Jon Benn Q&A
(Q&A took place during January 3rd thru 20th 2002)
Questions asked by Temple of the Unknown forum members
Jt, Leon Berkhout, Firoud dib, Kevin Thomson, Frans, Jean Menel, Des,
James Lenaghan, Greg Probert, Geoffrey Pheasant, Babu, Nicola
Temple of the Unknown Question 1: Mr.Benn is it true that you filmed behind the scenes footage of way of the dragon with your home camera? Is this a rumor or not?
Jon Benn Answer: Yes, I had my camera on the set and took a lot of photos during the shoot and while we were all resting. Many of those are included in my book "Remembering Bruce Lee."
T.o.t.U Question 2: what did you think about whang in sik (the Japanese fighter in "Way")? and relation between the korean and bruce lee?
Answer: As far as I know, they got along very well.
T.o.t.U Question 3: What was your experience like to work with Bruce?
Answer: Bruce was a perfectionist. He choreographed all the fight scenes and had everyone practice in slow motion. When he was satisfied that it could be done in one take then he would roll the camera. I really enjoyed watching him and learned alot about the film business.
T.o.t.U Question 4: Mr. Benn,
Thank you for taking some time to share your experiences and opinions.
My first question is this. At the time you were working on Way of the Dragon, did you, or any of the other supporting cast feel like you were working with the next big thing (Bruce)?
Answer: When Raymond Chow asked me to play the "Big Boss" I didn't know who Bruce was, but I wanted the experience of working in a Chinese film. I soon learned that Bruce was already a very big star in Asia and I was sure he would be one world wide before too long.
T.o.t.U Question 5: How does it feel to be in a film that is still watched today, possibly more times then it was when it was released?
Answer: Very few days go by that I am not recognized by someone no matter where I am in the world even after 30 years. Yesterday in Shanghai 2 men stopped me and asked about Bruce.
T.o.t.U Question 6: Any great memories from filming or of Bruce?
Any unpleasant ones?
Answer: I have many great and fond memories, too many to relate here, but they are all in my book. None, only good ones
T.o.t.U Question 7: How long did it take him to film all his scenes for 'The Way of the Dragon'? (dates would also be most helpful?)
Answer: He first went to Rome, but couldn't do much shooting there so I think they only spent a week or so there. Then in HK it took about a month to finish. I can't remember the dates.
T.o.t.U Question 8: Does he know if Bruce Lee was going to use his 'Way of the Dragon' character of 'Tang Lung' aka Chinese Dragon in any future film projects?
Answer: Bruce never mentioned that to me. I don't think so.
T.o.t.U Question 9: When was the last time he saw Bruce Lee and was there anything different about his usual self?
Answer: The last time I saw him was 2 days before he died. I was in the Hyatt Hotel Coffee shop and Bruce came over and introduced me to Fred Weintraub the producer of "Enter the Dragon." He was joking as usual, but he did look thinner than the last time I saw him a few months before.
T.o.t.U Question 10: Did Bruce Lee inform him about any of his future film projects he was going to make or did he tell him any details about his 'Game of Death' film project?
Answer: We did discuss various projects for the future and I remember his wanting to do a film in a Chinese pagoda, but he really didn't go into detail.
T.o.t.U Question 11: Do you think such pepole as jet li, jackie chan are as good as bruce?
Answer: I know Jackie Chan quite well and Bruce is still his idol. As he said to me "I'm a stunt man who knows martial arts. Bruce was a true martial artist." I haven't met Jet Li, but he was the Wu Shu Champion of China and is certainly good, but I don't think that he considers himself as good as Bruce. I was having dinner with Chuck Norris in Manila and I asked him if he were in a real fight to the death with Bruce who would win. He replied immediately, "Bruce, of course no one could beat him!"
T.o.t.U Question 12: Did Bruce Lee ever discuss the "meaning of Life" with you, Mr. Benn? By this I mean did he ever reflect on the "purpose" of his existence?
Answer: As you probably know, Bruce was as much a philosopher as he was a martial artist. His writings are full of wisdom and much can be learned by reading them. He always said that he wanted to be the best in whatever he did.
T.o.t.U Question 13: Did you ever have conversations about martial arts and its relationship to the everyday activities that make up life's essence?
Answer: He felt that everything he learned about martial arts reflected in all that life is about. He had a library with several thousand books of all types. Once when I visited his home, I picked up several at random and each page of each book was underlined in several places no matter what the subject. It showed me that he was intense in learning more about everything.
T.o.t.U Question 14: Do you think if Bruce were still alive he would have still been the best?
Answer: Ted Wong, one of his early students is now in his 60's. I have seen him give very active demos. Bruce certainly would have been very active today. He would also be one of the more intelligent men around today.
T.o.t.U Question 15: Mr. Benn, I understand you have sold your restaurant,is someone taking over your restaurant, The Bruce Lee Cafe,in the same format, and will it have Bruce Lee items displayed ?
Answer: I did sell the restaurant as it was a bit out of the way for fans to find...although some 10,000 did find it during its 3 year run. The new owners are changing the format and sadly there won't be another BL Cafe unless I can find a benefactor to help open another one in the tourist belt.
T.o.t.U Question 16: Mr.Benn, as a close friend of Bruce Lee, what was the most memorable time you have with Bruce that you treasure? Thanks for answering and I wish you all the best in the future.
Answer: I think it was when I visited his home and he showed me his library. He had several thousand books of all types, but most were about the various types of martial arts in the world. I picked several at random and each was underlined in many places on each page. He had read and studyed them all which was quite impressive.
T.o.t.U Question 17: What do you think about the film "dragon " with "jason scott lee"! Does the film tell the truth?
Answer: Linda Lee was the advisor for the film so it must be quite factual. I think Jason did a good interpretation of Bruce.
T.o.t.U Question 18: What was it like working on the set of Way of the Dragon with the whole cast including Bruce Lee annd Nora Miao?
Answer: Each day was a fun time as Bruce loved to joke and show off. I really enjoyed working with them all and Nora was (and is) very beautiful and talented.
T.o.t.U Question 19: What was Bruce Lee's peronality like when you knew him. Was he a very gun person like everybody said he was, or did you ever find him to be quite a shy person. I know Bruce liked music a fair bit, could he sing?'
Answer: I don't know what a "gun" person is, but he sure wasn't shy! He was always very active and outgoing. He never stopped working out and would kick and punch hundreds of times while waiting for the lights to be changed. He was a good singer and sang a lot on the set. I have the original guitar played by Anders Nilsson when Bruce sang.
T.o.t.U Question 20: Peple like Robert Lee say there is more to know about Bruce Lees death that people arn't talking about ? What do you know or think of this ?
Answer: I honestly don't know anymore than has been reported by the press, but they lie alot!
T.o.t.U Question 21: What gave you the inspiration to write you book on Bruce Lee ? Why now ?
Answer: Bey Logan wanted to make a video of me showing the various places where filming of some of Bruce's films took place and telling some of the stories about Bruce that I experienced. Bey didn't have time so I wrote the book instead. If you would like a copy, send US$30 to:
Jon Benn G/Fl. 2 Taiwan Old Village
This includes air mail postage.
T.o.t.U Question 22: Can you tell us a bit about your book ?
Answer: It describes my time with Bruce and stories about happenings on the set. There are also many 8x10 rare photos some of which I took on the set which show Bruce in action and most of the crew.
T.o.t.U Question 23: Question 3 ... How did you get cast for the role as Italian Boss in Way of the Dragon ? What was it like to play that character ?
Answer: I met Raymond Chow at a cocktail party in 1971 when I had just arrived in Hong Kong. He asked me if I would like to be in a movie with Bruce Lee. At that time I didn't know who he was, but I said sure as I wanted the experience. It was great and I enjoyed being the bad guy to Bruce's good guy. The good die young so I'm staying bad!!
T.o.t.U Question 24: How good was Bruce as a martial artist as well as a fighter compared to the others like Bob wall or Chuck Norris ?
Answer: The best answer to your question is several years ago I met Chuck Norris in Manila where he was making a film. We had dinner and I asked "If you and Bruce were in a real fight to the death, who would win?" He said "Bruce, of course, no one could beat him!"
T.o.t.U Question 25: Originally Bruce Lee asked Joe Lewis to be in one of his films, but he refused so he got Chuck Norris instead. (I assume this was that movie). Did bruce ever say anything about this ? Was he glad he choose Chuck Norris instead & do you think Joe Lewis missed an opportunity of a life-time?
Answer: Bruce never mentioned Joe to me, but I do know that he was very happy when Chuck agree to take the part. They had sparred together many times in Los Angeles and were good friends. Joe sure did miss it!
T.o.t.U Question 26: Did Bruce ever mention anything about shooting footage with his own movie company Concord for his up and coming movie "Game of Death".
Answer: Bruce was always talking about the next film and I'm sure he wanted to do it all again himself as he did in "Way."
T.o.t.U Question 27: Was Game of death meant to be a sequel to "Way of the Dragon" ? And did he ever speak of Game of death on the set of way of the dragon or come up with any ideas while filming way of the dragon?
Answer: I don't think Game was meant to be a sequel. He talked of it as being something new and different using many techniques.
T.o.t.U Question 28: While filming Way of the Dragon, did you ever expect it to be a World wide success ?
Answer: I knew it would be a big hit in Asia as his other 2 made such an impact, but I don't think anyone could have predicted how big it got worldwide and the fact that it is still in the top 50 movies ever made as to box office gross. I just wish I had gotten residuals!
T.o.t.U Question 29: Why do you think the fans love Bruce Lee so much even after 30+ years after his
Answer: He was not only the greatest martial artist who ever lived, he was also a teacher and a philosopher. Read his books to learn his wisdom. Each new generation watch his films and become inspired. I met an Australian stunt woman whose father made her watch Way every Sat. for years...she knew every line!
T.o.t.U Question 30: Do you think there is any martial artisist/actor that has equalled or surpassed Bruce Lee in terms of movie succeess in the martial artisits ?
Answer: In my humble opinion...none have even equalled Bruce.
T.o.t.U Question 31: What do you think of the current martial arts movies we have today ?
Answer: Some are Ok, some are terrible, but none will ever have been shown as many times as Bruce's films.
T.o.t.U Question 32: What are you thoughts on the so called "Bruce Lee - Jeet Kune Do " schools open today. Do you think they are just riding on Bruce's fame and its just an ego thing for them to be taught by one of Bruce Lee's Students ?
Answer: It has to be a bit of both, but the main thing is that there are so many fans who want to know more about Bruce's JKD and are willing to pay for it.
T.o.t.U Question 33: What fascinates me is how Bruce takes ordinary people with no acting experience (Chuck Norris & other martial artists) and casts them in his movies & it becomes a world wide success ? I find this amazing ? How would you describe this ?
Answer: And that includes me with no acting experience! I don't know how or why, but I'm glad Bruce could do it.
T.o.t.U Question 34: Was there any alternate scenes filmed for Way of the Dragon which was not used in the final cut of the film?
Answer: I'm sure there were some as in every movie, but I have never seen them.
T.o.t.U Question 35: Do you think after the sucess of Enter the Dragon that Bruce would have remade Way and set it in San Francisco like you stated he intended to do so on HKL Way DVD commentry you did for the disk
Answer: That is what he said he wanted to do so I'm sure he would have.
T.o.t.U Question 36: considering Bruces various talents and very aware brain was he aware at the time that the 3 films he made in hongkong,were of a LOW standard,in western film making terms,baring the great fight scenes theses films did and still do appear week on plot and dialog and "spoon feed the audience"did he give comment on this?
Answer: You must understand that HK films are made on very low budgets compared to the millions spent in the West. Way was made for less than US$150,000 Sure he knew he couldn't compare, but he intended to build up to where he could get major investors and measure up to the West. For example, I got less than US$300 for 2 weeks work plus a lot of lunch boxes, but I did it for the experience, obviously not for the money.
T.o.t.U Question 37: Forget the impressive martial arts and physical "showboating",did bruce make any other impact on you?
Answer: The main impact was that he was the most intelligent and well read person that I have ever met...up to today.
T.o.t.U Question 38: Did Bruce Lee have any animosity towards Whang Ing Sik (Japanese fighter in "Way"or vice versa?
Answer: None that I ever saw or knew about.
T.o.t.U Question 39: What is your opinion of Shannon Lee's and Linda Lee Cadwell for allowing Bruce Lee's likeness to be used in CGI movie?
Answer: Sorry I can't comment as I don't know what a CGI movie is, but perhaps they got paid for it.
T.o.t.U Question 40: Did you ever discuss the "meaning of Life" or his "purpose" with Bruce Lee? he expended so much energy and worked so hard. Was he a man who knew that learning to relax and "go with the flow" was just as important as doing 1,000 punches per session? Perhaps he was too young to begin thinking in those terms.
Answer: He did work a great deal and practiced more than most are willing to do. However, he did relax also especially when reading and playing with Brandon and Shannon.
T.o.t.U Question 41: Did he discuss goals and aspirations with you?
Answer: He always said that he wanted to be the best in what ever he did and was willing to work for that. He really wanted the West to accept Orientals not only in worthwhile roles, but in everyday life.
T.o.t.U Question 42: 2)Do you know where they are now???? (nora miao and other co-stars of way of the dragon????). Or have you stayed in contact with any of them?
Answer: Nora Miao was in Shanghai last week and I got to meet her. She is still as attractive as always. She lives in Toronto and has a radio program. Anders Nilsson lives in HK and also has a radio program. He was the one who got hit with Bruce's nunchats and still has a beard today to cover the scar. I see a few of the extras on occasion who still live in HK.
Thank you so much for being willing to do this Q&A for the Temple of the Unknown. We all appreciate you making time for the fans. We hope this isn't your last time with us and we wish you all the best with your book or any future projects.
For more information on Jon Benn's book email him at firstname.lastname@example.org