Bruce Lee's legend still kicking

Saturday, July 19, 2003

— Before Jackie Chan, before Jet Li, there was Bruce Lee.

The man whose name is synonymous with kung fu died 30 years ago Sunday, at just 32. His early death only enhanced his legend, which lives today in the hearts and fists of Hollywood.

Lee's movies still sell. Internet shrines abound, examining his best quotes, his smoothest moves and conspiracy theories about his death.

Martial arts stars Chan and Li are following a trail blazed by Lee, whose devastating fighting style overshadowed his philosophy and nationalism.

Chan said that when he started out, Lee's presence loomed so large he made a conscious effort to be different. The result was Chan's signature comedic style.

"Bruce Lee kicked high, I kicked low. Bruce Lee punched with an 'AAHH!' After I punched, I made a funny face," Chan said in a 1995 interview with The Associated Press.

Oscar-winning director Quentin Tarantino, an avid fan of Hong Kong cinema, draws inspiration from Lee's movies in his upcoming action thriller "Kill Bill." Besides the martial arts sequences themselves, star Uma Thurman, playing the world's deadliest female assassin, has a sword fight while wearing a yellow outfit similar to the one favored by Lee.

Lee died of an edema, or swelling of the brain, in the home of a Hong Kong actress. The coroner described it as "death by misadventure," fueling speculation that drugs or other factors may have been involved.

Adding to the mystique, Lee's son also died under unusual circumstances. Budding actor Brandon Lee was 28 when he was fatally wounded in 1992 on a movie set by a dummy bullet mistakenly loaded into a prop gun.

Eventually, Bruce Lee's life story was deemed worthy of a movie itself -- "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" was released in 1993.

Lee is buried at the Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, where he once studied philosophy at the University of Washington.