Few are more like a real-life superhero than martial arts legend Bruce Lee. An icon whose legacy only grew after his tragic and early death, he inspired many across the world, including director George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau). His sophomore film Birth of the Dragon is built on the back of Lee’s legacy, a fictionalized account of one of the 1964 “private brawl” with Wong Jack Man.
Nolfi spoke to Deadline about Lee’s Batman-level legend, transitioning from screenwriter to director, directing a script he didn’t write and the state of Hollywood movies, particularly for writers. Birth of the Dragon is an example of the merging of Hollywood with Chinese financiers and filmmakers (Warcraft is a past example; The Great Wall an upcoming one). The industry is only starting to see the possibilities of Chinese partnerships, which he anticipates will only grow in the coming years.
“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?”
(NOTE: For martial arts aficionados, watch Into the Badlands, an AMC series that, over 6 episodes in its first season (it’s renewed for a 10-episode second) delivered some badass throwback fights). I recommend).
Nolfi’s experience was exceedingly pleasant, saying he encountered “zero interference.” He said the infusion of Chinese money could potentially save a dying form of studio film – the mid-level drama about “real-life superheroes” a la last weekend’s Sully. Deadline cited the upcoming Mel Gibson,directed Hacksaw Ridge about WWII hero Desmond Doss, a combat medic who neither carried nor fired a gun in combat, as another example.
“If this is the future of movies for the next five, ten 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 . . . There aren’t very many people like that. Leo, there’s Matt Damon, there’s Tom Hanks. Superhero movies are good for the business up to a point but when they’re all branded superheroes up to the exclusion of….you know…Sully is a kind of superhero, Bruce Lee is a kind of superhero. If they’re all Marvel and DC superheroes….”
Nolfi made the film despite not writing the script because of his connection to Lee’s legend, likening it to Star Wars as giving him “a sense of what was possible in cinema.” Check out the whole interview through the link below. for much more on Birth of the Dragon!