I first met Bruce Lee when we both worked on the Green Hornet TV series in the summer of 1966. Bruce was an unknown actor playing Kato alongside of Van Williams who was in the title role. I was the First Assistant Cameraman assigned to the camera crew and I had no idea of Bruce’s legendary skills when we began the show. Although the show was short-lived, it made Bruce a household name. When the show was cancelled, Bruce found it hard to get a good acting job and returned to Hong Kong to work there for Raymond Chow and his Golden Harvest Studios.
While working on the Green Hornet, Bruce and I became friends and after he went to Hong Kong, we stayed in touch and I visited him several times during my many trips there. He asked me to come and work on his films there but I was always too busy with my work here to do that. During the period from 1967 to 1973, Bruce became Asia’s biggest and most famous movie star.
In late 1972, Mort Lichter, head of the Warner Bros Still Department, contacted me about working on their upcoming film Enter The Dragon that was to be shot in Hong Kong. Mort knew that I had spent a lot of time in Hong Kong and he also knew that I had known and had worked with Bruce. It took me about three seconds to say yes to that job.
When I arrived in Hong Kong in early 1973, I learned that I was one of a very small group of American crewmembers that would be working on the film. Director Robert Clouse, Director of Photography Gil Hubbs, Producer Fred Weintraub, and Associate Producer Andre Morgan, an American living in Hong Kong and working for Raymond Chow. We were the ones who were on the set every day.
The film itself was an absolute joy to work on and Bruce was a real professional to work with. He knew everyone’s lines, knew what everyone was supposed to do and choreographed all of the fight scenes. Bruce was the real deal and could do more than what he showed in the film. He had the best control of his body of anyone that I have ever known. Bruce once told that he could kill a person ten different ways before he hit the ground and I sure as hell believed him.
We enjoyed many special moments on that film but what I most remember are the wonderful lunches that the American crew had with Bruce at the beautiful, old Repulse Bay Hotel. Sitting on their veranda and enjoying a wonderful buffet lunch while overlooking the South China Sea is something I will never forget. Bruce and I had several dinners together in Hong Kong but he didn’t like to go out very much because people who didn’t believe that he could actually do what he did in the movies would often challenge him. Bruce never accepted these challenges but one time, when challenged on the set by a very stupid extra, he did accept and the fight was over with one fast kick to that idiot’s teeth.
Filming of the big fight scene on the grass tennis court did have one very anxious moment when Bruce’s hand was badly cut by the glass bottle held by Bob Wall who played the villainous Oharra. Seems the Chinese film industry at that time had never heard of the artificial candy glass bottles used regularly for such things in American films and they used a real glass bottle instead. Bruce needed to go to the hospital for stitches but being the professional that he was, he returned to the set later in the day.
A couple of interesting notes from this film are: Bolo Yeung, the muscular villain, was known as The Beast of The East and The Chinese Hercules. He was a champion weight lifter and was famous for crushing an unknown extra named Jackie Chan to death during the fight. He did not speak English at that time but was a delightful man to work with.
Kien-Shih, who played the evil Han, had been in the film industry since 1939, when he started as a makeup man. He became famous for playing movie villains and had a very long career. Although he did not speak English, he seemed to understand what we asked him to do. He was very professional on the set and a very nice man.
When we finished this film, I went to Europe to cover the Motorcycle Grand Prix circuit. While I was at Monza, Italy for the Italian Grand Prix in July 1973, a fellow photographer, who knew that I was a good friend of Bruce approached me and told that he had heard that Bruce had died. I was in complete shock since I knew that Bruce was my age and in great shape. Needless to say, later in the day this was confirmed to me and I was deeply saddened. Bruce had asked me to work on his next film but obviously that would never happen.
When I attended a private showing of the film at Warner Bros, there was a great sadness, knowing that Bruce would never see the completed film or attend the premiere of the film.
Bruce was a great guy, and I loved him and still do.