Brandon Lee was born in Oakland, California, (1st Feb ,1965) son of the legendary martial artist actor Bruce Lee. Only a week after his birth, his grandfather Lee Hoi-Chuen died. The family moved to Los Angeles, California when he was three months old.
When offers for film roles became limited for his father the family moved back to Hong Kong in 1971; Bruce Lee made three films there between 1971 and 1973.
When Lee was eight, his father died suddenly from cerebral edema. After her husband's death, Linda Lee moved the family (including daughter Shannon Lee b.1969) back to the United States. They lived briefly in his mother's hometown of Seattle, Washington, and then in Los Angeles, where Lee grew up in the affluent area of Rolling Hills.
He attended high school at Chadwick School, but was asked to leave for insubordination, more specifically driving down the school's hill backwards, three months before graduating. He received his GED in 1983, and then went to Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where he majored in theater.
After one year, Lee moved to New York City where he took acting lessons at the famed Lee Strasberg Academy and was part of the American New Theatre group founded by his friend John Lee Hancock. The bulk of Lee's martial arts instruction came from his father's top student and friend, Dan Inosanto.
Lee returned to Los Angeles in 1985, where he worked for Ruddy Morgan Productions as a script reader. He was asked to audition for a role by casting director Lyn Stalmaster and got his first acting role in Kung Fu: The Movie, a feature-length television movie which was a follow-up to the 1970s television series Kung Fu. The film aired on ABC on February 1, 1986 which was also Lee's 21 birthday.
In Kung Fu: The Movie, Lee played Chung Wang, the suspected son of Kwai Chang Caine (played by David Carradine). This seemed ironic at the time as Brandon's father Bruce Lee was originally intended to have played the leading role in the Kung Fu TV series as he had also come up with the original concept for the TV series, but in the end he was turned down for playing the lead in favor of Carradine.
Lee got his first major film role later that year in the Hong Kong action thriller Legacy of Rage in which he starred alongside Michael Wong. This film also featured a cameo appearance by Bolo Yeung who also appeared in his father's last film, Enter the Dragon. The film was made in Cantonese, and directed by Ronny Yu. It was the only film Lee made in Hong Kong.
In 1987, Lee starred in the unsuccessful television pilot Kung Fu: The Next Generation which aired on the CBS Summer Playhouse and was another follow-up to the 'Kung Fu' TV series.
In this film the story moved to the present day, and centered on the story of Johnny Caine (played by Lee), who is the great-grandson of Kwai Chang Caine.
In 1988, Lee made a guest appearance in an episode of the short-lived American television series Ohara playing a villainous character named Kenji. In the summer of 1988, Lee also started filming his first English-language B-grade action film, Laser Mission, which was filmed cheaply in South Africa, and was eventually released on the European market in 1990.
In 1991, he starred opposite Dolph Lundgren in the buddy cop action film Showdown in Little Tokyo. This was marked as his first studio film and American film debut. Lee signed a multi-picture deal with 20th Century Fox in 1991.
He had his first starring role in the action thriller Rapid Fire in 1992, and was scheduled to do two more films for them. In August of that year, Bruce Lee biographer John Little once asked Brandon Lee what his philosophy in life was, and he replied, "Eat—or die!"
In 1992, Lee landed the lead role of Eric Draven, in the movie adaptation of The Crow, a popular underground comic book.
About his character, an undead rock musician avenging his and his fiancée's murder, Lee said, "He has something he has to do and he is forced to put aside his own pain long enough to go do it". It would be Lee's last film. Filming began on February 1, 1993, which was his 28th birthday.
In 1990, Lee met Eliza "Lisa" Hutton at director Renny Harlin's office, located at the headquarters of 20th Century Fox.
Hutton was working as a personal assistant to Harlin, and later became a story editor for Stillwater Productions, in 1991. Lee and Hutton moved in together in early 1991 and became engaged in October 1992.
They were due to be married in Ensenada, Mexico on April 17, 1993, a week after Lee was to complete filming on The Crow - just seventeen days after he died.
At the time of Lee's death, Hutton was working as a casting assistant and was on set of The Crow so much that she was later credited with being Lee's on-set assistant. After his death, Hutton petitioned to have gun safety regulations tightened on film sets. The Crow is dedicated to the pair.
On March 31, 1993, while making The Crow, the crew filmed a scene in which Lee's character walked into his apartment and discovered his girlfriend being raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee, who played one of the film's villains, was supposed to fire a gun at Lee as he walked into his apartment with groceries.
Because the movie's second unit team was running behind schedule, it was decided that expedient dummy cartridges (cartridges that outwardly appear to be functional, but contain no gunpowder or primer) would be made from real cartridges by pulling out the bullet, dumping out the gunpowder and reinserting the bullet.
However, the team neglected to consider that the primer was still live and, if fired, could still produce enough force to push the bullet off the end of the cartridge.
At some point prior to the fatal scene, the live primer on one of the constructed dummy rounds was discharged by persons unknown while in the pistol's chamber. It caused a squib load, in which the primer provided just enough force to push the bullet out of the cartridge and into the barrel of the revolver, where it became stuck.
The malfunction went unnoticed by the crew, and the same gun was used again later to shoot the death scene, having been re-loaded with low-power black powder blanks. However, the squib load was still lodged in the barrel, and was propelled by the blank cartridge's explosion out of the barrel and into Lee's body.
Although the bullet was traveling much more slowly than a normally fired bullet would be, the bullet's large size and the point-blank firing distance made it powerful enough to fatally wound Lee.
When the blank was fired, the bullet shot out and hit Lee in the abdomen and lodged in his spine. He fell down instantly and the director shouted "Cut!", but Lee did not respond.
The cast and crew filming rushed to him and noticed he was wounded. He was immediately rushed to the hospital. Lee’s heart stopped once on the set and once in the ambulance. Following a six hour operation to remove the bullet and despite being given 60 pints worth of blood tranfusions, Lee was pronounced dead at 1:30pm on March 31, 1993.
His funeral was held several days later; he was buried next to his father in Lake View Cemetery, Seattle. The following day, a memorial service was held in Los Angeles.
The gravestone, designed by North Snohomish County sculptor Kirk McLean, is a tribute to Brandon and Eliza's young love.
Its two twisting rectangles of charcoal granite join at the bottom and pull apart at the top. ``It represents Eliza and Brandon, the two of them, and how the tragedy of his death separated their mortal life together," said his mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, who described son, like father, as a poetic and romantic person.
The shooting was ruled an accident. The theory of the Lee "family curse" was also carried over from Bruce Lee's death to Brandon's, as he had died almost 20 years after his father and before the release of the film which could have been his breakthrough to stardom.
The Crow was released in May 1994 and became a box office hit grossing over $50 million dollars at the U.S box office and gaining a loyal cult following many years after its release. The film is dedicated to Lee and Hutton. They were to have been married on April 17, 1993, in Mexico. Lee is survived by his mother and sister.