The Big Picture
- Mason Lee, the son of acclaimed director Ang Lee, will be playing the role of Bruce Lee in the highly-anticipated biopic. He is a talented actor with a solid resume, known to U.S. audiences for his role in The Hangover Part II.
- The casting process for the Bruce Lee biopic was challenging, as finding the right person to portray the martial arts master was crucial. Despite considering various options, Mason Lee emerged as the most compelling choice.
- Mason Lee underwent extensive training for five years to transform himself into a “stone-cold killer” like Bruce Lee. He mastered Lee’s signature fighting style and studied his material, ultimately honing his skills to replicate Bruce Lee’s powerful presence on screen.
Mason Lee will take on the role of a lifetime in Ang Lee‘s highly-anticipated Bruce Lee biopic. The son of the acclaimed director is slated to play the legendary martial artist who helped bridge a cultural gap between the East and West and is still widely recognizable in pop culture to this day for his roles in classic films like Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon. According to the film’s producer Lawrence Grey, Lee’s journey to becoming the Chinese-American icon was a long one spanning years as his father developed the passion project. While at the Toronto International Film Festival for Pain Hustlers, Grey detailed to Collider’s Steve Weintraub in an interview at TIFF how Mason Lee grew into the role.
Finding the right person to play Bruce Lee is no easy feat. The point of the biopic is for viewers to see the martial arts master in whoever portrays him. A great biopic casting can bring its subject back to life while a poor one can stick out like a sore thumb. When asked about striking that balance between finding a good actor and an unknown, Grey said “It’s a really great question.” Mason Lee immediately arose as an option, but with his father directing, the optics were a bit sticky. “Early on, Ang introduced me to his son, Mason Lee, who’s a very accomplished actor—particularly works a lot in China, although he’s been in some very successful American films—and he is a spitting image of Bruce. We had that in our pockets, and said, ‘Okay, we don’t wanna be producers who succumb to nepotism. We’ll put that aside.'”
Mason Lee, for his part, has a solid resume to his name with most U.S. audiences likely knowing him from his role in The Hangover Part II as Teddy. The bulk of his roles, however, came in overseas projects like the Taiwanese film Who Killed Cock Robin?. Although the team wanted to find someone that better fit the assignment, they kept coming back to Lee in the end. “And then, we did a worldwide search all across Asia and North America, and we didn’t find anyone as compelling as Mason,” Grey admits.
Mason Lee Trained for Five Years to Become “A Stone-Cold Killer” Like Bruce Lee
Although Mason was already the spitting image of Bruce Lee, it took years to truly transform him for the role. “The advantage that we also had to Mason [was], as you pointed out, this project’s been being developed closely for many years, and we were able, for five years, to train Mason and turn him from the early days where he’s a very fine actor, but clearly the son of a very successful Hollywood director, to a stone-cold killer,” Grey added. Much of Mason’s time was spent mastering Lee’s signature fighting style on camera. Lee is responsible for popularizing Kung Fu and his own brand of martial arts Jeet Kune Do, but Mason also needed to replicate his powerful presence. “I mean, anyone who can fight like Bruce Lee is a maniac, is a killer. And through that process of training, through reading all of Bruce’s material, training in the various martial arts he trained in, we were really able to hone that in.”
Mason Lee is currently the only confirmed cast member for Ang Lee’s biopic, but he’s just one piece of the talented team. The Academy Award-winning director also has an Academy Award-nominated writer working with him in Capote‘s Dan Futterman. Once the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strikes come to an end, cameras are expected to begin rolling soon after as the vast majority of writing is already complete.
Stay tuned here at Collider for more on the hotly-anticipated Bruce Lee biopic and keep an eye out for more of our coverage from TIFF 2023.