Philip Ng Cast as Bruce Lee in ‘Birth of the Dragon’

'Birth of the Dragon': Philip Ng

Philip Ng will portray Bruce Lee in martial arts action movie “Birth of the Dragon,” with shooting commencing Tuesday in Vancouver.

Yu Xia will play Shaolin Master Wong Jack Man and Billy Magnussen will portray martial arts student Steve McKee. Jinging Qu plays the love interest of McKee’s character and Jin Xing will portray a crime boss. George Nolfi is directing from a script by Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele, who have writing credits on “Ali” and “Nixon.”

Groundswell Productions is producing the movie. Variety reported last year that Nolfi had become attached as the director.

The film recreates the mid-1960’s fight between Lee and Wong Jack Man from the point of view of McKee. After the fight, Lee reinvented himself and his style of kung fu. Action sequences will be designed by martial arts choreographer Corey Yuen, whose credits include “Lethal Weapon 4,” “X-Men,” “Romeo Must Die” and “The Expendables.”

Lee began appearing in films in the early 1970s before passing away in 1973. Wong remained silent about the fight for many years and retired from teaching martial arts in 2005 after 45 years.

“’Birth of the Dragon’ is a rare opportunity to make an action film with rich characters based on real events and real people,” Nolfi said. “It’s a story about people from the East and West transcending their differences to work together, which is obviously a very timely story.”

“Birth of the Dragon” is financed by Kylin Films. Producers are Michael London and his producing partner Janice Williams, along with Wilkinson, Rivele and Kylin’s James H. Pang. Leo Shi Young, David Nicksay and Nolfi are executive producers, and Helen Y. Zhong, Jaeson Ma and Joel Viertel are co-producers.

“We’re thrilled to be telling one of the great untold stories in martial arts history, especially at this unique moment when China and Western audiences are opening up to each other as never before,” said London. “To work with a Chinese film company like Kylin on a story that has so much significance in China has been a wonderful collaboration, and, we hope, the first of many.”

Kylin was represented in the financing transaction by Ed Labowitz of Alexander, Lawrence, Frumes & Labowitz, LLP, and Groundswell by David Boyle.

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  1. This is cool but also kind of worrying. Will they tell the real story, or make it up like in the movie Dragon?

    It must be pointed out though that the story about Lee being threatened because he was teaching students that weren’t Asian is more than likely not true. It’s an urban fiction.

    For the truth, check out the book (available on Amazon) called ‘Showdown in Oakland: The Story Behind the Wong Jack Man – Bruce Lee Fight’ by Rick Wing (a student of Wong’s).
    He interviews the people who were actually there and who actually saw the fight and gives the circumstances around it. He even includes clippings from Asian newspapers (translated for English readers) that talk about the story.

    What really happened is that Bruce Lee was at the Sun Sing theatre dancing the cha-cha with a partner onstage, followed by a martial arts demonstration he gave. According to witnesses, he was supposed to hit a volunteer (with a pad over his chest0 and knock him backwards. Only, it didn’t work the first time (for some reason) and people laughed. Lee got angry and issued a challenge from the stage –

    “Lee, flustered and angry, quickly reacted and made comments to the audience suggesting that if someone felt they could do better, they’d be welcome to come up onto the stage and try. He then said that he was better than any martial artist in San Francisco, and would welcome the challenge of anyone who could prove him wrong. If anyone needed to be shown his skill, they could come to his studio and see for themselves.
    Wing, Rick (2014-01-11). Showdown in Oakland: The Story Behind the Wong Jack Man – Bruce Lee Fight (Kindle Locations 838-841). . Kindle Edition. ”

    So, some people from the community thought they ought to take him up on his challenge and it was decided that Wong Jack Man would be the one to fight. It was supposed to be “an exchange of skills” or something like that, and not an angry bout. Jack Man was about the same age as Lee at that time – a young man (there are photographs of him in the book) and quite a reserved man.

    Anyhow, they arranged it with Lee, went to his studio and the match took place. By the accounts of those there, it was largely a draw, and Wong was the one who got the only meaningful punch in to the left side of Lee’s neck. Wong also had told his friends that he wouldn’t use his kicks at all during the fight, and stood by his word.

    The match has been blown up into something it wasn’t and (as I said) had nothing to do with the teaching of students (foreign or otherwise). Also, there was not a clear winner.

    But yes, after the match Lee started training more as he thought the match went on for too long etc.
    I say all this as a fan of Lee, but I also think the truth should be out there.

  2. Mark Oszoli says:

    Is this movie going to be based on the 3 minute actual fight or on the 25 minutes made up fight?

    • MICHAEL BYRD says:

      I believe this account but I also believe thru Lees own words he was challenged again in San Francisco not to teach and he was much more experienced by then and his wife was there too and she described the whole thing in detail on several accounts. Also what about the public knowledge of his fights on the set of Enter The Dragon?

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