October 26, 2021

Brandon Lee's Fate & That of His Character in 'the Crow' Both Ended in Death During Filming

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On the last day of his life, albeit unknowingly, Brandon Lee left the Wilmington Fitness Today Health Club for the Carolco Studios for another arduous evening of filming the dark fantasy action film, "The Crow."

The 28-year-old Brandon Lee had been cast for the role of Eric Draven, a resurrected musician raised from the dead by the Stygian supernatural crow to avenge his fiancee's rape and murder and his wrongful death.

The film was based on James O'Barr's graphic novel, "The Crow," which brings out O'Barr's anger over the loss of his fiance at the hands of a drunken driver in '79.

Left: Brandon Lee in Los Angeles, California. Right: Brandon Lee with his fiancee Eliza Hutton at the "Alien 3" Century City Premiere on May 19, 1992 at Cineplex Odeon Century Plaza Cinemas in Century City, California. | Source: Getty Images


To deal with the grief, O'Barr, a creative from early childhood, poured his heart out in the novel, later turning into a movie.


Like many children whose parents are in the film industry, Lee grew up inclined towards acting and began at an early age, landing his first significant role in the 1985 "Kung Fu: The Movie."

Lee often followed his dad as he juggled acting roles in Hong Kong and the United States. But when he was only eight, his father passed on, under what was ruled as brain swelling caused by a reaction to headache medication.


Brandon Lee in Century City Premiere in 1992 | Source: Getty Images

His death came as he was filming "Game of Death," and only six days to release his movie "Enter the Dragon," in which he coincidentally played an actor who was shot when a gangster replaced fake bullets with real ones.


Lee highly respected the impact his father had had on the industry and the legacy he had left behind. But he also wanted to be recognized as an independent actor, striving not to get lost in his father's shadow.

Actor Bruce Lee, his wife Linda Emery, and son Brandon Lee in 1973 | Source: Getty Images


Dwight Little, director of Lee's 1992 action movie "Rapid Fire," told the Hollywood Reporter in a 1993 interview, as reported by The Washington Post:

"He wanted to go out as Brandon Lee. He didn’t want to exploit his father’s name. He was very devoted to his father’s memory, but he didn’t want to be 'Little Bruce Lee.'"

Until then, Lee's career had been shaped by his bloodline, often being offered roles that reflected his father's works close to three decades earlier. 


His roles on TV included Caine's son on "Kung Fu: The Movie" and Caine's grandson on "Kung Fu: The Next Generation." And in both movies, Caine's character had been initially cut out for his father, famous actor and martial arts professional Bruce Lee, 


When he landed the role of Draven in "The Crow," Lee finally had a chance to show the world what he was made of. O'Barr says Lee had waited all his life for the role.

The movie was shot in an old cement factory, and the set was said to have been dank, dark, claustrophobic, and cold. The conditions were brutal, even for an actor of Lee's unmatched physical prowess.


Actor Brandon Lee and girlfriend Eliza Hutton attend the "Little Man Tate" Hollywood Premiere on October 6, 1991 at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Most of the shooting was done at night, outdoors, and in subzero temperatures, and Lee's manager, Jan McCormack, was beginning to get concerned. He called Wilmington to raise his concerns about the working conditions, saying


"You guys are killing Brandon down there."

In what would later look like a premonition, McCormack did not realize that instead of the challenging cold conditions, his client would die by the hand of a fellow cast member. 



March 1993. The film was only four days short of completion. Lee was only in California for three months for the movie, but the schedule had already taken a toll on him.

And so, the actor was looking forward to wrapping up the shooting and flying down to Mexico to wed his fiancee, Eliza Hutton. However, a simple moment of negligence would lead to an unforeseen event that would forever change the course of history.

On that day, a fatal mistake happened on set. Funboy, played by Michael Massee, thought, according to plan, that the gun handed to him for the scene was loaded with blanks.



The crew and Massee were, however, oblivious of the fact that the tip of a dummy bullet had accidentally been left in the chamber of the .44-magnum pistol in Massee's hand a few weeks earlier. 

Massee was supposed to shoot at Lee as he came in through the door. Propelled off the barrel by a blank charge, the dummy bullet from the prop gun hit Lee in the abdomen, and he fell to the ground, his spine severed.

At first, the crew thought Lee was kidding, but when his breathing became heavy and started bleeding from the abdomen, it became clear that something had gone wrong. 

Brandon Lee in Los Angeles, California in 1990. | Photo: Getty Images


They quickly rushed Lee to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. After hours of surgery to dislodge the bullet, the efforts proved futile, and 12 hours after the unfortunate incident, Lee passed on.

After months of investigating the matter, the authorities concluded that Lee's death was purely accidental and not out of malice. It might have been ruled as negligence, but no one was held at fault for deliberately wanting to hurt Lee. 

A simple movie mistake had cost Lee his life and Hutton, her fiancee, just days before they walked down the aisle. The world at large lost an aspiring and dedicated actor. 



While Lee's death was ruled as an accident, it is shocking that such cases are not isolated. Just days ago, a similar mishap happened on the set of "Rust."

Actor Alec Baldwin shot and killed a cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and injured another director Joel Souza in a tragedy that had been deemed "avoidable."



Following the recent incident, Eliza Hutton, Lee's fiancee, came forward to express her concern and condolences to the Hutchins family. She remembered a similar incident 28 years ago that robbed her of the love of her life. Speaking to People, she said: 

"My heart aches again now for Halyna Hutchins' husband and son and for all those left in the wake of this avoidable tragedy."

She went on to urge those involved in making movies to seek an alternative to the gun menace that seems to keep taking lives on set.  


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