Birth of the Dragon has found its Bruce Lee.
Hong Kong-born actor Philip Ng (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai, Vegas to Macau) is portraying the iconic martial artist in the action tale centering on a fateful fight between a young Lee and Northern Shaolin master Wong Jack Man in the 1960s. Yu Xia is playing Wong, and Billy Magnussen is playing Steve McKee, a young martial artist whose allegiance is torn between the two combatants.
Details of the confrontation have been debated for decades — what prompted it, how long it lasted, who won — but it is nonetheless regarded as a turning point in the development of Lee’s fighting philosophy.
George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) is directing Birth of the Dragon, which begins principal photography Tuesday in Vancouver, Canada. Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele, whose credits include Ali and Nixon, wrote the script.
“Birth of the Dragon is a rare opportunity to make an action film with rich characters based on real events and real people,” Nolfi said in an announcement about the start of filming. “It’s a story about people from the East and West transcending their differences to work together, which is obviously a very timely story.”
Lee, who died from cerebral edema in 1973, would have been 75 this month. His family is also developing a separate biopic about him.