DEAD: Brandon Lee

DEAD: ON THIS DATE

Brandon Lee (aged 28)
American actor and martial artist

Brandon Bruce Lee (February 1, 1965 – March 31, 1993) was an American actor and martial artist. He was the first child of martial artist and actor Bruce Lee and teacher Linda Lee Cadwell (née Emery), the grandson of Cantonese opera singer Lee Hoi-chuen, and brother of Shannon Lee.

DEATH: On March 31, 1993, Lee was filming a scene in The Crow where his character is shot and killed by thugs. In the scene, Lee’s character walks into his apartment and discovers his fiancée being beaten and raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee’s character fires a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver at Lee as he walks into the room. A previous scene using the same gun had called for inert dummy cartridges (with no powder or primer) to be loaded in the revolver for a close-up scene. (For film scenes that utilize a revolver where the bullets are visible from the front and do not require the gun to actually be fired, dummy cartridges provide the realistic appearance of actual rounds.)

Instead of purchasing commercial dummy cartridges, the film’s prop crew created their own by pulling the bullets from live rounds, dumping the powder charge and then reinserting the bullets. However, they unknowingly or unintentionally left the live primer in place at the rear of the cartridge. At some point during filming, the revolver was apparently discharged with one of these improperly deactivated cartridges in the chamber, setting off the primer with enough force to drive the bullet partway into the barrel, where it became stuck (a condition known as a squib load). The prop crew either failed to notice this or failed to recognize the significance of this issue.

In the fatal scene, which called for the revolver to be fired at Lee from a distance of 3.6–4.5 meters (12–15 feet), the dummy cartridges were exchanged with blank rounds, which feature a live powder charge and primer, but no bullet, thus allowing the gun to be fired without the risk of an actual projectile. But since the bullet from the dummy round was already trapped in the barrel, this caused the .44 Magnum bullet to be fired out of the barrel with virtually the same force as if the gun had been loaded with a live round, and it struck Lee in the abdomen, mortally wounding him. He was rushed to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he underwent six hours of surgery. Attempts to save him were unsuccessful, and Lee was pronounced dead on March 31, 1993, at 1:03 pm. EST. He was 28 years old. The shooting was ruled an accident due to negligence.

The incomplete scenes which were to form the beginning of the film had to be rewritten. The scenes were completed using computer graphics and manipulating scenes already filmed of Lee. Lee’s body was flown to Jacksonville, North Carolina, where an autopsy was performed. He was then flown to Seattle, Washington, where he was buried next to his father at the Lake View Cemetery in a plot that Linda Lee Cadwell had originally reserved for herself. A private funeral took place in Seattle on April 3, 1993. Only close family and friends were permitted to attend, including Lee’s immediate family as well as fiancée Eliza Hutton’s parents and younger sister, who flew in from Missouri. The following day, 250 of Lee’s family, friends and business associates attended a memorial service in Los Angeles, held at the house of actress Polly Bergen.

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