Bruceploitation icon remembers “honor” of paying tribute to Bruce Lee

Bruceploitation actor Bruce Le remembers it being far harder to imitate the real Bruce Lee than it might have seemed.

Last Updated on June 3, 2024

Bruce Le Bruce Lee

The idea of cashing in on a recently deceased celebrity is a shameful one, but when Bruce Lee died in 1973 at the age of just 32, Asian markets — predominately Hong Kong — cornered and spinning heel kicked the market, delivering a wheelhouse of movies that would come to be known as Bruceploitation. While Bruce Lee could fall under the category of “often imitated, never equaled”, filmmakers and stars behind Bruceploitation worked to keep their hero’s legend thriving on the big screen. One such star of the genre was Wong Kin-lung, who would go on to be known as Bruce Le (get it?). As he put it, “It was almost like an honor,” although the opportunity presented its own challenges. “I thought I could make Bruce Lee-style action my way, because I was a martial arts teacher.”

On developing a technique among everybody else who was part of the Bruceploitation explosion of the ‘70s, he added, “Bruce was a very dedicated performer and acting is not like kung fu. So it wasn’t actually as easy to imitate him as they thought, because of the acting component involved. At the start, we wanted to imitate our idol. But after making 10 or so movies, I started to create my own style — but at the same time, I was still following the spirit of Bruce Lee.”

That spirit of Bruce Lee found Le starring in a series of Bruceploitation entries, including Way of the Dragon 2, Enter the Game of Death and The Clones of Bruce Lee. Yeah, Bruceploitation made no secrets about what it was…There is a lot of the genre out there, but starting off with flicks starring Bruce Le and Bruce Li is the way to go — although we would of course recommend you do your homework on the inspiration first. There’s also a really cool documentary out there called Enter the Clones of Bruce.

While Bruceploitation is out of its peak, appreciation for Bruce Lee himself is experiencing some of a resurgence right now. Ang Lee even has a biopic in the works, which will come out more than 30 years after the Jason Scott Lee-starring Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.

Are you a fan of the Bruceploitation genre? Who and which movie stands out for you? Drop your picks below!

Source: Variety

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.