Remake of the Cult Classic “Kung Fu”: “John Wick” star takes on role denied to Bruce Lee

The cult series "Kung Fu" is getting a movie remake. Those responsible have made the right decision this time and hired Donnie Yen for the leading role.

An Eastern in Western dress? That was the American series “Kung Fu”, produced between 1972 and 1975, which was first broadcast in this country on September 27, 1975 on the public television channel ZDF. In it, the half-Chinese Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine) travels the United States in the mid-19th century in search of his half-brother after killing a member of the imperial family in self-defense in his native China.

Three seasons and 62 episodes of “Kung Fu” were produced before it was discontinued. However, this was not purely due to dwindling success. At its best, the series generated fantastic ratings, occasionally struck a critical note and also dealt with the issue of racism. However, the sometimes tough filming had left its mark on lead actor David Carradine and he no longer wanted to continue.

He later regretted this decision, as he revealed in interviews. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why Carradine later reprised his role in “Kung Fu: The Movie” (1986). After “Kung Fu: The Next Generation” from 1987 and the follow-up series “Kung Fu: In the Sign of Kung Fu” from 1993 to 1997, a reboot series followed in 2021 with “Kung Fu“, which was canceled after the third season.

Remake of the Cult Classic "Kung Fu": "John Wick" star takes on role denied to Bruce Lee

Now there is a new production, which this time is a remake in film format. The film, which was already announced in 2020, is being produced by Universal Pictures and the production company 87North Productions, which has produced all of the “John Wick” films as well as “Nobody” and “Bullet Train”. The screenplay has already been written by Stephen Chin (“War Dogs”). David Leitch (“Atomic Blonde”) is also rumored to be directing the film (via Deadline). That alone is promising. But hold on tight, because martial arts legend Donnie Yen is set to play the lead role.

Yen, who is now barely 60 years old, is a household name in the martial arts genre. Thanks to his mother, Bow-sim Mark, a master in Wushu and Tai Chi, he was introduced to martial arts at an early age. After a stint with the Beijing Wushu team, he made the acquaintance of master and action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (“Tiger & Dragon”, “Matrix”) in Hong Kong. This was the beginning of an unprecedented film career.

His expertise has also made Yen a sought-after martial arts choreographer and actor on an international level. He helped the genre productions “Blade II” and “Highlander: Endgame” to achieve an action quality that is still impressive today. At the latest after his sensational appearances in “Rogue One – A Star Wars Story” and “John Wick: Chapter 4”, Yen is also known to audiences outside the martial arts genre. However, his “Ip Man” films should not be missed even by those who don’t like physical conflict resolution. For Matt Reilly and Tony Ducret from 87North, Donnie Yen’s involvement in the new “Kung Fu” is a blessing:

“Donnie Yen is both an immensely talented actor and an action film legend, and it is a privilege to have a true martial arts master leading this global film,” said Leitch With Donnie in place as our leading man, it will be a thrill to collaborate with him, our creative partners, and Universal in reimagining this beloved story for the big screen.”

David Leitch told Deadline

David Leitch recently directed Ryan Gosling in the other cinematic remake “The Fall Guy“. You can watch the trailer here.

Bruce Lee’s involvement in the making of “Kung Fu”

It’s almost an urban legend, if you like: Bruce Lee is said to have tried to sell his idea for a western with a Chinese protagonist to Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In her memoirs, his widow Linda Lee Cadwell also recalled that his idea had been stolen from him. However, those responsible for the “Kung Fu” series have always denied this.

However, there is a fairly well-known TV interview (“Be Water, my Friend”) with Pierre Berton in his “The Pierre Berton Show” from 1971, i.e. before the start of the series in question, in which Bruce Lee talks about his idea for such a western, which was never realized. Many decades later, however, his wish was to come true in the form of the series “Warrior”, which his daughter Shannon Lee co-directed. Incidentally, Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee had his first role in a film production in “Kung Fu – The Movie”. Was that a belated act of compensation by those responsible?

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About The Author

Naveen loves entertainment and writing about it. He started his journey in 2014 as a web master and a founding member of Scrollbytes. He also has a degree in computer science and animation, and a certificate in digital marketing from DSIM. He is from India and he enjoys combining his passions for entertainment and tech in his websites.

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