A Tale of Two Lee’s – Brandon, Stan and the Unmade Shang-Chi Film!

Among the events for which 2018 will be most remembered, doubtlessly among the most universally mourned will be the passing of comic book legend Stan Lee on November 12th at the age of 95. Beginning with his role in the creation of such beloved characters as Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, and countless others, the Marvel Comics figurehead played an instrumental role in bringing the superhero genre into the mainstream. With the explosion of superhero films beginning in the early 2000’s that continues to this day, Lee’s profile grew immensely with his Alfred Hitchcock-esque cameos in almost every Marvel film, becoming a veritable “Where’s Waldo” of audience anticipation. However, ICYMI, some information has been brought to light regarding a “What If?” that would doubtlessly shock martial arts fans especially, as it involves another dearly departed Lee (Brandon) and the Master of Kung Fu: Shang-Chi…

In a recent interview with Inverse, former President and CEO of Marvel Productions, Margaret Loesch, revealed that Lee had at one point been seriously interested in producing a film or television adaptation of the character Shang-Chi, known as Marvel’s “Master of Kung Fu”. And Lee specifically had the late Brandon Lee in mind for the role.

Loesch said: “Stan did believe in the character…He used that as an example of the comic that could transition into the movie and television world.

Loesch went on to say of Lee’s interest in adapting the property: “I’ll tell you the only reason I remember that comic because I wasn’t very familiar with it….Stan introduced me to Linda, the widow of the great Bruce Lee, and Brandon Lee, his son. They came to our Marvel offices….They talked about the kinds of comics that Stan had done, and he mentioned that comic….Stan had great belief that those movies and TV shows based on those types of characters could be very popular. I can’t remember what happened, I think maybe we felt out the networks and they weren’t interested because of the violence. But that’s how I recall that property, because I had not been familiar with it until then.”

Loesch further states that Lee saw great potential in Brandon as a rising star: “Stan had great hope [for Brandon]…He thought Brandon would be a future star.

We most definitely concur with Lee’s assessment of Brandon’s potential as both an action star and a dramatic actor. Brandon began his career in the 1986 television-film “Kung Fu: The Movie”, in the role of Kwai Chang Caine’s son, Chung Wang, later returning for 1987’s “Kung Fu: The Next Generation”. Following leading roles in “Legacy of Rage” (1986) and “Laser Mission” (1989), Brandon made his American film debut with 1991’s “Showdown in Little Toyko“, alongside Dolph Lundgren, quickly following-up with the 1992 martial arts thriller “Rapid Fire“.

For his next role, Brandon decided to take a step back from the martial arts genre, while simultaneously stepping into the comic book world, in the role of Eric Draven in 1994’s “The Crow“, adapted from James O’Barr’s 1989 graphic novel. However, the 28-year old Brandon was tragically killed on set following a firearm mishap on March 31st, 1993. The film’s subsequent release on May 13th, 1994 catapulted Brandon to posthumous superstardom, and “The Crow” would go on to achieve enduring cult film status.

The character of Shang-Chi was originally created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, first appearing in a “Special Marvel Edition” in December 1973. As would be the case with Marvel’s other kung fu-centric superhero Iron Fist, Shang-Chi was created in an effort to tap into the ongoing kung fu movie craze of the early 70’s. With Marvel having failed to secure the rights to adapt the television series “Kung Fu” to a comic book title, Shang-Chi would become a staple of Marvel’s martial arts-themed book “Deadly Hands of Kung Fu”, along with starring in his own title, “Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu”. The character would later develop a close friendship with Iron Fist, with the two frequently appearing in team-ups in one another’s stories.

Earlier this month, fans were also greeted with the news that Shang-Chi will finally make the leap to the big screen in his own film set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the idea of Brandon Lee being the man to tackle the role will undoubtedly be forever remembered as one of the biggest cases of  “What If?” in the history of the superhero genre. Indeed, that’s something Brandon fans would especially have to grow accustomed to in the wake of his untimely demise, as he was also said to have been heavily considered for the role of Johnny Cage in 1995’s “Mortal Kombat” prior to his passing. In any case, whoever ultimately adopts the mantle of the ‘Master of Kung Fu’ in his recently announced big screen debut has his work cut out for him now that news of the original candidate is out of the bag. That being said, our previous fancasts of Tiger Chen or Phillip Ng would most definitely be up for the job!

What are your thoughts on the news of Stan Lee meeting with Brandon Lee to portray Shang-Chi; how do you imagine the film would’ve turned out? Who would you like to see portray Shang-Chi today? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. (Keep up your own Chi-mastery by stepping into KFK’s FUniversity of movies, exclusives, Top 10’s and much more, subscribe for videos too!)

Brad Curran

From the earliest days of childhood, Brad Curran was utterly fascinated by martial arts, his passion only growing stronger after spending time living in the melting pot of Asian cultures that is Hawaii. His early exposure developed into a lifelong passion and fascination with all forms of martial arts and tremendous passion for action and martial arts films. He would go on to take a number of different martial arts forms, including Shaolin Ch'uan fa, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and remains a devoted student, avid and eager to continue his martial arts studies. Brad is also an aspiring writer and deeply desires to share his love for martial arts and martial arts movies with the world!

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