‘Warrior’ from Bruce Lee’s original pitch now streaming on HBO Max
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Warrior, the long-overdue project of martial arts master Bruce Lee, is now streaming season 1 and season 2 on HBO Max.
Lee, who died in 1973, had plans to develop a martial arts series in 1971 but it never materialized or was given a greenlight until four decades later. Cinemax has taken a stab at Lee’s original pitch to create Warrior with producer Jonathan Tropper, Lee’s daughter Shannon and director Justin Lin.
Warrior is set in the 1870s in San Francisco and centers on Ah Sahm, a kung fu master who searches for his sister in America, where he gets involved among rival gangs, bad cops and politicians with their anti-Chinese sentiments. Andrew Koji plays the lead role.
While Cinemax has canceled all of its original programmings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, HBO Max swooped in to gain rights to Warrior, giving the show a potential season 3 renewal.
“My father always said, the individual man is always more important than a system. [Warrior] means everything. Without it in the world, it doesn’t get to spark curiosity or open people’s minds and entertain and attract people to my father and his work,” Lee said in an interview with Inverse. “It’s meaningful that I got to get his project to fruition, and to finish his work. I continue to hold out hope for a Season 3, or some conclusion to our show, because it is not concluded.”
In 1971, Bruce Lee had developed a concept for a television series tentatively called Ah Sahm, about a martial artist in the American Old West, but he was having trouble pitching it to Warner Bros. and Paramount. According to Bruce Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, however, Lee’s concept was retooled and renamed Kung Fu, with David Carradine cast in the lead role, but Warner Bros. gave Lee no credit.
Warner Bros. stated that they had for some time been developing an identical concept, created by two writers and producers, Ed Spielman and Howard Friedlander. According to these sources, the reason Lee was not cast was in part because of his ethnicity, but more so because he had a thick accent.
In 2015, Perfect Storm Entertainment and Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, announced that the series would be produced and would air on Cinemax and that filmmaker Justin Lin was chosen to direct the series. Production began on October 22, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa, at Cape Town Film Studios.