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.