Anger over Bruce Lee 'biopic' which makes white character the star

Anger is brewing over a new Bruce Lee biopic which buries the martial arts legend in the supporting cast, while making a starring role of a caucasian character instead.

‘Birth of the Dragon’ debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last month, and now Bruce Lee fans are slowly finding their way to screenings.

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But, as flagged up by Next Shark, they’re finding that instead of watching a movie about Lee, who is played by Philip Ng, his fictionalised friend Steve McKee, played by Billy Magnussen, takes centre stage instead.

The film follows the Jeet Kune Do practitioner’s early years in America, and his now feted fight with Kung Fu master Wong Jack Man in 1964.

However, McKee, a composite character of a young Steve McQueen, who trained with Lee, becomes the focus, getting the girl and winning the day.

Many have taken to film forums like IMDb to express their dismay – which in many cases has then turned to anger.

“Film reduces Bruce Lee into a side character in his own story to force a white guy into the lead,” said one user called Bawlife.

“Why is the main focus of the trailer on this silly white American dude? Asian males can never take the lead role. Only the sidekick even in their own movie. It is disgusting. White people, would it kill you to stop inserting yourselves into everything?”

Added another called Nightmarephoenix: “I never write reviews for anything, but this time I absolutely had to. THIS IS NOT A FILM. IT’S ANTI-Asian PROPAGANDA. Yellow Peril, 2016 version. This entire film is a carefully hidden propaganda piece that portrays Lee as some unsexual, angry, kung fu loser who accomplishes nothing.

“Meanwhile, a white guy actually stars as the main character of the movie, gets the (Asian) girl, and wins the day. What? What just happened? A film about Bruce Lee that ISN’T actually about Bruce? This propaganda piece focuses on stereotyping, dehumanizing, and denigrating Asians and Asian culture.”

Another went on to say: “I noticed a very disturbing pattern in Hollywood. They do not want Asian men in the lead role even in their own biopic.”

The film’s writer and director George Nolfi – who adapted and directed the 2011 Matt Damon flop ‘The Adjustment Bureau – admitted using some artistic licence with the story when interviewed about the movie by Deadline in Toronto last month.

“The reality is, Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man did not know each other for a long period before the fight and they weren’t heavily involved with each other after the fight,” he said.

“From a narrative standpoint, you needed eyes on the story that would allow you to have a run up to the fight and… I don’t want to spoil what happens after the fight… but you needed that to get to our third act.”

Image credits: Groundswell Productions/Getty