Barnes & Noble (Barnes & Noble is the nation’s largest retail bookseller.):
Bruce Lee is an icon around the world, and here his daughter Shannon Lee talks about his philosophies which are illuminated in her new book BE WATER, MY FRIEND:
“My father was a real philosopher. And he didn’t just write and speak philosophy, he lived it. And that is what has made all the difference. It’s why when you see him on screen, his image and his energy has impact. It’s because he lived his philosophies. He lived his life a certain way. And you’ll see when you read this book, I mean. You may have known some of Bruce Lee’s quotes and you may not have. But you probably didn’t know the depth of his research, his understanding and the way that he lived his life. So, it is my absolute pleasure to share it with you. And you can get ‘Be Water My Friend’, the teachings of Bruce Lee by me Shannon Lee at bn.com and in B&N stores. So, thanks.”
Read an exclusive excerpt from “Be Water, My Friend,” where Shannon Lee writes about her father’s challenging time making 1973’s “Enter the Dragon.” The book is available Oct. 6.
“Enter the Dragon” was the dream opportunity coming true for my father — a Hollywood feature for him to star in. That said, Hollywood billed it as a double lead in case their gamble on my father didn’t pay off, and in part due to the intense prejudice and concern surrounding the xenophobia of audiences of that time. But my father didn’t worry himself with this. He knew he had the goods even if others weren’t sure. He was ready to make the absolute most of this opportunity to accomplish his goal of showing the Western world the glory of Chinese gung fu and to express himself fully in a true, on-screen representation of a Chinese man.
There was only one problem. The script was terrible. So terrible, in fact, that my father was adamant that the writer be fired and sent back to California while he himself feverishly rewrote the majority of the screenplay. Of course, the studio didn’t listen to my father and kept the writer in Hong Kong, making small tweaks to this actioner that was initially entitled “Blood and Steel” and later the inventive “Han’s Island” (while lying to my father and telling him they had sent him back to Los Angeles). This original script had none of the iconic scenes that exist today. No “finger pointing at the moon.” No “art of fighting without fighting.” No philosophical scene with the monk discussing the true nature of mastery — “I do not hit. It hits all by itself.”
It was of utmost importance to my father that this film reflect his art and culture accurately and with depth. This was his moment to show the world who he was and what a Chinese gung fu man could do, and he was not going to settle for mediocre. So he rewrote the script and submitted his rewrites to the producers. He also argued back and forth with the studio over the title. His Chinese stage name was Siu Loong, which translates to “Little Dragon,” and this film was to be his introduction to the West. The title “Enter the Dragon” had a power and a specificity that “Han’s Island” and “Blood and Steel” did not. He wrote numerous letters to Warner Brothers petitioning for this name change: “Do consider carefully the title ‘Enter the Dragon.’ I really think this is a good title because ‘Enter the Dragon’ suggests the emergence of someone that is quality.” That “quality someone” he is referring to is, of course, himself!
The studio finally succumbed to this request and agreed to rename the film. My father trained like he had never trained before and worked continuously on the script to make it as good as possible. His production company, Concord Productions, became the Hong Kong production entity to make the film (though my father is not credited as a producer), and he was also tapped with choreographing the entire movie. He worked night and day to make the most of this opportunity he had been given. He was going to show Bruce Lee to the world.
As he wrote in a letter to Ted Ashley:
I am sure you agree with me that quality, extreme hard work, and professionalism is what cinema is all about. My twenty years of experience, both in martial arts and acting has led to the successful harmony of showmanship and genuine, efficient, artful expression. In short, this is it, and ain’t nobody knows it like I know it. Pardon my bluntness, but that is me! You see, my obsession is to make, pardon the expression, the f—ingest action motion picture that has ever been made. In closing, I will give you my heart, but please do not give me your head only. In return, I, Bruce Lee, will always feel the deepest appreciation for the intensity of your involvement.
The first day of shooting finally arrived, and the Hong Kong crew and the American crew were there and poised to begin, with various translators on set to help the two crews communicate with each other. My father, however, was a no-show — he refused to come to set. You see, the final locked shooting script had been issued, and it did not incorporate the pages he had written. None of his changes had been made.
One could argue that, in this moment, my father should have just done this movie as they wanted it, and then hoped it did well enough to get him the next opportunity, where maybe he could have had more creative control—a way to get his foot in the door and try to inch it open further and further with each subsequent project. But my father had already tried this in Hollywood, and he knew it didn’t work. He knew that if he didn’t take a stand, he would be marginalized over and over again by people who “knew better.”
And so the standoff began.
The crew started filming what shots they could that did not involve my father, and my father stayed in our house and refused to come to set until the changes were made. The producers would come to the house to try to reason with him. They would talk to my mom, who would act as the go-between when my father was fed up and refused to entertain any more of their rationalities about why they couldn’t do what he wanted. And my father continued to put his foot down. He told them they had the script for the movie he wanted to make, and if they used that script, he would happily show up to set.
The producers created cover-up stories about how my father was so nervous about being in a Hollywood movie and being a failure that he was terrified to show up to set. In books that were written many years after my father died, Fred Weintraub spun this tale of paralyzing fear on the part of my father — to the utter disgust and dismay of my mother and my family. Bruce Lee was not afraid of this opportunity. In fact, he was the only person who recognized the full nature of the opportunity and what it could be, and he would have rather blown it up than wasted it by doing something half-assed. He knew he would only get one chance to be introduced to the world. My mom urged the producers and director to pay attention, telling them, “He knows what he’s talking about. You should listen to him.”
The standoff continued for two weeks. As time went on, the crew ran out of shots to grab without their star and choreographer, and ended up sitting around with nothing to do at a substantial cost to the studio. Tensions were running high among the cast and crew.
The producers began to get pressure from Warner Brothers to get the production back on track, and there was only one way that was going to happen. The producers finally gave in to my father’s demands. They implemented the script changes he had made and agreed to shoot the film he envisioned.
When I asked my mom years later if he had really been willing to lose the opportunity rather than submit to their demands, she said without hesitation, “You bet!” Bruce Lee had taken a stand and held to his core. He brought the full force of his expression and his being into play because he knew what was important to his soul. He had stayed true to his center and in so doing, the full force of the tornado that was him changed the landscape around him forever.
“Enter the Dragon” became a global phenomenon and cemented my father as an icon of martial arts and culture.
Excerpted from “Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee,” copyright © 2020 by Shannon Lee, with permission from Flatiron Books.
Watch The Video Below!