Brandon Lee was an American actor and martial artist, and the older child and only son of American martial artist and actor Bruce Lee. Brandon is best known for his portrayal of Eric Draven in the 1994 film adaptation of James O’Barr’s comic book, The Crow.
Brandon Bruce Lee was born in Oakland, California as the first child and only son of martial artist and actor Bruce Lee and his wife Linda Emery who was 19 at the time. Brandon’s younger sister Shannon was born four years later in 1969. As a child, Brandon, along with his sister Shannon, had frequently visited their father on movie sets. During this time, Brandon developed an interest in acting. In 1971 the family moved to Hong Kong, China. When Brandon was eight years old his father died on July 20, 1973 at the age of 32 after suffering from a cerebral edema. Bruce Lee was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, Washington. Following his father’s death, Brandon and his family moved back to California. Brandon attended Chadwick High School but was dismissed due to insubordination. He eventually received a GED in 1983, and attended Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where he majored in theater.
Brandon made his acting debut in 1986 in the television film Kung Fu: The Movie as the character Chung Wang, opposite David Carradine. His first theatrical film role was as Brandon Ma in the Hong Kong film Legacy of Rage, for which he received a Hong Kong Film Award nomination for best new performer. Brandon also starred as Michael Gold in Laser Mission, Johnny Murata in Showdown in Little Tokyo opposite Dolph Lundgren, and Jake Lo in Rapid Fire. In 1992 he landed the lead role of Eric Draven in The Crow a movie based off of James O’Barr’s comic book series, and directed by Alex Proyas. Filming started on Brandon’s 28th birthday on February 1, 1993 and was scheduled to end in early April.
For a year, between mid 1989 to mid 1990, Brandon, who was doing a lot of live theater performances at the time, started dating Shannon Bradley, who was also performing in live theater. The two eventually broke up. According to Shannon they spoke on the phone shortly after breaking up and she told him that she wasn’t sure that she wanted to get back together and that she needed more time. The last thing Brandon said to her was “Call me when you get your shit together.”
Sometime after his break up with Shannon, later that same year in 1990, Brandon had met Eliza Hutton who was working as a personal assistant to director Renny Harlin. Brandon and Eliza moved in together in 1991 and became engaged in 1992. Brandon and Eliza had planned to start a family immediately after their wedding which was planned to be on April 17, 1993 in Ensenada, Mexico. Brandon died before his wedding.
On March 31, 1993, while filming a scene for the movie The Crow, Brandon was accidentally shot and killed by his co star Michael Massee. In the scene, Brandon’s character, Eric Draven, was to walk into his apartment after grocery shopping, only to find his fiancé Shelly getting beaten and raped by thugs. Massee’s character, Funboy, was supposed to shoot Brandon’s character, Eric, with a Smith & Wesson model 629 .44 Magnum revolver from a distance of 12ft- 15ft away as he walked into the room. When the gun was fired, Brandon had fallen backwards instead of forwards like what had been previously rehearsed. According to people who were there, the cast and crew initially though he was joking, but they soon realized that something was wrong when Brandon continued to lay on the floor after director, Alex Proyas yelled “Cut!”. It was initially thought that Brandon somehow hurt himself by falling backwards. It was soon feared that he had internal injuries when his abdomen started to swell. When he was rushed to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the paramedics had put inflatable pants on Brandon in an attempt to push the blood from his legs to his upper body. Brandon underwent six hours of surgery where he was given around sixty pints of blood, however he was ultimately pronounced dead at 1:03 PM at the age of 28. When an autopsy was conducted, a .44 magnum bullet had been removed from his body, with his death certificate citing a gun shot wound to the abdomen as the cause of death.
What had led to the incident was that the prop crew, instead of purchasing actual dummy bullets, had tried to make their own makeshift dummy bullets using live rounds, removing the tips and gun powder, and reinserting the bullets into the gun. At some point during filming, the gun had been fired with the makeshift dummy bullets still in the chamber. Setting off the gun had caused one of the makeshift dummy bullets to be partially lodged in the barrel. The same gun would remain unchecked for two weeks. When the blanks were loaded into the same gun, the prop crew had either disregarded the severity of the situation or were completely unaware of it. When Massee fired the gun, the blank round had caused the makeshift dummy bullet to be fired at Brandon with virtually the same force as a live round, striking him in the abdomen, severing an artery in his spine, causing him to bleed to death. According to R E Gus Payne, the author of the book The Death of Brandon Lee: The Untold Story, Brandon had died within three minutes of being shot, but the doctors had decided to perform surgery despite knowing what the outcome would be. Brandon’s death was ruled an accident due to negligence. The footage of his death was eventually destroyed. The day of Brandon’s death, the weapons expert had been sent home early so the crew can save $100. Ironically the movie cost an extra $8 million to finish without Brandon. Brandon died just two weeks before his wedding to Eliza Hutton.
Brandon’s family had a private funeral for him attended by close friends and family including his fiancé Eliza and her family. Brandon was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, Washington in a plot next to his father Bruce Lee who died nearly twenty years earlier. Brandon’s gravestone was designed by Kirk McLean as a tribute to Brandon and Eliza. According to Brandon’s mother, “It represents Brandon and Eliza, the two of them, and how the tragedy of his death separated their mortal lives together.” His epitaph reads “Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless...”, this was a quote Brandon used in one of his last interviews taken from Paul Bowles’ book The Sheltering Sky, a quote he also used for his wedding invitations. As the quote is not attributed to Bowls on Brandon’s tomb stone, fans were mistakenly led to believe that Brandon came up with the quote himself. Brandon’s tombstone also includes a written tribute to him and his fiancé; “ For Brandon and Eliza ever joined in true loves beauty”.
After Brandon’s death, his mother Linda, and fiancée Eliza had supported director Alex Proyas’ decision to complete the film. Brandon had filmed most of the scenes for The Crow as he had died when there was only three days left of filming. The incomplete scenes were completed using stunt doubles and CGI to put Brandon’s face over the faces of the stunt doubles. The film was released on May 11, 1994 to critical and commercial success, making $50.7 million at the box office, more than it’s budget of $23 million. For his work in The Crow, Brandon was posthumously awarded the Fangoria Chainsaw Award for best actor, and he was nominated for an MTV Movie & TV Award for best male performer. The Crow was dedicated to Brandon and Eliza and has since become a cult classic
- Brandon was a cat lover and according to his The Crow co star Rochelle Davis, he didn’t like dogs
- Brandon was bilingual and spoke English and fluent Cantonese
- At death, Brandon was 6’0 and 175lbs
- He lost around 20lbs for his role in The Crow
- According to some people, Brandon didn’t believe he would live past the age of 30
- After his death it was discovered that Brandon had a mild case of coronary artery disease
- He owned a hearse and a motorcycle
- Brandon and his sister went to school in Hong Kong for two years
- Brandon was a smoker
- Brandon was a natural blonde but his hair got darker as he got older
- Brandon got Eliza a cat that they named Kato after Bruce Lee’s character Kato in the Television series The Green Hornet
- The Finnish band The 69 Eyes dedicated a song to Brandon called Brandon Lee
- Brandon liked to go camping
- Brandon learned how to play the guitar for his role in The Crow
- Every movie that Brandon stars in he’s using guns
- Whenever he was asked who he would see if he had the ability to come back to life after he died, Brandon would always say that he would want to see his fiancé Eliza
- Brandon never made a sequel to any of his movies
- Brandon often told a story about how a man broke into his house and threatened him with a knife from Brandon’s own kitchen. The confrontation resulted in Brandon dislocating the man’s shoulder and breaking his arm, fingers and nose
- Brandon was supposed to star in two sequels to The Crow
- In the late 1980s, there was a comic strip produced in Hong Kong about Bruce and Brandon Lee
- Brandon was happy to be starring in the same film as David Patrick Kelly as The Warriors was one of Brandon’s favorite movies, and David starred in the movie as the antagonist Luther
- Brandon was a fight choreographer for every movie he was in
- Brandon has a verified twitter account @brandonblee, created and run by his sister Shannon. He also has an unverified Instagram account brandonlee, also created and run by his sister
- Brandon’s native name is written as 李國豪which translates to Li Guohao
- Brandon was trained in Jeet Kune Do, Wing Chun, Muay Thai and Shaolin Kung Fu. Brandon‘s father Bruce started training Brandon in Jeet Kune Do since he started walking.
- Brandon made an appearance on the Television show, Ohara. This marks his only appearance on a television series and the only time he was ever the antagonist. Ohara was co created by Brandon’s The Crow co star Jon Polito.
- Some of Brandon’s heroes were Tom Hanks, Hunter S. Thompson, and Robert Pirsig
- While in Sweden promoting Rapid Fire, Brandon, alongside Eliza, filmed a cameo appearance in the Swedish film Sex, Lögner and Videovåld
- Most of the characters Brandon portrayed where of Chinese or Japanese descent; Brandon’s characters Chung Wang (Kung Fu: The Movie), Brandon Ma (Legacy of Rage), and Jake Lo (Rapid Fire) were of Chinese descent, and Brandon’s characters Johnny Murata (Showdown In Little Tokyo) and Kenji (Ohara) were of Japanese descent
- Brandon was buried in his wedding tuxedo
- Brandon’s paternal grandfather, Cantonese opera singer, Lee Hoi-chuen, died on February 7, 1965, six days after Brandon was born
- Brandon celebrated his 28th birthday on the set of The Crow, he was given a cake and a lot of ice cream but he ate none of it because he was trying to keep his weight down
- Brandon never addressed his The Crow co-star, Sofia Shinas, by name and only ever called her Shelly
- Brandon shares his birthday, February 1, with people such as Lisa Marie Presley, Harry Styles, and Lauren Conrad