Northern Leg Southern Fist was a passionate project for Bruce Lee after he became a star. Here is why he was never able to obtain and produce it.
Although having already found fame in the early 1970s, Bruce lee never succeeded in convincing his studio to do Northern Leg Southern Fist. During his career, Lee has had great difficulty in trying to get passion projects like The silent flute of the ground. Unfortunately, various problems prevented these films from seeing the light of day.
When Bruce Lee was trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood, he spent a lot of time writing his own material. In 1968, he presented a television series on ABC, but it was turned down. He later worked alongside screenwriter Stirling Silliphant and Hollywood actor James Coburn and to direct a kung fu western called The silent flute with Warner Bros., but the production requirements set by the studio caused too much setback. Much to the frustration of Lee, Coburn and Warner Bros. have abandoned the project. This of course delayed Lee’s efforts to become a big star, but instead of giving up, Lee went to Hong Kong and rose to prominence as the protagonist of three kung fu movies.
Even though Bruce Lee had become a big name in Hong Kong’s film industry by the early 1970s, getting studio approval for his ideas remained a tall order for the actor. According to Bruce Lee: a life by Matthew Polly, Lee developed a treatment for a film titled North Leg South Fist, but Golden Harvest – the studio that produced its Hong Kong films – was not interested. Essentially, North Leg South Fist represented a second attempt to bring his film ultimately unfinished Silent Flute to live. In order to appeal to Chinese audiences, Lee removed the Western setting and reworked the story to align it with Asian culture, but that just wasn’t what Golden Harvest was looking for in a kung fu movie.
Through North Leg South Fist, Lee is said to have brought his own journey as a martial artist to the big screen. Lee, who learned Wing Chun kung fu in his youth, ultimately reinvented his fighting style by creating Jeet Kune Do because of the flaws he found in traditional Chinese martial arts. He wanted to bring the main character of the film on the same path by giving him similar achievements about his kung fu. The experiences he would have had re-evaluating his approach to martial arts would have been deeply philosophical – and that’s basically the problem Golden Harvest had with Lee’s treatment. The studio’s position on this was that it was too intellectual for their audience.
The gold harvest passes North Leg South Fist made sense, as it certainly would have been very different from the revenge plots and patriotic rebellion stories that were so popular at the time in Hong Kong. Bruce lee was disappointed with the decision but hoped he would have another chance to make it happen. For Lee, the film would have been the perfect opportunity to illustrate his own thoughts on kung fu. North Leg South Fist ended up never going anywhere, but there were other moments in her career, like her famous saying “either waterâLine in its important role on Longstreet, where some of his personal beliefs ended up bleeding in his work.
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