Jason Scott Lee: Natural Wonder
Jason Scott Lee, the star of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and the upcoming South Seas saga Rapa Nui, talks about the spiritual healing powers of Hawaii, demonstrates martial arts technique to young toughs on the street in London, and massages our reporter's twisted neck.
"What a pity." A friend says when he sees a publicity still of Jason Scott Lee on my desk. Spaced as I am, I don't ask what he means. A week later, when I'm packing to go to London, another friend sees the same photo. "That poor guy." she says, holding the picture up for a better look. "He was really cute, though, huh?' " Wait a minute... they seem to have confused Jason Scott Lee, who portrayed (and was not related to) Bruce Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story with Brandon Lee, who was Bruce Lee's son and who died on a movie set when a gun that should've been empty turned out to be loaded.
Well. I'm off to London to interview the one that's very definitely still breathing.
"Let's do the interview here," Jason Scott Lee says, bringing me into the living room of his hotel suite, which is warm and, considering that it's damp and drizzling outside, looks very inviting.
But I am not seduced by creature comforts. "You think my editor sent me to London to do this in a hotel room?" I ask. "No way. She's going to want color, sounds, sights. We have to go outside. C'mon, we'll take a walk." I hand him the tape recorder and point to his jacket. "Keep it in your pocket. It'll pick up everything you say." We leave Lee's hotel and head straight into the madness of Piccadilly Circus. This might be more color than I bargained for. And although we're both wearing boots and leather jackets, we're shivering.
"Oh, God," Lee moans, pulling up the collar on his shirt and hooking I his arm through mine, "I miss Hawaii."
A word here about Jason Scott Lee. Twenty-seven years old. Raised in Hawaii. Serious surfer and gymnast. Looks like a cross between Keanu Reeves and John Lone, but his features are more chiseled. So handsome that women stop in their tracks to get a better look. His face has a soulful quality that makes you want to protect him. His body, which we got to see quite a bit of in Dragon, is like a dancer's, only with better muscles. He just got back from months worth of filming on Easter Island for Rapa Nui, a romance/adventure produced by Kevin Costner and directed by Kevin (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) Reynolds. Besides Dragon he has starred in Map of the Human Heart (which I tell him I loved), a sentimental story about an Eskimo (Lee) and the half-Indian girl (Anne Parillaud) he falls in love with. His only other work was in minor roles in films like Born in East LA and Back to the Future Part II.
Okay, back to the present. Lee is in London for the opening of Dragon, for which he learned jeet kune do, the martial arts discipline that Bruce Lee invented. He's soon to be certified as a jeet kune do instructor. "My father was a big Bruce Lee fan," he says while guiding me across the street. "He's Chinese-Hawaiian, and my mother is Chinese. He used to take us to all these really fantastical films with martial arts in them. And Bruce Lee was amazing. When they asked me to play Bruce, I thought it was ridiculous because he's way too big, he's a legend. I didn't want to take it at first. I had to do a screen test first, and I thought that if I could pull through that, then maybe it would be good. It was a choreographed fight scene. Once I got into the swing of it, I thought it would be really great."
"So Brandon was never up for the part of Bruce, right?"
"No, no, he didn't really look like him, and he didn't want anything to do with it. He wanted to be his own person, do his own thing."
"What do you think, is there a Lee curse?" I say, referring to the rumors-that-won't-die about Brace's, and now Brandon's, death.
Lee laughs. "I don't know. I think it depends on what you think of as a curse. I guess there'll be all kinds of speculation. It's like religion--whatever you believe in is going to be what your faith is. Brandon was dealing with a lot of dark forces, a lot of his shadow side, in The Crow, and I feel that when you play with your shadow side, you're playing with fire. If you're not in the light, then anything can happen. I don't know what his spiritual connection was, but the dark side is a very dangerous place to be."
What can I possibly say to that? We head up a side street, and when we turn the corner, the signs assault us. "Girls, Girls, Girls." "Naked, Nude Girls."
"Ah," Lee says, smiling, "the red-light district. Ever been here?"
"Can't say I have. And you?"
"Oh, yeah, sure. C'mon, I'll give you the tour."
"This will be great for the interview," I say.
"Well, you don't have to mention it..."
"You must be kidding," I say, working my way around the hookers.
"You know," Lee tells me, "you look around here, in London, and a lot of people are really oppressed. And maybe, when they see Dragon, it will get them into another space, thinking about other possibilities. Maybe a healthier life style--like breathing! You step outside here and it stinks. You just smell everything. It's awful. The only places I've been in Europe are here and Amsterdam. You should go there, to Amsterdam. You might not remember it, but you'll have a great time."
"I'll put that on my wish list. So, tell us about Rapa Nui."
"Rapa Nui is about the conflict in the 1600s on Easter Island. It's about the clash of the royal clan and the working class. I'm the grandson to the chief of the royal clan. It's a love story. Easter Island... it's one of the most incredible places I've been to. And it's one of the remotest inhabited places in the world. Which I think alone might explain the giant statues that dot the island. They're of Polynesian origin, and they're for remembering the ancestors. So each one has different characteristics, according to the ancestor they're honoring. They're not their gods, though."
"What was Kevin Costner like? I ask that of everyone I interview," I tell him.
"Interesting. He was there for a week. He did come down and make an appearance and do some business and then he headed off to do Wyatt Earp."
"Do you get to wear your hair this long in the movie?" I ask, running my hands through his thick, long, gorgeous hair.
"It was tied up in a topknot. It was like a fountainhead!"
"Sort of like Pebbles?"
"Exactly. And I've got a pretty severe loincloth going on in this film."
"And the girls are all topless..."
"Oh, it's gonna be huge."
"Yeah, I think so, too," he says, smiling a Buddha grin. "The film looks beautiful. There's a lot of nice tranquility in it, and the colors... the lighting there is so natural and golden. If the emotional punch and the throughline is there, I think it'll be huge. Because it's so different. There hasn't been a Polynesian film without an Anglo leading man since, when? Tabu in the '30s, the silent movies? And I think that's really special. I'm really proud of it."
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