"His voice betrayed a craving for terrible things." -- Don DeLillo

Send all adoration/vitriol to marc@shadowbloom.com

June 14, 2004

Brandon Lee -- The Lost Action Hero
Through an IMDb stream of consciousness (after reading about a new special edition DVD coming out in August, I went to the page for Candyman, which led me to the page for lead actor Tony Todd, which led me to the page for The Crow), I found myself looking at Brandon Lee's page and once again lamenting the loss of one of the most promising young stars of the past 20 years. The son of the legendary Bruce Lee, Brandon's filmography doesn't burst with well-known titles: starring with Dolph Lundgren (fresh off a powerhouse few years in the 80's in which he played Ivan Drago, He-Man, and the Punisher) in Showdown in Little Tokyo, carrying the forgotten actioner Rapid Fire, and then finally ascending into the role that was sure to rocket him into the spotlight, the lead in Alex Proyas's gothic revenge story The Crow. No one could have seen what would happen next. On March 31, 1993, six days from completing principal photography, Brandon was shot during filming by a standard prop pistol loaded with blanks. However, the cap of one of the blanks fired off accidentally and lodged itself in Brandon's spine. Doctors worked for hours, but he died soon afterward, 28 years old and less than three weeks before his upcoming wedding.

I don't remember exactly where I was when I heard about his death, but I do remember that it was one of the first times I was profoundly hurt and saddened by the death of someone I'd never even met. Though I was only 11 at the time, he was already one of my favorite action stars. Though its cookie-cutter feuding drug lords plot made it easy for critics to dismiss it, I loved Rapid Fire for Brandon's tremendous martial arts skills (still one of my all-time favorite action moments: bad guy with a gun standing on the other side of a square table--Brandon runs over, slides across the ground under the table, and kicks the table up into the bad guy--fucking sweet) and his charm and charisma (Brandon was just cool). Being a comic book nerd at the time (and hell, still today), I waited for The Crow anxiously. The only odd sense of luck in his far-too-early death is that it didn't occur early in the shooting and that the director and producers were able to release The Crow (over a year later) as a final tribute to Brandon. It still stands as one of my all-time favorite movies and one of the best comic book adaptations out there. That such an ominous pall of sudden, unexpected death hangs over the Lee family (Bruce Lee died of cerebral edema at 32) is one of the great tragedies of Hollywood.

The main reason I'm writing this, though, is what I discovered looking around in the message forums. Apparently (I couldn't find any direct quotes myself, but found a few people referencing this), the Wachowski brothers originally conceived the Matrix movies with Brandon in mind for the role of Neo. Whether or not this is true, the fact is: Brandon as Neo? No words can express how absolutely fucking awesome that would have been. Now, take into account that I actually do love all three of the Matrix movies (and, on a side note, I believe that in the next ten years or so, there will be a resurgence of good graces going to the last two installments, which really aren't that bad (the third one especially)--the bad press being the result of expectations being WAY too high after the groundbreaking first movie, people taking the "philosophical" plot too seriously (we're watching live-action anime here, people, and it should be appreciated on that level), and the Wachowski brothers taking four years to release the next two). Not only that, but hell, I'll admit that I'm a fan of Keanu ("Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K") Reeves and think he deserves more credit as an action star (damn, Speed is a fun time, isn't it?). He looks great as Neo and doesn't embarass himself. Regardless, Brandon Lee would have knocked that one into the stratosphere. He had the perfect brooding intensity and imagine the fun the Wachowski brothers and Woo-ping Yuen would have had choreographing the fight scenes with someone as technically proficient as Lee. It's sad to ruminate on the many roles that could have gone his way. He was even signed on to follow up The Crow as Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat. Now while that's not exactly a banner role, it would have continued to build his fanbase (and since I saw Kombat in the theatres when it came out in August 1995, it certainly would just continued cementing his lofty reputation in my mind). Just a few years after that and The Matrix would start filming. It's all very sad. I still miss you, Brandon, and I know there are many more like me. Rest in peace and here's to another promising career cut short by the fickle hand of fate.

Upcoming Movie News
I didn't intend at all to write about Brandon Lee today, but looking at his filmography just filled me with the need to eulogize a little. In other, more upbeat news, there's this fun tidbit taken from Salon.com's Fix:

Alarming scene: New Line Cinema executives are apparently somewhat disturbed by a scene in its upcoming film "Birth" in which Nicole Kidman's character bathes naked with a 10-year-old boy whom she believes to be her late husband reincarnated. And now there are new rumors of a passionate kissing scene between the two actors. "It's entirely possible there's a bathing scene in the film, but I don't think there's any passionate kissing. That doesn't happen," New Line spokeswoman Marion Koltai commented, further explaining, "It's a dream sequence, like in 'Rosemary's Baby.'" (Rush and Molloy)

Sounds interesting, no? My second thought (after, "Sweet...I thought it had been a few months since Nicole got naked in a movie!") was that I wanted to know if anyone interesting was behind this movie. I fly over to my internet-home-away-from-home IMDb and find, yes, this is certainly a movie to keep an eye on. It's no less than the second feature film from Jonathan Glazer, director of 2000's Sexy Beast and helmer of quite a few stunning music videos (including the beautifully filmed videos for Radiohead's "Street Spirit" and "Karma Police"). Now, I'm a devout believer of music videos as a far, far underappreciated art form and Jonathan Glazer has produced some of the best videos out there, so I've been following him closely. Sexy Beast was a great debut feature, but I was actually just thinking recently that he was due for a new film. Here it is and I'm already excited. Adding further to the intrigue is the writing team: Glazer along with Monster's Ball writer Milo Addica and Jean-Claude Carriere (whose long career includes the brilliant Surrealist masterpieces Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire, both co-written and directed by Luis Bunuel). This has the makings of something special. Watch closely.

Hollywood Bullshit #1818
Yes, yes, so Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turned 18 yesterday, meaning that those naughty thoughts in your head don't have to be accompanied anymore by thoughts of prison terms and tossing salads. But, all right, I'll say it, they're not sexy. Get over it. I really think that growing up under burning hot television studio lights stunts your growth and the Olsen girls are the flagship example of this. They just still look like little girls. A disturbingly skinny, skinny frame with no curves whatsoever masquerading as a "body"--where is all the attraction here? The only fantasies I can imagine having with the two of them are incredibly depraved ones (am I sharing too much again?) For those of you making "countdown clocks" and fixating on soon-to-be 18-year-olds, I instead direct your attention to Miss Lindsay Lohan (turning 18 on July 2). Now that's much more like it, isn't it?