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Who shot Brandon Lee on set? Revisiting the tragic death of Bruce Lee's son in the wake of Alec Baldwin's incident 

Brandon Lee in The Crow (Image via Lacy Atkins / Associated Press, and Miramax)
Brandon Lee in The Crow (Image via Lacy Atkins / Associated Press, and Miramax)
Abhirup Sengupta

The recent tragedy on the set of Alec Baldwin's film Rust harkens back to a similar fate that struck Brandon Lee, the late son of Bruce Lee. A prop gun misfiring recently claimed the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

In 1993, Brandon Lee tragically passed away on the set of Alex Proyas' dark superhero/antihero film The Crow. Similar to Hutchins' death, Lee was shot with a prop gun which fired a blank bullet which was due to mishandling. The shot was fired with the same force as a live round. The projectile hit Lee in the abdomen.

After Hutchins' death, Brandon Lee's Twitter profile, which sister Shannon Lee presumably runs, made the following statement:

“No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”
Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on “Rust”. No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period. 💔

How did Brandon Lee die?

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Brandon Bruce Lee's untimely demise cut short his career in Hollywood. The 28-year old martial-artist was filming one of the early scenes in the movie, which sets his character Eric Draven onto the path of revenge.

The actor was supposed to be shot by a thug (portrayed by Michael Massee) in Eric's apartment. Michael's character was set to fire a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver. However, the tragedy occurred when the gun was not adequately checked, and a projectile blasted out.

Prior to shooting the infamous death scene, a prop gun was used as a test case. The prop was a real gun from which the special effects department had removed the propellant powder charges. However, the crew did not remove the primer, a chemical that ignites the powder charge and propels the bullet out of the barrel.

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During testing or rehearsals, one of the dummy rounds (real round without charges) got stuck in the barrel. Later, before filming the scene, the crew failed to check the barrel. When Massey shot the gun, the second blank round hit the previously stuck round, which hit Brandon Lee in the abdomen.

After Alex Proyas declared "cut," Lee laid on the floor, which was initially perceived by the crew as method acting or a prank. Stunt coordinator Jeff Imada checked on Lee and found him unconscious and breathing heavily.

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Brandon Lee was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina. The actor was in surgery for six hours, following which he was pronounced dead at 1:03 pm on March 31, 1993. Investigations by authorities ruled his death was caused due to neglect. However, no charges were filed in this case.

Actor Michael Massey, who, like Alec Baldwin, fired the gun unknowingly, spoke about the incident in an interview with Extra TV in 2006. He said,

“I don’t think you ever get over something like that.”

Massey passed away on October 20, 2016.


Why was a real gun used in the first place?

Brandon Lee, The Crow. Released 27 years ago. https://t.co/lAtjGIuwvH

The Crow was shot in 1993 with a reported initial budget of $15 million. This forced the crew to employ several cost-cutting measures. Furthermore, to get accurate muzzle-flashes and sound of the gun, a prop firearm was used. These days, with CGI, muzzle-flashes can be realistically recreated in projects.

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The tragic event combined with the film being Brandon Lee's last performance propelled The Crow into a cult following since its release in 1994.


Edited by Srijan Sen

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