Shan’s island

The title is a reference to the fact that Enter the Dragon was almost titled Han’s Island. Given that Bruce Lee was one of Steve McQueen’s friends, it’s interesting that Bruce’s daughter would star in a movie whose Chinese title is the same as the one for Bullitt. The literal translation is Guts All Over, but the meaning is not so much to do with gore as bravery. In order to write this article, I perused a nineties newsgroup where I came across this March 1998 comment by a man named Warren Hong: “On Monday, March 2, I met Jet Li in the Los Angeles Chinatown area because he was filming Lethal Weapon 4 there. I took a picture with him. I also talked to Corey Yuen, who told me that Enter the Phoenix will have English dialogue and might possibly be shown in the usual U.S. movie theaters instead of Chinatown theaters. It has finished production. He also might have said that Golden Harvest is the distributor of that movie.”

The movie was completed before Shannon Lee reached the age of 29. The man also known as Yuen Kwai would later direct a Chinese version of Charlie’s Angels. The movie, titled So Close, had lesbian subtext. Not only is it a shame that Shannon didn’t do the movie with Corey, but it’s also a pity that Corey didn’t incorporate lesbian symbolism (if not lesbian activity) in Enter the Eagles. Lee’s character is called Mandy, for Christ’s sake. There was an opportunity to have her character be the butch to the femme character played by Anita Yuen. Benny Urquidez was cast as the main fighting villain not so much because he was in two eighties Jackie Chan movies (Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever) but due to the fact that he was in a 1997 John Cusack movie titled Grosse Point Blank. When Enter the Eagles began filming in July of that year, the movie which also starred Minnie Driver and Dan Aykroyd had yet to be released in Hong Kong.

The woman who you see below with Shannon’s brother is Karen Sheperd. I think that she should’ve had the literal fighting chance that Benny got. She was in one classic femme fighting movie titled Righting Wrongs (1986). Also known as Above the Law, she had a fight scene with Cynthia Rothrock. Having Karen fight Shannon would’ve allowed for publicity in the Femme Fatales magazine, especially how this was during the time when Xena: Warrior Princess was reigning supreme before Buffy the Vampire Slayer did. It’s weird how things turn out. If you take a look at Brandon Lee’s only H.K. movie, Legacy of Rage (1986), you get the impression that it needed more fight scenes. Enter the Eagles needed more gunplay despite the fact that Shannon was being trained by one of the superkickers of Chinese cinema: Dorian “Flash Legs” Tan (a.k.a. Tan Tao-Liang). Her passion was singing, so she was literally going through the motions.

Although Enter the Eagles (which became known as …and Now You’re Dead in the U.K.) was set to begin filming in July 1997, Michael Wong was due to start filming with his trademark cigar in early August because he was still working on a Van Damme movie titled Knock Off. When Michael (who was also in Legacy of Rage) was told that he would have kissing scenes with the Eurasian actress known as Lee Heung-Ying, he joked that no actress is willing to kiss him because he always smoke cigars. He stayed in Prague for two months. During that period, his wife and two daughters stayed with him for two weeks. What’s ironic about him being in this movie is that he previously starred in Theft Under the Sun with Gigi Lai, who replaced Anita Yuen for leading actress status in Destination – 9th Heaven. Both movies were filmed around the same time in April, yet Anita was still allowed to be cast as Lucy in Enter the Eagles.

Speaking of casting mishaps, Michael’s character (Marty) was originally reserved for Takeshi Kaneshiro because Golden Harvest wanted to cater to the Japanese market as well as the Chinese and American ones. The decision to have Corey be the director was officialized as early as March 1996. However, Takeshi and Corey were busy working on Hero. By the time that the remake of The Boxer From Shangtung was in the can, Takeshi decided to star in Teddy Chen’s Downtown Torpedoes. G.H. didn’t mind since it was one of their movies. No harm, no foul. Nevertheless, Michael was a better choice to be in Enter the Eagles because he speaks English and he worked with John Woo on a Canadian TV remake of Once A Thief. However, there was still the stumbling block of the movie originally going to begin filming in America as early as July 1996. Wanting to cast a Japanese actor had slowed things down considerably.

On April 9 in 1997, Corey and Kot Tong-Ming (the U.S. business chief for G.H.) returned to H.K. to debrief Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho on having signed Shannon. She had expressed hopes to visit H.K. before filming began on July 7. The reason: to observe the studio where her late father worked and to examine his film career. Corey had set a Hellish training regiment to further train her three months before the shoot. In 1996, Dorian had made it easier for Corey by taking on the majority of the tutoring. In 1997, Corey’s plan included teaching weapon use like long poles and swords. She would also have to study Cantonese to handle the mixed language dialogue in the new film. Jordan Chan (who played Tommy) couldn’t be more excited. He said: “This film has been talked about for a long time. The film will be shot in America and Canada. I am not afraid I can’t communicate with her. Why? Her father was Chinese.”

On May 21, Corey and David Lai Dai-Wai (who usually works with Corey as a writer, director as well as a producer) returned from America where the whole point of the trip was to see how far that Shannon had progressed in her training. David was credited on Enter the Eagles as a planner, but he was more likely downplaying his role because of the financial flopping of their previous collaboration – Mahjong Dragon (released near the beginning of 1997). That movie involved the efforts of a co-director and writer who Corey commonly works with – Jeff Lau Chun-Wai. Lee’s character was originally meant to be an F.B.I. agent whose partner is Jordan, but Jeff (the writer) was told by David that they wanted to make an action movie about an anti-hero. Regardless, many international buyers in Cannes asked about this movie since it was going to star Bruce’s surviving descendant.

If Brandon was still alive, not too many people would be hanging onto it like the remaining copy of a rare rock album. Back to Shannon’s training, Corey pointed out that he asked her to show him her push-ups. She did 30 of them by just using 3 fingers on each hand. She also did it without turning red and breathless. On June 23, Ray signed with Lee Heung-Kau of Korea’s Three Stars Pictures and announced that he would coinvest in the movie. This is because Ray didn’t want to fully finance without there being any guarantee of making it big in Japan. The budget was H.K.$ 40 million. In U.S. currency, that would be 5.1 million. Ray stated that Shannon was signed to a three picture deal. When he saw her three months prior, he thought that she looked a little overweight. She only needed half a month to lose 10 pounds. She could’ve counteracted by pointing out that her father got too slim.

It was revealed that the weapons which she had learned to fight with also included the halberd, the spear and the nunchaku. She told the press that her husband was going to visit her in Prague during filming. When asked about her father, she remembered that he was humorous, friendly and an outstanding actor. As for why she didn’t become an actress earlier, she was in school for the purpose of majoring in music. Alas, she had expressed a desire to work with Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh on future movies. It did not happen because Enter the Eagles only spent 17 days at the H.K. box office, where it had only grossed 3.5 million dollars (and that’s not in U.S. dollars). During the market peak, films with this box office level would’ve been thrown out of the theaters after a week. However, Ray was so desperate to milk more money from Shannon’s name than he could milk from her breasts.

It’s a shame, really, because Corey thought that he was saving money by starting filming a day earlier. The way that he worked it out was that by beginning on July 6, the producer (Chan Sek-Hong) had two days of Prague footage to show and tell when he reported to Leonard Ho in H.K. at the G.H. studio. Leonard assured him that they shouldn’t feel limited by the schedule as long as the movie is the best that it can be. They had plenty of time to get the movie done. Ho told the press that the movie would be completed by November after the North American shooting at the end of October. Shannon got along well with Michael because she wanted to know so much about Legacy of Rage. Most of all, Shannon appreciated the anecdotes that Corey had about working with Bruce on Fist of Fury. It’s too bad that she didn’t get to enjoy U.S. cinema success.

Shannon wasn’t the only person to be exercised with no restraint; Anita was in on the action too. Corey and David respected her professionalism (no diva). G.H. were impressed enough to have a press release which revealed that Anita successfully completed two fight scenes and was trained by Corey, who encouraged her to do bungee jumping. He sees the latter as bravery training, especially when you’re working on a movie that requires wirework. In one particular instance, there was a scene which required her to be suspended over a hundred feet above ground. Corey is clever. It’s no wonder that he was hired to work on X-Men in 1999. When talking about his own career, Jordan joked that he became a European actor because he previously went to Europe for Downtown Torpedoes i.e. exterior shots in Hungary and Germany.

By the time that it was September, the shoot in Prague was being rushed so that the movie could be shown at the Milan International Film Festival. During the shoot in Prague, there were always European and American press conducting interviews (including TV interviewers). There were more U.S. TV producers trying to sign Lee than film ones. Perhaps this speaks to the notion that H.K. movies in the late nineties had more in common with the aesthetic values of U.S. TV shows. It’s too bad that she never did something on the lines of Alias (she’s only 3 years older than Jennifer Garner). Shannon never managed to be on even Rothrock’s level. It’s also sad that Anita never became an action movie star to rival Michelle Yeoh. Corey and Yuen Tak (the guy who assists him in choreographing fights) were so impressed with how she committed herself that they saw her potential. Corey made a funny observation that Anita’s favourite activity was to count heads at the location shoots.

The Prague shoot was meant to be done by mid-October. Even though Corey was on time, he believed that he was over budget due to the extra expenses and problems that were encountered while shooting in the city. Reportedly, he fired a Czech crew member, a strike began, and it directly affected the progress of the film. He denied that happened. To his knowledge, each day saw a team that consisted of 70 to 80 people – half of which are H.K. crew members. Nevertheless, the Czech crew members followed the orders exactly. Those who are responsible for moving absolutely wouldn’t walk without permission first. Corey also said that even if they did fire local crew members, they would be hired back by the local crew chief and placed in positions where he couldn’t see them. Thus, under this situation, no strike occurred. Whenever communication took place, Cantonese had to be translated into English then into Czech.

When asked about her late father, Shannon was not too willing to talk about him. She even told Corey to ask permission from her mother – Linda Emery. On November 26, it was reported that a H.K.$ 1 million marina set was built in Sai Hung. Corey pointed out that Shannon was a pro when it comes to action scenes. The only problem was that, days prior, there was a fight scene where she was injured by a foreign actor’s kick and she had to grind her teeth so as to tough the pain out. The actor who kicked her was Michael Ian Lambert. She only broke into tears when Corey had a callous enough sense of humour to say: “It would have been great if, this time, her husband is by her side to care for her!”

Her take on it was that it reaggravated an old injury. Sometimes she wanted her husband by her side, but he was still in university and didn’t have time to visit her outside of the summer. November 27 was a sad date because it would have been Bruce’s 57th birthday. She said she did didn’t have anything special planned for the occasion. She would only miss him in her heart and call her mother to console her. Next July was to be the 25th anniversary of his death. She didn’t know if there was any special event planned for the occasion either, but she knew that his final film would be re-released in America. By final film, I mean Game of Death. On the morning of December 21, Enter the Eagles was finally completed. On the same night, Shannon returned to the U.S. and to her husband. She found the production of the movie to be both a pleasure and a pain. The pleasure was from a cordial collaboration with everyone, and the pain was from the fights. After all that time working with Chinese people, she learned to say “Very strenuous! Very tired!” in Cantonese: “Ho Sun Fu Ah! Ho Gui Ah!”

The film was going to be released in April 1998 during the Easter slot, but it ended up getting delayed to the point of being in a shelved status when it came out in October. She initially intended to return to H.K. to promote it, but patience can wear thin more than a thin-skinned person who isn’t impervious to insults. As for why it didn’t get released in April, one could look at the release of Jet Li’s Hitman. That movie took up the majority of April. Nothing special was going on in May other than the end of Titanic, but Ray may have wanted a summer hit that teens can watch outside of school. The problem is that two Hollywood movies took up most people’s attention outside of The Storm Riders (which made more money). From early June to late July, Deep Impact was making a big impact. From late July to late August, Michael Bay’s Armageddon was a Bruce Willis beast that Ray didn’t want to contend with. The Storm Riders finished in late September, so one can assume that he didn’t want Shannon to steal the thunder of his storm.


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