Jackie Chan had a fan in Bruce Lee, even though the former was a lowly stunt performer at the time of the latter’s meteoric rise to martial arts stardom. Chan, who had been acting since age 8, played a henchman on Lee’s 1972 film The Chinese Connection and his subsequent classic Enter the Dragon (1973). On Dragon, Chan became one of Lee’s favorite sparring partners, so much so that the stunt coordinators stopped hiring Chan out of envy, the actor told Yahoo Entertainment during a recent Role Recall interview.
But, as he recounts above, one of Chan’s favorite memories of Lee came shortly after the pair had worked together. “I was walking on the peninsula, I was going to [go] bowling, and he saw me,” remembered Chan, who is currently starring in the revenge thriller The Foreigner.
Lee recognized Chan and stopped to ask his name — then where he was going. When Chan told him Lee was heading to the bowling lanes, Lee announced he would join. “I [didn’t] have a car, so I got a taxi and [brought] him to the bowling alley,” Chan said.
It was there the unknown Chan found himself suddenly playing bodyguard for the Chinese superstar as other patrons attempted to approach for autographs. “Suddenly, I’m such an important person,” Chan smiled.
After two games, Lee nodded and smiled at Chan, then, without a word, took off in a taxi. “It was like a dream. Why suddenly does he bounce into me in the street? He looks at me, follows me to the bowling alley, then goes away.”
“Then about 10 days [later], he died,” Chan said of the action icon, who passed away in July 1973 at the age of 32. “I was totally shocked.”
The Foreigner is now in theaters.
Watch: Jackie Chan tells what it was like being Bruce Lee’s stuntman:
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