Is Enter the Dragon a True Story?

‘Enter the Dragon’, directed by Robert Clouse, is a showcase of iconic martial arts sequences that makes the movie evergreen. It is about a skilled martial arts instructor, Mr. Lee (Bruce Lee), who is approached by British Intelligence to solve a case related to a powerful criminal named Han (Shih Kien).

Lee is taken on an investigative mission to discover evidence against Han only to be confronted with unfinished business from the past. Han’s bodyguard O’Hara (Robert Wall) turns out to be the ruthless murderer of Lee’s sister. Hence, this story is also a tale of revenge that is exhibited in powerful action sequences. The poignant father-daughter angle makes us wonder if the movie is based on a true story. Let’s find out.

Is Enter the Dragon Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Enter the Dragon’ is not based on a true story. It is an original screenplay written by Michael Allin and the narrative was Bruce Lee’s brainchild. It was originally named ‘Blood and Steel’ but it got renamed due to Lee’s coercions. The story was made to draw in as much viewership as possible which is why the cast consists of different ethnicities. In the early 70s, Lee wanted to impact a wide base of people in America and was in talks with Warner Bros. with ideas for a collaboration.

They decided upon a series about a Shaolin monk in America which would star Lee as the protagonist. But the lead role in what later became ‘Kung Fu’ was given to David Carradine, whose presence would have attracted a wider audience rather than the foreigner. Lee was then offered an opportunity by the Hong Kong producer, Raymond Chow, to create action movies with him. Lee went on to release three movies in the early 1970s, all of which were shot at the Golden Harvest studio, Hong Kong. Fred Weintraub, who later produced ‘Enter the Dragon,’ supported Lee as he stated that Lee would gain popularity if the story was compelling enough. He believed in Lee’s ability to garner international stardom.

These movies pushed Lee towards fame and recognition and Warner Bros. knocked on his door in 1972 with a movie titled ‘Blood and Steel’. The studio had hired Allin, but on the set, Lee and he had several clashes. Allin said that Lee wanted to retain his Chinese heritage and culture in the script. Reportedly, however, Allin tried to respond to the matter in a “smart-alecky” fashion because of which Lee demanded that the former be removed from the team. 

Reports state that Weintraub held on to the screenwriter and only changed the location of Allin’s hotel, effectively lying to Lee. Under the impression that Allin was no longer involved, Lee showed his dedication to the project by training even harder. In fact, he additionally took over the choreography of the action sequences. Moreover, he wrote a spirited letter to Warner Bros. chairman, Ted Ashley, but when Lee learned the truth, he refused to show up on the first day of filming.

Things then took time to work out. Lee stood his ground, and eventually, the studio had no option but to use the changes that the action star has suggested in order to resume filming. The studio also had to dispose of the previously suggested titles including ‘Blood and Steel’ and ‘Han’s Island’. They eventually settled with ‘Enter the Dragon’ based on Lee’s demands. 

There is a scene in the movie where Lee refers to his fighting style as “fighting without fighting”. The inspiration for that is said to have been taken from the 16th-century samurai Tsukahara Bokuden’s anecdote involving a boat ride with another man. The ruffian asked the samurai about his fighting style to which Tsukahara responded by saying that he was a student of the “Style of No Sword.” Following that, they went to an island for a duel. Tsukahara, however, immediately took off with the boat after leaving the other man stranded. That was his idea of fighting without a sword.

Read More: Where Was Enter the Dragon Filmed?