Just days after the poster arrived for the martial arts biopic Birth of the Dragon, the trailer has finally dropped. While this movie isn't the first to address Bruce Lee's legend, it is the only one to detail a legendary fight between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man, which helped define Bruce Lee and turn him into a legend. The film premiered last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, but a domestic release date has not been issued.
An affectionate nod to the classic Kung Fu films of the 1970s, Birth of the Dragon is a dramatization of the true life but much disputed fight between Kung Fu greats Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) and Shaolin Master Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia) in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1964. Based on Michael Dorgan's magazine article, "Bruce Lee's Toughest Fight," the film is written by Chris Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele, the Oscar-nominated screenwriters of Ali and Nixon. They wove together many conflicting accounts of the actual fight and added in fictional characters Steve McKee (based on Steve McQueen who studied with Bruce Lee in the later 60s) and female lead Xiulan, whose fates become entwined in the outcome of the fight.
A tribute to the films of Bruce Lee, that inspired generations of martial arts fans, the film is directed by George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) and stars Phillip Ng, Xia Yu and Billy Magnussen. The Chinese/American co-production is produced by Kylin and Groundswell. Director George Nolfi spoke with Deadline, revealing how Chinese funding could now become integral for stories involving heroes who aren't suited up in spandex. Here's what he had to say about getting involved in this Chinese production.
"I got involved just as Kylin Pictures said they wanted to buy it outright. From a filmmaker's standpoint and from a future business standpoint, I got to be a very interested observer in a financing company being willing to make a movie that is both about something in a real sense, and not about a brand. Bruce Lee is well known, but that's not a brand project and it's in a genre Hollywood hasn't made movies in for years. When was the last major Kung-Fu movie? So I'm watching this and thinking that if, in the next 10 years of our business, there are Chinese companies willing to support movies like this, made in the Hollywood format and style, with a Hollywood director given creative controls, that's very good for our business. You enter with a certain degree of cautious optimism but the result has been everything I'd hoped for. When you do business with a foreign company, with a different language, you have learn their customs. But they let me make exactly the movie I wanted to, with zero interference. If this is the future of movies for the next five, 10 years than you can just say unequivocally that this is a godsend to Hollywood because it's very hard for studios to make movies that aren't sequels or branded material now. I was very excited to see that Sully was doing well this weekend. There's a movie that's about something real, based on a real figure. By all accounts from the reception at Telluride, it was a crowd-pleaser. It's clearly going to be successful movie."
The supporting cast for Birth of the Dragon includes Terry Chen, Ron Yuan, Vanessa Ross, Darren E. Scott and Darryl Quon. You can visit Deadline for George Nolfi's full interview, and hopefully we'll have word about this movie's release date soon. In the meantime, take a look at the trailer, along with the poster for Birth of the Dragon that debuted last week.