EXCLUSIVE: Sony’s 3000 Pictures has finalized a deal that will see Oscar winner Ang Lee direct Bruce Lee, a film starring the filmmaker’s son Mason Lee in the role of the iconic martial artist. Dan Futterman, whose work includes Captain and Foxworking on a script that has seen previous versions by Jean Castelli, Alex Law and Mabel Cheung, and, most recently, Wells Tower.
Lawrence Grey, Shannon Lee, Ang Lee, Ben Everard and Brian Bell are producing, and Elizabeth Gabler and Marisa Paiva are in charge of the project for the studio. The project reunites Gabler, Paiva and Tom Rothman with the director after previously working together Life of Pi.
The director, who left his stamp on the genre of martial arts with the Oscar winner of Best Foreign Film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000 (it remains the highest-grossing international film in the US) has long wanted to enter the story-making scene. Lee came to the US and became a skilled teacher for actors like Steve McQueen and many others. He approached it like a scientist, mixing and matching the best features of each style that he put into Jeet Kune Do.
While the handsome and friendly Lee became one of the first Chinese-American actors to break into prime-time television when he played the sidekick Kato in The Green Horn, much of his early career was marked by the frustration he suffered as a fan who was not happy to be a sidekick. The problems included when white actor David Carradine was tapped to play the Chinese monk Kung Fu over Lee in 1972 – which some say started the concept – because TV executives felt audiences weren’t ready for a series led by an Asian actor. Lee found global success in a series of highly successful Hong Kong films. He was on the verge of a remarkable breakthrough in the US market with Enter the Dragondying suddenly at 32 just before that film was released in 1973.
“Regarded as neither fully American nor fully Chinese, Bruce Lee was a bridge between East and West who introduced Chinese Kung Fu to the world, a martial scientist and an iconic performing artist who both martial arts and action cinema changed,” Ang Lee told Date. “I feel compelled to tell the story of this brilliant, unique man who yearned to belong, who possessed tremendous power in a 135-pound frame, and who, through hard work relentless, impossible dreams come true.”
Lee has been quietly working on this for a long time, and that includes preparing his son for action. Mason Lee has been training for this role in Asia for the past three years, all through lock down. Lee is 32, and has appeared inside Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Tour, The Hangover Part IIand recently starred in the Taiwanese romantic comedy stand by meHong Kong drama Limbo and Who Killed Robin Cock (Mu Ji Zhe). He was nominated for a Golden Horse Award for Best Supporting Actor for both films.
“Bruce Lee is a long-term passion project for Ang and an incredibly emotional story depicting the triumphs and struggles of one of the greatest action heroes of our time,” Gabler said. “All of us at Sony and 3000 Pictures are proud of Ang and to help his filmmaking team create what we believe to be an exceptional theatrical event.
Ang Lee is repped by CAA and Schreck Rose Dapello Adams Berlin & Dunham. Futterman is represented by UTA and Frankfurt attorneys Kurnit. Gray Matter is repped by UTA and attorney Jamie Feldman at Lichter Grossman.