Can you imagine growing up in the shadow of martial-arts superstar Bruce Lee? Brandon Lee found himself in this complex and demanding role from a young age. Yet, the young man fought to make a name for himself in the world of cinema… until his sudden on-set death. This is the raw, powerful, and tragic life story of Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon.

Growing up in Bruce Lee’s shadow

On February 1, 1965, in Oakland, California, Bruce Lee’s first and only son, Brandon Lee, was born. Unfortunately, the young man didn’t grow up with the powerful father figure that his fans witnessed on the big screen. Bruce Lee passed away due to cerebral edema in Hong Kong in 1973. Shortly after, Brandon Lee, his sister, and his mother relocated to California for a fresh start. Yet, trouble seemed to follow poor Brandon everywhere he went.

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Losing his father at such a young age, especially being in the spotlight, was very difficult for Brandon to cope with. As a result, he became a teenage troublemaker. He briefly attended Chadwick School in Los Angeles, though was kicked out for driving his car down the hill behind the school…backward. He also tried out another high school, Bishop Mongomery, yet he ended up dropping out. After getting his G.E.D., he tried his hand at university life, spending a year at Emerson College in Boston. Yet, he didn’t end up enjoying the college experience.

Fortunately, while he didn’t have a passion for school, Brandon fell deeply in love with acting. After a year, he relocated to New York City to receive acting lessons, as well as martial arts training. Learning from his father’s students and his closest friends, Brandon developed his skills as an actor and a fighter. He got his foot in the door cinematically working as a script reader for the L.A. based company Ruddy Morgan Productions. Soon, Brandon was on his way to a film career as fruitful as his father’s.

Making a name for himself

In the earliest stretch of his career, Brandon claimed his first credited film role in Kung Fu: The Movie. The made-for-TV film featured him as an intense assassin with terrifying accuracy. His on-screen martial arts skills gained him tons of attention from both new fans and cult followers of his father. He truly seemed to channel the beloved talents of his dad in this film…and he continued to do so as he furthered his career.

After both cameo and credited roles in other films, Brandon scored his first feature role: the lead in Legacy of Rage. The film stayed true to his upbringing, as it was shot in Hong Kong. It was also filmed in Cantonese, a language which Brandon grew up speaking. The movie both connected to his childhood and his heritage, which Brandon was beginning to fully embrace. He was nominated for a Hong Kong Film Award for Best New Performer thanks to his performance in this film. He continued to prove himself to be more than Bruce Lee’s son.

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After his debut starring role, Brandon jumped around between a few television projects. Yet, he quickly made his return to the big screen in a number of action films. From the weapon-focused Laser Mission to the mafia thriller Rapid Fire, Brandon refused to fall out of relevance. In Showdown in Little Tokyo, Brandon debuted for the first time in an American film. He signed with 20th Century Fox for multiple movies. Additionally, Brandon began to choreograph some of his own fights in his films, channeling the energy of his dad. At the time, his career seemed to only be skyrocketing upward…until The Crow ended his chances to thrive.

His untimely, Hollywood death

Up until Lee signed on for his final film, his life seemed perfect. He was preparing to marry his casting-director fiancée, Eliza Hutton, in Mexico. He also seemed to have scores of films lined up with his name on them. One of these films happened to be a flick called The Crow, which was based on a comic series written by James O’Barr. Before filming began, the eccentric show—revolving around a supernatural crow and a dead rock star—was projected as an enjoyable project. However, things on the set of The Crow quickly turned into turmoil.

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On the first day, a crew member nearly electrocuted himself to death, burning his organs against an electrical pole. It seemed to be a premonition for many more worrisome accidents that occurred during shooting. On their third day of shooting, a prop truck randomly caught on fire. Later on, a stunt man fell through a set rooftop and broke his ribs. An angry sculptor drove his car through part of the set. All massive signs to call off a film, right? Apparently not. And sadly, the curse cinematic project led to Brandon Lee’s tragic and untimely death.

On the day that Lee was performing his death scene, the set members made many irresponsible decisions. The weapons master had left the set for the day (yes, the day they were firing guns). Additionally, the propmaster didn’t bother checking the barrel of the gun before popping in D.I.Y. dummy cartridges. Actor Michael Massee fired at Brandon with a prop gun…and a real shell flew out instead of a blank. It struck his abdomen and dove all the way to his spine. While he was rushed to the hospital, he lost a ton of blood. Intensive surgery and blood transfusions were unsuccessful; the damage was irreparable. He passed away on March 31, 1993, at the age of 28 years old. Surprisingly, after his accidental death, The Crow was still fully completed and released—and Brandon’s fans eagerly showed up to remember the famed, fallen actor.