2023 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most incredible action genre films and Bruce Lee’s final movie, Enter The Dragon. The film originally aired in 1973, changing the action genre forever, and was, unfortunately, the last time we would see the legend on the big screen. The Chinese American actor passed away at 32, a mere month before his last film aired. Today, Bruce Lee’s legacy and Enter The Dragon inspire action movies and their directors, including Chad Stahelski and the John Wick saga.
Empire gathered tributes from around the world to pay homage to the legendary action star and choreographer. Amongst the list was Chad Stahelski, the director and choreographer behind John Wick. Stahelski shared a touching story about how Bruce Lee inspired him as a child and even more so as an adult. More than just a tribute, Stahelski’s interview was really a love letter to one of the most incredible action stars the world has ever seen.
The John Wick director was quite picturesque in describing his love for Bruce Lee’s work, starting with, “If you trace back any story, there’s always a first page. Bruce Lee was my first page.” Stahelski recalled watching Enter The Dragon and The Chinese Connection [Fist Of Fury] at the tender age of ten with his father, and he was already inspired back then.
The inspiration never faded, to the point that when Stahelski started his own career as an action director and choreographer, he would look back at the classic film, breaking down not only the action and choreography but also the way that Bruce Lee had the action shot and the camera angles that he would use.
In Bruce Lee’s days, he was a pioneer in the action martial arts genre, and there wasn’t much to work off of. Stahelski idolised his style, telling Empire that he adored his work and that it was far more than just an action film to him; it was cinematic. Bruce Lee’s work was about more than just taking practical martial arts and filming them but rather using martial arts to tell a story, something that is challenging to accomplish. Using choreography like Bruce Lee did, Stahelski saw Lee as one of the first greats, focusing more on pace and rhythm than just baseless violence.
More than just that, Stahelski loved Lee’s actions as much as he did his personality, researching the star and learning what others thought of him. Stahelski loved that Lee was both innocent and arrogant. In all he did, he projected his true personality, “The confidence of a young man trying to find himself.”
Not only did Bruce Lee inspire much of what Stahelski did during his career, but the director shared that it has directly inspired his work with John Wick and how he wanted to tell the deadly assassin’s story.
“Many of the people who try to imitate him came out with all bravado: ‘I can’t ever lose!’ Bruce was thinking, ‘I might lose here. I have to do the right thing.’ A lot of what we do in John Wick, the non-verbal communication, is based off of what Bruce did.”
Did you know that one of the biggest inspirations for Chad Stahelski’s John Wick was Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon?