Remembering when an extra challenged Bruce Lee to a fight

Many people are familiar with the fight scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a moment in which Brad Pitt’s stuntman Cliff Booth throws Mike Moh’s Bruce Lee against a car. Although this is a fictitious sequence from a primarily fantastical story, one thing is clear: everybody wanted a piece of Bruce Lee.

Although he passed away at just 32 years old in 1973, Lee rose to become a revered martial artist and one of the ultimate tough guys in cinema. He famously trained under the Wing Chun grandmaster, Yip Man, and cut his teeth in street fights in Hong Kong before moving to America and making his name on the world stage.

There, he became such a hot property that he trained the likes of Chuck Norris, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Sharon Tate before starring in a handful of acclaimed Hong Kong martial arts films in the early 1970s that included The Big Boss and Fist of Fury. However, Lee’s most famous moment came in the form of 1973’s Enter the Dragon. As the first Hollywood martial arts movie, it proved to be a significant point in history. It was also compounded by the fact it was the last title Lee completed before his death, with its premiere only a month after he passed.

Whilst he had already starred in a host of classic martial arts films, it was on the set of Enter the Dragon that his legend was cast in stone. It was also on the set that one extra fancied his chances and challenged him to a fight. However, as to be expected, he was no match for Lee.

The story comes from Bolo Yeung, who played a henchman to the movie’s villain. In a rare interview, he recalled that Lee was challenged by one of the extras who wanted to test out his Jeet Kune Do, a style of martial arts and philosophy that Lee founded. Typically, Lee accepted the challenge, and the fight started. Per Yeung’s account, both combatants landed blows, but ultimately Lee was too fast for his opponent. Using “incredible” speed, he won the fight with a high kick.

The story is just another reason why the scene and depiction of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is wholly inconceivable. If anyone was to throw someone against a car, it was Bruce Lee.

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