Friday, July 19, 2013

A very worthwhile interview with Bruce Lee

Many people may be unaware that the idea for the influential television series Kung Fu almost certainly originated with Bruce Lee.  

In Bruce Lee's 1971 interview on the Pierre Berton Show from Hong Kong, shown above (here are the links to part 1 and part 2)*, he discusses the fact that he had the idea for a television series in which a Shaolin monk comes to North America during the days of the wild west, and that the studios told him they would prefer a modern setting.  Bruce Lee insisted that it would work better in an old west setting.  

It has been suggested that the studios stole this idea from him without proper acknowledgement or compensation.

This interview is worth watching carefully in its entirety, for the insights that Bruce Lee offers in his answers.  In part 2 of the interview (below), he laments the fact that motion pictures typically only glorify violence, saying:  "Unfortunately, the pictures -- most of them here -- are done mainly for the sake of violence."

One of the most significant aspects of the television series Kung Fu which grew out of the idea that Bruce Lee brought the studios is the fact that physical force is only used to stop violence, and never over name-calling, taunts, insults, or even worse intentionally humiliating forms of behavior which do not actually lead to the possibility of serious bodily harm.  In this way it is very different from almost all the other movies and television shows which glorify violence in a way that Bruce Lee called unfortunate in the interview in 1971.

Some of that idea comes through in a well-known scene from Bruce Lee's most famous motion picture, Enter the Dragon, released only a few days after his death.  In that scene, he illustrates the art of "fighting without fighting." 

Bruce Lee's contribution to the world went far beyond his unquestionable martial arts mastery.  The issues probed in the interviews above are important ones, however dated the questions Pierre Berton asks  might appear on the surface.

* The Pierre Berton interview sequences linked and embedded above have now been removed from YouTube (as of 12/2013).  The same interview can be seen here, broken into three parts rather than two: part one, part two, part three.