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Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was a Chinese American martial arts expert and movie star best known for films including Enter The Dragon and Game Of Death. Born on November 27, 1940 in San Francisco, he was the son of Cantonese opera singer Lee Hoi-Chuen. Lee returned to Hong Kong at three months old and was raised in Kowloon, where as a child he appeared in several films. In his late teens he moved to the United States where he began teaching martial arts, eventually moving into films. Lee is widely credited with changing the perceptions of Asians in Hollywood movies, as well as founding the martial art of Jeet Kune Do. Lee died in Kowloon Tong on July 20, 1973 aged 32 from acute cerebral edema.

NewsHong Kong

It's a tribute, not an ad, says Bruce Lee's daughter

Bruce Lee's daughter has responded to critics of a new Johnnie Walker advertisement that uses her father's likeness

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 July, 2013, 5:38pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 7:47am


  • Yes: 21%
  • No: 79%
12 Jul 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 279

Fans might be dismayed by their alcohol-free idol endorsing a whisky, but Bruce Lee’s daughter attempted to comfort them, saying the ad was a tribute sponsored by an alcohol brand rather than the other way round.

Speaking exclusively to the South China Morning Post, the late kung fu legend’s daughter Shannon Lee said the much criticised Johnnie Walker Blue Label advert was intended to be a vivid way to pay tribute to her father.

“I don’t think that it’s about selling booze,” Lee said.

“To me this was a way to pay tribute to my father and in particular his philosophy, and to do it in an interesting way with the use of technology,” said Lee, who was a consultant of the ad’s technology and her father’s philosophy – told by a highly realistic animated version of the Enter the Dragon star.

The ad drew criticisms from fans, who were condemning it for its “bad taste” in associating the non-drinking Bruce Lee with whisky. They also criticised the ad, which was premiered on the mainland and circulated online, for featuring a Putonghua-speaking Lee.

“The alcohol was never on-screen with him. It’s like Johnnie Walker sponsoring a mini film about Bruce Lee. That’s the way we saw it. I don’t have the ability to fund a mini film made with such advanced CG technology.”

Lee said she understood fans' trouble: “My father did not drink, that’s true...[he] did not have a problem with people who drink occasionally...He was never knocking drinks out of people’s hands if they were having an enjoyable time...

“This could be troubling for some people. We thought about that as well. But this commercial was for China and we thought the point was to get his philosophy out [...] to a large number of a people, in a way that would hopefully capture their attention and make them think.”

Lee currently runs Bruce Lee Foundation, a charity to promote the late star’s legacy. She will be in Hong Kong next week for the Heritage Museum’s Bruce Lee exhibition, which will open next Saturday – the 40th anniversary of the death of the cultural icon. 

The Lee family also runs a licensing company that takes care of the intellectual property rights of Bruce Lee’s image and works.

Lee admitted Johnnie Walker was required to get a licence from the family’s licensing company to produce the ad, but she did not disclose the deal details. The ad premieres in Hong Kong on the night of July 11 at the AMC Cinema, followed by a cocktail party. The commercial aired in Hong Kong will be in Cantonese.

“No he did not speak Mandarin [in reality]. But [the ad] was for China,” she said. “I have to be honest – when I hear my father is dubbed into English, speaking in someone else’s voice, it’s extremely disconcerting.”

She said movies were dubbed into local languages and the commercial will also be the same. She did not find what the animated version of her father spoke in the clip problematic.

“In the end, we felt that bringing my father’s message to a large audience, particularly in China, was important,” Lee said.


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This article is now closed to comments

Dear Shannon Lee
I'm sure you're not getting to read this, but I write it anyway.
As a HUGE fan of your dad, I'm really trying to understand your point and harder to respect your decisions on this so-called "tribute sponsored by a whiskey brand". And really, it's beautifully made! But as with many many fans of your dad, we just don't buy it...
It would be much different if the tribute was really a mini-movie with a story that Bruce once wrote down somewhere and never got made. It would've even been ok if JW sponsored that with a mentioning in the end credits. But reality now is that you can't really miss the JW branding at the end of this "tribute". And the whole animated short in the end is unfortunately all about the Whiskey! It's an AD.
And with Mainland China in mind... what's going to be next? Painkillers? Cigarettes?? Are you aware that your dad still has enormous influence on people? He still inspires people on how to live and how to be a human being. Alcohol doesn't fit in here! Why couldn't you sell the concept to a sports brand for all we care? At the least that would be more related to him, wouldn't it? We'd be buying the entire collection.
But as your dad said it once, "I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine."
Yours Truly
a Bruce Lee fan
He was about 32. Age isn't accurate as there are many factors that contribute (including health...).
He was (and still is and will be) The Greatest Guy to Me! :-)
Tribute + Johnnie Walker money shot = advertisement.
Since her acting career flopped we'll probably see more ads. If she was successful, or at least married someone wealthy, none of this would have happened.
Dragons Never Die... The Legend Lives On!
Perhaps it's also about the amount of "fee" her foundation will collect for this ad too?
Very likely.


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