1. How is the book doing? Have you received any feedback from Simon and Schuster? How is the book tour going?
2. A couple of years ago on this forum, there was a big debate over whether The Warrior was the same concept as the Kung Fu TV series. Some members believed Bruce had really created the idea of what became Kung Fu. Some speculated The Warrior was actually the working title for Kung Fu. And some thought, that if Bruce hadn't created Kung Fu, he at least contributed ideas to it. Other members, including me, came to think that The Warrior was a similar but completely separate idea from Kung Fu, and that Bruce had little if anything to do with Kung Fu, which was Ed Spielman and Howard Friedlander's creation.
We went back and forth for weeks, with people posting their evidence (e.g. letters, telegrams, interviews, quotes from Linda, newspaper articles, telegrams from Warner Bros, etc) in support of their different positions.
In light of what we know now, and based on your interviews with Shannon, Linda, Fred Weintraub and Tom Kuhn, what can you tell us about the difference and similarities between Kung Fu and The Warrior? Do you think Bruce had any input into Kung Fu? And what can we expect to see in the forthcoming The Warrior series produced by Shannon?
Thanks. Good luck with the book Matthew!
1) The book is getting a great deal of attention and wonderful reviews. The sales are solid. I'd like them to be a little higher, but to be honest this book could do better than Harry Potter and I still wouldn't believe it was enough :) Simon & Schuster is pleased with how the book is doing. I'm going to extend the book tour to San Francisco, Seattle, and LA. So really looking forward to that.
2) So The Warrior v Kung Fu debate is one of the longest running ones in the history of Bruce Lee studies. Based on my reporting, here are my conclusions. Ed Spielman and Howard Friedlander came up with the idea completely on their own. They wrote the screenplay for Fred Weintraub at Warners before any of them had any idea who Bruce Lee was. It was scheduled to be a movie, not a TV show. Fred Weintraub was looking for someone to cast as Kwai Chang Caine. He was introduced to Bruce by his friend Sy Weintraub (no relation), who was one of Lee's private students. Bruce was given the script. I'm certain that Bruce went on at great length about what Fred should do with the script, how to change it and make it better. I'm fairly certain Fred told Bruce these were all amazing idea and then he ignored every one of them and the script was not changed at all. I believe this is how Bruce got it into his head that he had contributed a bunch of amazing idea to the project. I'm sure he told Linda all of this. And she repeated it in her book, which is how this myth got started that Bruce came up with, or at the very least contributed major ideas, to Kung Fu.
The movie version of Kung Fu was killed. Fred got mad and gave the screenplay to Tom Kuhn at Warner TV. Kuhn hired a writer to cut it down (for time and cost) into a 90 minute TV script. Bruce had no part in any of this. He was filming The Big Boss during this period. When Bruce got back from H.K. he found out that Kung Fu was a go project for TV. He was given the opportunity to audition for the lead. Tom Kuhn says that during their 30 minute interview Bruce did not contribute any ideas to the project. They mostly discussed his movie in H.K. and his life. Kuhn rejected Bruce because he felt his accent was too think. (I believe Tom and executives at ABC had already decided, at least subconsciously, that they were not going to cast an Asian actor in the lead).
Ted Ashley, the president of Warners, found out before Bruce that Bruce wasn't going to get the part. He was afraid Bruce would go do a TV series with Paramount. To keep Bruce at Warners, he offered Bruce a $25,000 development deal. Bruce decided to pitch a short treatment for "The Warrior," which was also an Eastern Western like Kung Fu. And this is why it has been so fucking confusing to everyone, and I had to spend six months untangling this mess. In Bruce's notebooks, it is clear he had been toying around with a Western which starred a Chinese hero for years. I'm fairly certain he wrote the short treatment for "The Warrior" after reading the "Kung Fu" screenplay. I have no idea why he believed Warners would make two Eastern Westerns. It seems to me a really dumb idea to pitch the exact same genre of show to the same studio. It certainly made my life more difficult.
Anyway, the major difference between "Kung Fu" and "The Warrior," which were two distinct projects, is the main character. Kwai Chang Caine was a half-American, half-Chinese Shaolin monk who believed in peace and only resorted to violence as a last resort. Ah Sahm, the main character for "The Warrior," was a full Chinese former soldier who liked to kick ass first and take names later, i.e. he was a Bruce Lee character. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same plot: Asian hero helps out oppressed Chinese railroad workers.
I've emailed a couple times with Jonathan Tropper who is the writer for the show, but he hasn't revealed any details. It is Cinemax, so I'm expecting low production values and a high body count. It might be a lot like Bruce's Golden Harvest movies.