Bruce Lee, Anna May Wong on acting, legacy

Almost every Asian actor active in Hollywood can be traced back to Bruce Lee and Anna Mae Wong.

Chinese-American movie legends are usually told about how they speak of their revered ancestors. One was a martial arts icon and the other was an actor who stood out during the silent film era, even though he played docile women and dragon women. It is said to have shown that it can be more than just an extra in a movie about.

Wong was born in Los Angeles in 1905 and Lee was born in San Francisco in 1940, but the family likes to imagine they crossed paths.

Elder Wong’s niece and namesake, Anna Wong, said, “They may have. Well, they may have met each other at a party or something.”

“My father was an actor in Hong Kong when he was a child, so he may have seen some of her films,” Shannon Lee opened up. young. “

Lee and Wong had never met before doing a recent joint Zoom interview with The Associated Press. They discovered parallel experiences that happened to protect the legacy of a family that happened to be Hollywood and an icon of Asian Americans.

They’ve watched their relatives’ popularity dwindle over the decades. But they’ve also seen how this fascination continues with museum exhibits, TV show projects, and tributes to the American Quarter.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is poised to take home the trophy at Sunday’s Oscars, especially for Asian cast members Michelle Yeoh and Ke Hui Kuan, an outspoken person who has permeated Wong and Lee’s work. Both women reflected on how things have changed since the raceist practice. heyday.

Lee has a “soft spot” on Yeo because she came from kung fu movies like her father. In particular, Hollywood has long taken advantage of Bruce Lee to justify casting Asians as characters just for the karate chops.

“Of course she does action in the movies, but the recognition for her artistry and acting and all of that is really heartwarming to me,” she said. was very stereotypical and was put in a box because of it.”

According to her niece, it’s especially staggering when compared to Anna May Wong’s time.

“At the time, no one had an Asian man and an Asian woman in the lead roles,” Wong said. “It’s funny how far we’ve come. But again, how far have we gone?”

Lee was four years old when his father died, and Wong never met his aunt. Anna Mae Wong’s younger brother, in the pictures of her that her father kept around her house, she knew she was a “pretty woman.”

“When he started talking about pretty women, I wanted to understand who she was.”

I grew up listening to stories about how Anna May Wong and Bruce Lee fought hard against stereotypes, but sometimes found themselves in situations where they couldn’t win.

After gaining fame in films like “The Thief of Baghdad” and “Shanghai Express,” Anna May Wong experienced one of the biggest disappointments of her life in 1937. She lost her lead Chinese villager in her “Good Earth” to Louise. Reiner she was white. Rainer won an Oscar for Best Actress.

Young Wong takes this up in a lecture. For millennial viewers, “I think it’s completely absurd to say, ‘Okay, let’s make a white person look like an Asian,'” Wong said.

“It’s actually a good thing that today’s generation thinks it’s crazy,” Lee added.

Even getting a lead role didn’t necessarily mean a big payday for Asian talent. Before making hit songs, it was Kato of “The Green Hornet”. His TV series premiered in 1966, but lasted only one season and had a huge pay gap.

“When you look at the payslips and see what people are getting, he’s kind of at rock bottom,” Lee said. “Hopefully there’s a change happening there.”

Neither actor has ever been nominated for an Oscar. However, her 2020 Netflix miniseries Hollywood portrayed an alternate world where Anna Maywon (played by Michel Krzyek) won an Oscar. It bothered her niece and reminded her of a sad period in the actor’s life.

“After that series came out, people said, ‘Do you have an Oscar for her?'” Wong said. “You know that series was fictionalized, right?” thinking about.

In Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, there is a fictional scene in which Bruce Lee picks (and loses) a fight with Brad Pitt’s stuntman character. picked up. His daughter criticized the cameo as little more than a “horrifying metaphor,” telling The Hollywood Reporter.

“That one movie made everybody think, ‘Oh, that’s what Bruce Lee really was,'” Lee told the Associated Press. It wasn’t.”

Anna May Wong died in 1961 at the age of 56 and Bruce Lee in 1973 at the age of 32.

Coincidentally, both families recently signed on as producers for the biopic. Lee works with Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (unrelated) and Wong with Crazy Rich Asians star Gemma Chan.

“Anne is a very serious and polite person. I think he wants to make really great films,” said Lee, who has been working on films for several years. “At this point, I’d say I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Wong nearly walked away from her project when several self-proclaimed “Anna Mae Wong experts” reached out to the producers, but they said, “When Anna Mae Wong’s real-life relatives And I’m not going to take on these people,” reassured her.

They also receive (and often reject) steady merchandising offers such as Anna May Wong teacups, Bruce Lee football helmets, snack bowls, and tin guitars.

“I have to say it speaks to the love that people have, so I’m grateful for that,” Lee said.

Both women hope that people will learn lessons of perseverance by watching the lives of Bruce Lee and Anna May Wong. rice field.

“The fact that they got the chance to be on screen meant that they had tremendous energy and an amazing work ethic in the first place, and then somehow managed to achieve the impossible. I mean,” she added.


Tang is a member of the Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button