Even four decades after the passing of Asian martial-arts superstar Bruce Lee, his achievements still attract adoration from millions of movie fans. The biggest fan of all may be Jon Benn, who befriended the high-kicking hero while playing “the Big Boss”, a villain in Lee’s acclaimed 1972 movie The Way of the Dragon.
In Remembering Bruce Lee, a tell-tale autobiography, Jon reminisces fondly about his experiences with Lee and a lifetime of other adventures. Read this excerpt from the book.
THE ULTIMATE MARTIAL-ARTS MAESTRO, a blurry-fast, high-kicking guy named Bruce Lee, bashed around an entire roomful of my tough-guy employees. He sent the whole bunch of them spinning and collapsing like bowling pins at a ten-pin world championship.
Then Bruce turned his rapt attention squarely onto me. At that moment, I alone faced the slickest possible human fighting-machine. To make matters even worse, I knew next-to-nothing about how to wage brutal hand-to-hand, foot-to-foot combat like my adversary did with such success.
In that menacing dilemma, almost any other man, being merely flesh and blood like me, might have started to quiver, gone weak at the knees or even lost control of his bladder. Happily, none of those less-than-macho symptoms befell me.
Indeed, I felt surprisingly relaxed – so much that I almost wanted to say, “Hey, Bruce, how about if I smoke another cigar?” And I never did take much of a thrashing either.
Actually, our confrontation, with all of its glares and threats, happened strictly for the sake of the movie cameras that pointed at us. In fact, Bruce and I worked together as members of the same Hong Kong film-cast and soon became firm friends.
I’m Jon Toby Benn. Whether or not you recognize my name, a really strong chance exists that you have seen me before. For most of my lifetime, now nearly eight decades, I have worked partly as a businessman and partly as a movie actor, first in North America and then in Asia. Those two professions, although I honestly considered acting to be more of a hobby for most of the time, forged together into a really interesting combination.
Throughout the years, so many fascinating and fun things have happened that I really want to share them with you. This book tells my story.
By no coincidence, I devote this, the first and foremost chapter, to also covering a significant part of Bruce’s story. Forty years have passed since Bruce died, but I still regard him as a precious friend, still remember him clearly almost as if I had spoken to him last week and still respect him for being obviously the very best at what he did and for how greatly that he inspired so much of the world.
Not too long after I first arrived in Hong Kong back in 1971, I met Raymond Chow, the president of Golden Harvest Films, at a cocktail party. He asked me if I would like to appear in a movie with Bruce Lee. Although I did not fully realize it at the time, that question would have a profound impact on the rest of my life.
When I replied “Sure”, Raymond gave me one of his name-cards, and we went from there. Honestly, I had no clue then even about exactly who Bruce Lee was, although he just had completed two blockbuster films, The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972). Much of the rest of the world already had noticed the most impressive martial-artist ever to grace the big screens of movie theatres. Yes, I had a lot to learn, and I soon began to realize that Bruce already qualified as a very big star, especially in Asia.
Always, I liked to seek out new experiences. Having never before been in a Hong Kong movie, I badly wanted to join the cast. I thought that it definitely would create great fun for me.
So Raymond and I reached an agreement, and he assigned me to play a villainous Big Boss, the