Tragic Facts About Brandon Lee, The Lost Legend

October 22, 2023 | Dylan Fleury

Tragic Facts About Brandon Lee, The Lost Legend

He may have never reached the heights that his father did, but there is no denying that Brandon Lee was on the trajectory towards superstardom before his tragic and abrupt departure. Lee had quite the shoes to fill and the shadow to overcome, and even though he wanted to carve his own path, he couldn’t resist giving in to his natural abilities. He may have left us before fully reaching his potential and his prime but regardless, he made the most of his time and he left a legacy that may be unfinished but is more than satisfying in its own right. Gone but never forgotten, the underrated and arguably underappreciated life of Bruce Lee’s son deserves a closer look! Here are 26 tragic facts about Brandon Lee.

1. Born With A Shadow

Brandon Lee was born on February 1, 1965, in Oakland, California. He already had enormous shoes to fill, as his father was none other than martial arts legend and action movie hero, Bruce Lee.


2. Air Miles

Lee didn’t stay in California for long, as he chose to live in Hong Kong with his dad. He would eventually need to reside in the United States with his mother and sister in Seattle following his father's departure from life when he was just eight years old.

Unusual Deaths FactsPxHere

3. First Time For Everything

Brandon Lee had a lot of acting firsts in his short-lived career as he worked his way through various formats of entertainment. In 1986, at the relatively young age of 20, Lee would not only make his professional acting debut in the TV Movie, Kung Fu: The Movie, but he would also appear in his first feature film, Legacy of Rage, that same year.

However, it was a Cantonese film shot in Hong Kong, so his American feature film debut didn’t come until 1991 when he starred alongside Dolph Lundgren in Showdown in Little Tokyo.

Brandon Lee FactsShowdown in Little Tokyo, Warner Bros

4. Renaissance Man

In total, Lee had nine acting credits to his name spanning across various mediums. He appeared in two TV series and had roles in one TV movie and six feature films.

Brandon Lee FactsShowdown in Little Tokyo, Warner Bros

5. Lasting Impression

Lee won two acting awards—posthumously—for his role in The Crow, as the titular character. He received Best Actor from the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards and Best Male Performance from the MTV Movie Awards. The only other award he was nominated for in his short career was for Best New Performer at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1987 for Legacy of Rage.

Brandon Lee FactsShutterstock

6. Test Your Might

Brandon has quite the connection to the video game franchise Mortal Kombat. The character Liu Kang was inspired by his dad, Bruce, and Brandon had initially been selected to portray Johnny Cage in the 1995 film adaptation of the game prior to his passing.

Brandon Lee FactsWikimedia Commons, Daniel Benavides

7. He Has The Face For It

Brandon was approached to play his dad in the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, but evidently turned it down. He would later explain his reasoning in an interview stating, “It’s strange to play your own father, you know? I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it". However, Lee admitted that if the role were offered to him later on in his career, he would have given it more serious consideration.

Brandon Lee FactsDragon: The Bruce Lee Story,Universal Pictures

8. Imitation Is Pale

It's possible that Brandon Lee could have been an even bigger action star before his untimely departure, but he claimed he turned down multiple roles in action movies because he didn't want to be typecast. He even admitted he initially wanted to stay away from action films all together to take on more serious roles and carve his own career path.

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9. Too Cool For School

Following his father's passing, Brandon Lee transitioned from a mild-mannered boy to a troublemaking teenager, resulting in his expulsion from two high schools and his decision to leave a third.

Green Day factsShutterstock

10. In And Out

During his short time at Emerson College in Boston—where he studied drama—if Lee wasn’t in class he was commuting to New York for acting classes. He eventually dropped out after one year to pursue acting full-time. His time at college wasn’t a complete waste, though, as he got the chance to perform the one-man play Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Simon Cowell factsShutterstock

11. Flock To The Theatre

The Crow was number one at the box office its opening weekend, bringing in $11.7 million, with a total gross of $50 million on a $14 million budget. At the time, it was the biggest opening ever for a Miramax film, but since then has dropped to number 14 on the list.

Kelsey Grammer FactsShutterstock

12. Days Away

Brandon Lee’s filming schedule for The Crow was quite intense, as it consisted mainly of night shoots six days a week. The schedule was so grueling that Lee would joke that the seventh day was for drinking. To further complicate things, he was nearing the end of filming, as they were on day 50 of a 54-day shoot when he unfortunately could not continue.

There would have been no more night shoots after that one as well, as the remaining scenes left to shoot were flashbacks to happier times.

Johnny Depp factsShutterstock

13. A True Showman

According to Lee’s friends, comedy films were not out of the realm of possibility for him as he was genuinely funny and quite the prankster. He reportedly once drove a hearse around Los Angeles for the fun of it. Apparently, he also didn’t care for front doors, as he would frequently scale his friend’s houses so he could enter through the upstairs window.

Brandon Lee FactsFlickr,Elizabeth Rios

14. Skin And Bones

To prepare for the lead role of The Crow and look the part, Lee reportedly dropped 9 kg (20 lbs), weighing 63 kg (138 lbs) during filming. This is way too low when you take into account Lee’s six-foot frame. To stay in that physique, Lee’s workouts would consist of half an hour on the StairMaster, followed by light barbell lifting.

Chris Pratt factsLibreshot

15. Other Options

Christian Slater was originally slated to play the titular character in The Crow but they couldn’t come to an agreement, because he reportedly wanted too much money. Texas country-punker Charlie Sexton was also considered for the part, before it ultimately went to Lee.

Luke Perry FactsShutterstock

16. Fourth Times The Charm

After giving up on high school, Lee took some time to clear his head and spent a year hitchhiking around the United States before giving high school one last shot—sort of—by writing and passing a high school equivalency test. He once described the test as, “an insult to everybody with free intelligence in the universe,” which is his way of saying it was fairly easy.

Brandon Lee FactsShutterstock

17. More Than Meets The Eye

The creator of The Crow comic—James O’Barr—was originally not on board with the casting of Lee in the titular role, as he felt that Lee was “too sweet” to pull of the vengeful character. However, all that concern went out the window the second he saw Lee in the full costume with face paint and everything and immediately knew the studio made the right choice.

Brandon Lee FactsFlickr,Elizabeth Rios

18. Red Herring

The Crow seemed to be cursed from day one, with multiple crewmembers getting injured throughout production. On top of that, Lee also managed to cut himself badly on a piece of sugar glass while filming a scene. Sugar glass is imitation glass, thus it approximates to someone harming themselves with a butter spreader. It’s possible, but should never happen.

Brandon Lee FactsThe Crow,Miramax

19. Never To Young To Learn

Bruce Lee immediately introduced his only son to the world of martial arts; as soon as Brandon learned how to walk, he was learning how to kick. Brandon would also travel the world with his dad, “appearing on talks shows and performing all sorts of martial arts feats". They may not have had a lot of time together in this world, but they made sure to make the most of it.

Brandon Lee FactsWikimedia Commons

20. Tragically Avoidable

Sadly, Lee tragically left us on March 31, 1993, at the tender age of 28. Strangely enough, it happened while filming his fatality scene for the movie, The Crow. A prop weapon intended to fire harmless rounds at Lee had been previously used to discharge dummy projectiles. Unfortunately, it was not appropriately inspected or cleaned prior to its subsequent use. If someone had examined it, they would have found that the tip of a dummy projectile was stuck in the barrel.

Purple Crocus in Bloom during Daytime in a graveyardPixabay, Pexels

21. Too Late

The firearm was discharged at Lee and the projectile struck him in the abdomen, leaving "an entry wound approximately the size of a silver dollar."  Unfortunately, no one realized anything was wrong until the director yelled cut on the scene and Lee didn’t get up. He was rushed to the hospital but the damage was too substantial to repair, and he unfortunately succumbed to his injuries.

Brandon Lee FactsShutterstock

22. Side By Side For Eternity

Following his passing, Lee's body was transported to Seattle, where he was laid to rest next to his father in Lake View Cemetery on April 3, 1993. The spot is visited by 10,000 people a year, who pay their respects and leave offerings.

Brandon Lee FactsShutterstock

23. What Would’ve Been

Before he met with his untimely end, Lee had plans to marry his fiancée, Eliza Hutton, on April 17 in Mexico, a week after The Crow was set to wrap.

Brandon Lee FactsWikipedia

24. Level Of Culpability

A two-month law enforcement inquiry was initiated to determine the cause of Lee's demise and to decide if charges should be filed against the several parties involved. In the end, it was determined that although negligence was clearly involved, it wasn’t at a level high enough to press charges against anyone, and the case was closed.

Brandon Lee FactsShutterstock

25. No One Should See That

After the investigation into Lee's tragic incident, the footage that captured the moment he was shot was responsibly eliminated. This was to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands and possibly ending up in the public sphere, which would be nearly impossible to avoid nowadays.

Brandon Lee FactsShutterstock

26. Foreshadowing

The movie Game of End—Bruce Lee's final film—has a peculiar association with the Lee family. In the movie, Bruce's character represents an actor who, during a scene, unintentionally sustains real harm after a malevolent individual substitutes the prop rounds with genuine ones. This closely resembles the unfortunate event precipitating Brandon's untimely demise, absent the element of a willfully intended violent act. In addition, Bruce's time was cut short before he could finish filming his movie, which is the same fate that befell Brandon with The Crow.

Brandon Lee FactsColumbia Pictures

27. Tin Foil Hats

Just as it was with his father, countless conspiracy theories surrounded Brandon's demise, some of which even mirrored those linked to Bruce. One theory posits that Brandon's life was taken by the notorious Triad gang, as a consequence of his refusal to participate in their Hong Kong movie productions. Another maintains that the Chinese Mafia is responsible, much like a similar conspiracy theory suggests their involvement in Bruce's demise. There is also a straightforward theory that they were simply cursed.

Pearl Harbor FactsShutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

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