing well. Bruce and Lo Wei were collaborating, but they still clashed over a few of the scenes, in particular the use of trampolines and mattresses to propel people through the air, and also the scene where Bruce punches a man through a wooden wall, leaving a cartoonish outline in the wood. Bruce was also hesitant to go along with Lo Wei’s ideas of filming risky scenes of his character getting in bed with Thai ladies portraying prostitutes, although he eventually agreed to do them as Lo insisted it would add to his character’s newfound image as a revenge-driven warrior.
The final scene filmed in Pak Chong was the climactic fight between Bruce and the boss (played by Han Ying Chieh, who also served as the fight choreographer), which proved to be problematic: Bruce endured “two days of hell” when he sprained his ankle from a high jump on a slipped mattress, and had to be driven to Bangkok to see a doctor, where he caught a virus in the hot and stuffy conditions. Close-ups were used to finish the fight, as Bruce struggled and had to drag his leg, which was covered up with and contributed to his character’s worn out, exhausted appearance.
The cast and crew spent the last twelve days in August filming further scenes in Bangkok, where Bruce enjoyed breakfast in bed at the Thai Hotel, a luxury he never had in Pak Chong. The dinner party scene was filmed in the back room of the Poonsin Chinese Restaurant, close to the Thai Hotel. A few scenes were filmed at the Chao Phraya River in Phra Pradaeng District, including the opening scene in the film where Bruce and his uncle step off the ferry boat and walk through the busy pier. An old teak house in the east side of Phra Pradaeng district was used as the family home, while Nora Miao’s scenes (and part of the opening fight sequence) were filmed on the quieter west side, which resembled rural Pak Chong. At times filming was delayed by heavy rain.
The Big Boss film crew returned to Hong Kong on 3 September, where there would be a further day of filming for insert shots including close-ups of Bruce avoiding the dogs and the “leg-grappling” scene during the fight with the boss (these were filmed at the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club). The final scene filmed was the now deleted “pushcart attack” in the alleyway, at Wader Studio in Hong Kong, as Golden Harvest had not as yet moved into their famous studios on Hammer Hill Road.
The transcript below is from the video “Bruce Lee The Big Boss Final Fight Scene Filming Locations” by BruceLeeRealFight.
Welcome to BruceLeeRealFight Channel.
Hello everyone! Welcome to BruceLeeRealFight Channel. Here we are at Wat Siri Samphan, the most iconic filming location scene in the 1971 ‘The Big Boss’. ‘The Big Boss’ was Bruce Lee’s first major film. It was also the first film that made Bruce Lee famous in Asia and eventually the entire world. This big garden here is where the final fight scene was filmed.
We traveled a thousand miles to Thailand to view this filming location and to shoot videos for all Bruce Lee’s fans around the world. So, if you love our videos, please like, share, subscribe and ring the notification bell, so that you will not miss any new videos in the future.
[Video Montage of “The Big Boss” Final Scene Filming Location; 1971 versus 2020]
Words on the screen:
“A Bruce Lee poster is hanging inside the temple.
Lots of dogs just like in the movie.”
Alright guys, that’s ‘The Big Boss’ house and also final fight scene filming location in Bruce Lee’s 1971 ‘The Big Boss’ movie. This temple was built in 1963. It’s been 57 years. It’s definitely the most iconic place to see if you are visiting ‘The Big Boss’ location.
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