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A Film Premiere Tempered by Loss : Memories: Brandon Lee's death made the opening of Bruce Lee's bio a poignant event. But the elder Lee's widow said it was a tribute to both.

April 30, 1993|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The word that came up repeatedly at the premiere of Universal's "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" Wednesday at Mann's Chinese was bittersweet .

Tempering the celebration was the March 31 death of Lee's son Brandon on a North Carolina film set.

The evening was most poignant for Brandon's mother and Lee's widow, Linda Lee Cadwell. The film is based on her book, "Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew."

Cadwell said she came to the premiere because the movie "is a tribute to our family's life and for that reason I thought I should be here. I feel the film is a tribute to Bruce as a father and to Brandon as a son."

Cadwell said she'd been looking forward to the premiere for months and told well-wishers she was proud of "Dragon" and its portrayal of Lee. "In an overall sense," she said. "The image in this film is the man I was married to and I wrote about in the book."

The film's writer-director Rob Cohen added, "We made a biography that documents a beautiful love story. We took the high road and I hope we hit it."

Though Bruce Lee died in 1973, there was considerable interest in the martial arts master from fans surrounding the theater. There were hawkers selling Bruce Lee T-shirts inscribed with the premiere date. They had also been out earlier in the day for the ceremony to dedicate Lee's star on Hollywood Boulevard just a few feet west of the front of the theater.

Cohen attributed the long-lasting interest in Bruce Lee to his talent. "His physical prowess was so spectacular and his balletic moves were so amazing," said Cohen. "He was like a cross between the power of Stallone and Schwarzenegger and the grace of Nureyev."

The post-screening party was certainly like something for a Stallone or Schwarzenegger film.

A 15,000-square-foot tent, decorated in striking red and black with a Chinese theme, was set in a nearby parking lot and filled with 1,200 guests, including Demi Moore, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Sheila E and Mike Myers. Also on hand were Bruce Lee's and Cadwell's daughter Shannon, the film's co-stars Lauren Holly, Robert Wagner and Nancy Kwan and producer Raffaella De Laurentiis. The film's star, Jason Scott Lee (who is not related to Bruce Lee) was filming on Easter Island.

Cadwell said her late husband would "think it was a cause to celebrate. He would really get into the showmanship."

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