Was Bruce Lee scared of cockroaches? Did losing a bout frustrate him? How did he die?
The Legend of Bruce Lee (Li Xiaolong Chuanqi), a 50-episode TV series airing on CCTV-1's prime time slot from Oct 12, attempts to show the human face of the iconic kungfu master.
Hong Kong actor Chan Kwok Kwan plays the iconic kungfu master in The Legend of Bruce Lee. File photo
As the first ever film or TV series on Lee by a Chinese mainland crew, the series traces his life from his teenage years to his move to America, his film career and sudden death at the age of 32.
The dazzling kungfu scenes, says director Li Wenqi, are only part of the drama, while the stories of Lee as an ordinary human being are what differentiate the show from numerous other biopics of the martial artist.
It may be hard to believe that Lee was afraid of a cockroach but the series reveals this to be true. To overcome his fear, Lee is believed to have killed some cockroaches and strung them together as a necklace.
The series also tells of the love affair between Lee and his wife Linda. Lee is shown as a funny and tender boyfriend, and later a loving husband and father. Lee's early experiences of washing dishes in restaurants and clearing garbage in a hospital have been retained in the final version, after the exchange of scores of letters between the director and Lee's daughter Shannon.
On Lee's controversial death, the version in the series is that he died of overwork and the abuse of stimulants. This accords with the most enduring rumor since Lee's sudden death in 1973. Some, however, believe excessive physical training triggered Lee's death.
Taiwan actress Betty Ting's house is known as the place where Lee collapsed before he died, but out of consideration for his fans, director Li has changed the location to a pub opened by Ting.
Unlike most other films or TV series on Lee, the show has plenty of scenes showing Lee losing bouts to his opponents.
"Most people only know a Bruce Lee who was a super hero, someone who always won," says Hong Kong actor Chan Kwok Kwan who plays the icon. "But few understand that behind the glorious moments was also a vulnerable man."
Chan's resemblance to Lee is what bagged him this role. His best-known roles to date are as a gang member in Stephen Chow's Kungfu Hustle and as a goalkeeper in Shaolin Soccer. As a huge fan of Lee himself, Chow also chose Chan because of his similarly slender body and thick eyebrows.
Chan says he was attracted not only to Lee's kungfu accomplishments, but his strong desire to create his own kungfu style and his courage in the face of frustrations.
The series was completed over nine months with shooting on the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, as well as in the US, Italy, Thailand and Canada. Actors from more than 30 countries were involved.
According to Chan, the shooting went smoothly and on the rare occasion when there was trouble, the name Bruce Lee was enough to rally support from the locals.
Various new films on Lee are also in the pipeline.
Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan is preparing a film on Lee and his son Brandon. Another Hong Kong director Fruit Chan is searching for a teenage Lee for a new project of his own. Even Lee's mentor Yip Man has emerged as a popular subject. Two Hong Kong directors Wong Kar-wai and Wilson Yip had a minor dispute earlier this year because they both wanted to shoot a film about the master's master and even used the same title.