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Artistic License History / Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

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  • In the film, Lee's father signs him up in a martial arts school because he dreams of a demon haunting the boy. In real life, he did it because Lee was an unruly teenager who would get in many street fights. In fact, Lee was already a trained western boxer by this time, having been coached in the St. Francis Xavier's College.
  • In line with the previous point, the filmic Lee gets sent to United States for heroically beating up several racist British sailors, making his parents afraid of retaliations. The real story is much less virtuous, although certainly not any less cinematic: whom Lee beat up was the son of an important Triad family, which made Lee's parents send him abroad on the fear that a contract had been put on his head.
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  • The film portrays Lee as being alone and forced to work for seedy bosses in United States, when in real life he lived with two of his siblings and worked for a friend of their father.
  • The character of Jerome Sprout is fictitious, thought it is an obvious replacement for Jesse Glover, a black Judo practitioner who was Lee's first ever student. One wonders why couldn't they keep his real name as they did with several other characters.
  • In the film, Lee is solely a teacher of kung fu: he neither practises other disciplines nor learns from any training partner, as most of those are portrayed as novices, and he gets his Jeet Kune Do philosophy mostly from self-experimenting. In contrast, the historical Bruce Lee favored cross-training and was constantly seeking knowledge from any source he could find (for instance, he learned judo and wrestling with Gene LeBell while teaching him kung fu in turn), and the Jeet Kune Do was the result of that, an effective mix of martial arts.
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  • Bruce is depicted opening his first martial arts school out of inspiration by Linda, whereas in real life he'd opened it long before meeting her. In fact, their relationship started as a Teacher/Student Romance.
  • Bruce's father is shown to have died shortly after his daughter Shannon was born, whereas he'd been long dead by that time - he passed less than a week after *Brandon’s* birth.
  • The real Lee was proud of his Chinese background and there is no record of him ever refering to himself as an American.
  • In the film, the Kung Fu series is presented as an idea by Lee who got surreptitiously stolen from him. There is a real life precedent for this, as Linda Lee claims so in her book about him, but most other biographers believe it to be false. For what is known, Lee did conceive a similar series named The Warrior, but he never went forward with it because he thought no American company would greenlight a series with an Asian lead. By all accounts, the development of Kung Fu had nothing to do with Lee; the only connection is that Lee apparenly auditioned for the title character's role, but was rejected because producers didn’t think Asians were bankable enough to be lead characters.
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  • The film implies that Bruce was neglecting his family in favor of his movie career, and shows him being violent and psychologically abusive towards them. Not only do many biographies claim otherwise, to the point that Lee was famous for often inviting his family to the set while filming, but one of which shows pictures of them together on the set of Game of Death. Similarly, while some of his partners and relatives do note Lee had a fearsome temper, none of them has ever spoken of him as an unstable or abusive person.
  • As with Sprout, neither Johnny Sun nor his brother ever existed, although Sun was probably based on Wong Jack Man, a martial artist who challenged Bruce to a no holds barred match, while his brother is based on reports of extras on the set of films that challenged Bruce insisting that he was only an actor. Bruce indeed broke his back, but it was due to a weighlifting accident, not by a treacherous attack after a fight.
  • Ed Parker did invite Bruce to speak at the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships, but there was no impromptu challenge match as the film portrays. Lee only demonstrated two-finger push ups and his famed one-inch punch.
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