Nancy Kwan and I, and Bruce Lee
The star of Suzie Wong, Tiffany Lam and I had a conversation in Hong Kong.
We talked about Asian actors and about her life in this city.
But the best part came off camera, when Nancy Kwan told us she punched Bruce Lee
Kwan was relaxed and open to conversation, while our twenty minute slot was well due we started chatting about Hong Kong cinema, Hollywood and a number of personal questions after watching The World of Suzie Wong too many times.
As part of a larger documentary project I’m doing, I brought up I was very interested in Bruce Lee. And that’s when the unexpected happened.
“Bruce was a great friend, he was from La Salle, you see, and I was from Mary Knoll,” Kwan said, “he used to live in Kowloon Tong and I used to live near him, a few blocks up the road.”
Once she said that, we started gushing questions.
“It was back in the 70s, Bruce said he was going to be a kung fu star, I said no way, Hollywood won’t be ready for that.” Following those comments, the martial arts legend bet ten bucks he would make it, according to Kwan’s account.
“He died so young, it was a pity, he didn’t live to enjoy his fame and his wealth,” she regretted. She said she had lunch with him the day before he died.
“We were on set,” presumably shooting The Wrecking Crew with Dean Martin, “and he said, do you wanna fight? eh? do you wanna fight? that was the way he talked.” And later she would punch Lee’s abs and cause no harm.
When going to turn the camera back on to record these comments she refused. Times was up, and those were the rules.
But she told us she never got her ten bucks from Lee.
Tiffany and I rushed to a nearby coffee shop to jot down her quotes as best we could remember.
Not being able to capture this on camera, left me thinking the interview ended with one of Suzie’s first lines in the movie, when an irritable young girl played by a 21-year-old Kwan meets William Holden’s character on the Star Ferry and says: no talk.