Chad Stahelski pays tribute to Bruce Lee for the 50th anniversary of The Fury of Victory

Chad Stahelski pays tribute to Bruce Lee for the 50th anniversary of The Fury of Victory

“He understood more than martial arts and their philosophy, he understood cinema”, considers the stuntman and director, who salutes the memory of the star who died just before the French release of this cult martial arts film.

The best student of a Shanghai martial arts school decides to avenge the death of his master who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

At the beginning of August 2023, The fist of Fury celebrates the 50th anniversary of its French release. Arriving in our theaters on August 2, 1973, this martial arts film by Lo Wei was already a success in Hong Kong, where it had been visible since the spring of the previous year, but also in the United States, where it had was offered to the public in November 1972, and in England, where it had been programmed in July 1973.

Shot for around 100,000 US dollars, the film eventually grossed 100 million worldwide, and had a huge influence on action cinema. Thanks to its realistic combat choreographies and its staging always at the service of martial arts. And of course thanks to its star, Bruce Leewho was then shooting the second major film of his career after The Big Boss and before the phenomenal success of The Dragon’s fury.

This fiftieth anniversary also coincides with that of the premature death of Bruce Lee, at only 32 years old. On July 20, 1973, he succumbed to cerebral edema.

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Chad Stahelski, the stuntman turned director, who is a hit these days with the saga John Wickpaid tribute to Bruce Lee, as well as the influence of The fist of Fury on his own cinema, in the pages ofEmpire on this anniversary. We translate his words below.

“When you trace history, you always need a front page. Bruce Lee, that was my front page. I remember seeing Operation Dragon And The fist of Fury with my father one Sunday afternoon when I was ten years old. Bruce has been an inspiration to me ever since.

I have seen so many times Operation Dragon to break it down when I started choreographing fights, and staging stunts. I always heard that Bruce was particularly involved in the filming, the way of placing the camera… and that he learned quickly. There weren’t many people to imitate back then, few great action shots or fight scenes with effective editing. But what he was doing was acting. He didn’t just perform martial arts and film them, he made sure to adapt them for his films.

He understood what it meant ‘tell a story’. He knew how to ensure that a fight was integrated into the heart of the narrative, through his choreography. He understood more than martial arts and their philosophy, he understood cinema. Review his action scenes: he says a lot of things through them! It’s easy to say: ‘Yeah, Bruce was a super fighter’, but if you really look closely at what he was able to do in those fights, you’ll see he’s playing. I think we underestimate his acting skills.

He was one of the first fight choreographers gifted for this. One of the keys to this type of sequence is rhythm, it’s like music: bop, bop, bop and all of a sudden: boom, it explodes! It’s very close to classical music. I think he got that from his experiences as a dancer. Nobody moves like Bruce Lee, even today.

I love the action, but I also love his personality. A good part of the reasons we like Bruce Lee is that we like him: this mixture of innocence and arrogance. He makes you feel a certain confidence in him, that of a young man who is looking for himself. Bruce knew how to be vulnerable and I like that side of him. Many people who tried to imitate him were too proud, in mode: ‘I can’t lose!’ Except Bruce thought instead: ‘I could lose, but I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen.’ On John Wicka lot of things go through non-verbal communication, and we’re inspired by what Bruce did for that.”

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