Real Name: Brandon Lee
Case: Suspicious Death
Date: March 31, 1993
Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Details: Twenty-eight-year-old Brandon Lee was the son of martial arts expert, Bruce Lee, who was also a Chinese actor who gained fame through several martial arts movies. Brandon followed his late father into acting and the martial arts, but while he was on the set shooting a scene for The Crow, on March 31, 1993, he was fatally injured when a gun used in the scene set off a live round.
Investigators in Wilmington looked into Brandon's death and were able to determine how and why the shooting occurred. They learned that several weeks before the shooting, a pawn shop scene was filmed. Crew members went to a local pawn shop, where the owner agreed to let them take several items to use as props. One of the items was a box of live .44 Magnum bullets. When the stunt coordinator found the box on the set, he took them away. He noted that live ammunition should never be allowed on a film set. He locked the bullets in the trunk of his car.
Two weeks later, the crew realized that they needed quarter-loaded blanks. To save time, the live shells were brought out to be modified into blanks. A blank has gunpowder and a harmless disk of cardboard in place of the lead tip. The crew members took off the lead tip of the live bullets and shook out some of the gunpowder. As a result, they had empty shell casings with a live primer (which is hit by the trigger and ignites the gunpowder).
Soon after, the crew realized that they needed "dummy bullets". These are made to look like real bullets; however, they have no gunpowder or primer. The crew decided to fire off the primers on the "blanks" that they had created earlier. They then hammered lead tips into the shell casings, making dummy bullets. However, they did not check to make sure that all of the primers had been fired. As a result, one of the bullets still had both a primer and a lead tip.
Later, a second set of crew members used the gun with the "dummy bullets" to film a scene showing a gun firing several rounds. While doing this, two of the crew members heard a popping sound. The sound they heard was one of the bullet's primers being detonated, causing the bullet to dislodge from the shell casing and become stuck in the gun's barrel.
Fourteen days later, a scene for Brandon's character's death was filmed. The director called for one of the blanks created earlier to be used. The blank (with gunpowder) was fired towards Brandon from the gun that had the lead tip still inside the barrel. The ignited gunpowder then caused the lead tip to dislodge and hit Brandon, killing him. Investigators felt that there were so many people involved in negligence that it would be difficult to convict anyone. As a result, no charges were filed.
Despite the conclusive criminal investigation, many people have speculated that Brandon fell because of the same Chinese curse that took his father and uncle. Bruce Lee's older brother died as an infant. On July 20, 1973, Bruce died after taking a prescription drug for a headache and taking a nap. The coroner determined that he had died from a freak allergic reaction to the drug. Rumors would soon surface, however, claiming that he was murdered. Some suggested that he had been killed by a rival studio, or a disgruntled business partner, or even the Japanese Mafia. However, still others believe that Bruce's death was a result of the family curse, related to Feng Shui. This Ancient Chinese belief mandates that a home be built in perfect harmony. His house in Hong Kong was "mis-aligned". The previous owner consulted with a Feng Shui expert, who placed a mirror on the house to deflect the evil spirits. Interestingly, it was blown away by a typhoon on July 19, 1973, just one day before Bruce's death.
Suspects: None; Brandon and Bruce's deaths were ruled accidents.
Extra Notes: This segment first ran on Unsolved Mysteries in the October 20, 1995 episode.
Results: Unresolved. Investigators consider the cases closed; however, some believe that a Chinese curse may have been responsible for their deaths.
- Brandon Lee on Unsolved.com
- Brandon Lee on Wikipedia
- Bruce Lee on Wikipedia
- Bruce Lee's Son, Brandon, Killed in Movie Accident
- The brief life and unnecessary death of Brandon Lee