Ted: You’re an on-the-screen tough guy; you’re going to have to suffer what all movie heroes suffered: challenges from exhibitionists and nuts asking you to fight, challenging you to fight. That’s already begun to happen, hasn’t it?
Bruce: Yes, it has.
Ted: How do you deal with it?
Bruce: When I first learned martial arts, I, too, have challenged many, as published, instructors, and of course, some other challenging new… But what I have learned is that ‘challenging’ means one thing, is that, what is your reaction to it? How does it get you? Now, if you are secure within yourself, you treat it very, very, very lightly, because you ask yourself: ‘Now, am I really afraid of that man? Or, is that man, do I have any doubt within me that he’s going to get me?’ I do not have such doubt. And if I do not have such fear, I would certainly treat it very lightly, just as: today the rain is going on strong, but tomorrow, maybe the sun is going to come out again. I mean, it’s like that kind of a thing.
Ted: Of course, they can’t lose by challenging you. Even if they lose, they get the publicity of being the guy who actually fought you.
Bruce: Awe, let’s fact it! In Hong Kong, can you have a fight? I mean a no-hold bar fight? Is it, is it a legal thing? It isn’t, is it? And to me, there are a lot of things, I mean, you know, like challenging, and all that. It’s… I am the last to know. I am always the last to know, Man. I mean, I always found out from the newspaper, from reporters, before I personally realize what the hell is happening.
Ted: Of course, you are teaching martial arts in the States, and two of your students are Steve McQueen and James Coburn. Did you find them tough people, the way they are portrayed on the screen?
Bruce: Well, first of all, James Coburn is definitely, is not a fighter. Loner, yes. I mean, he’s really a super nice guy. I mean, not only that, he’s a very peaceful man. He learned martial arts because he finds that it is a very, very, it is like a mirror to reflect himself. You know what I mean? I mean, like I personally believe that all types of knowledge, I don’t care what it is, ultimately means self-knowledge. And that’s what he is after. Steve, now Steve is very uptight. Steve is very high strung, you know? Now Steve, he can be a very good martial artist. But, I hope that martial art would cool him down a little bit. Maybe make him a little bit more mellower, and be more peaceful, like Jim. (laughs).
Ted: Did he achieve that this time with you? Did you feel that perhaps he learned something from you?
Bruce: Ah, no, definitely not yet. First, because of shooting schedule, and all that, I mean, he can not have it on a regular basis. And, secondly, he is still on the level, right now, of enjoying it as an excitement. Like it’s more like, you know, some form of relief of it, whatever; anger, whatever, you name it.
Ted: Bruce, ah, how much of your screen personality is really you? I mean, you teach martial arts, but obviously you’re very good at it. But, of course, “teacher” is another word for ‘best exponents or practitioners’. Like, are you able to take care of yourself, would you say?
Bruce: I will answer this, first of all, with a joke, if you don’t mind. All the time people come up and say: ‘Hey, Bruce, are you really that good?’ I say well, if I tell you I’m good, probably you will say I’m boasting. But, if I tell you I’m no good, you know I’m lying. (laugh). All right, going back to be truthful with you. Let’s just put it this way. I have no fear of opponent in front of me. But, I’m very self-sufficient. They do not bother me. And then, should I fight? Should I do anything? I have made up my mind, and that’s it baby, you better kill me before…
Ted: Bruce, in the Big Boss, you play a man who’s very slow to anger, the shy, diffident, you even stay out of fights in the other scenes because of the promise you made to your mother. And, is that a little bit like you are, or just a screen personality?
Bruce: This is definitely a screen personality, because as a person, one that I have definitely learned in my life, it seems like, ah, they say, they say, it’s a life of self-examination, and self-peeling of myself, bit by bit, day by day, is that I do have a bad temper. (laughs). A violent temper, in fact. (laughs). So, that is definitely, I mean, some people that I am portraying, not Bruce Lee as he is.
Ted: Well, as well as being an exceptionally successful film, in terms of finance, and it grossed more than any other pictures ever done in Hong Kong, the Big Boss does show some very explicit sex scenes, doesn’t it? What’s your reaction to being in bed with a lovely young movie star in front of the whole studio crew? Does it intimidate you? Does it worry you at all?
Bruce: Well, it certainly would not intimidate me. I can tell you that. ( laughs). Well, it’s all right, as long as the script justifies it. But, I definitely do not agree to put something in there just for the heck of it, because it is an exploitation. You know, like, for instance, when I start shooting the Big Boss, the first question was asked: ‘Hey, Man, how many thousands of feet of film, or films’, (my English is getting terrible now), (laughs), ‘is it going to be?’ My reaction is that first of all, why do I start fighting? Do you see what I’m saying there?
Bruce: Oh, definitely, I mean, but it seems like to be the thing now. They go for blood, sex. Just meaning for the sake of sex, and meaning for the sake of blood.
Ted: May I ask you a question that’s been puzzling me since I saw the film.
Bruce: Sure. Go, man. Yeah.
Ted: At the stage where you decide you’re going to get revenge, I mean, obviously leading up to the end, you suddenly decide to make love to the girlfriend in the bordello. What is the motivation for that?
Bruce: Now, the way I look at that, you know, that was a suggestion of the Director. And, I accepted it in such a way, that is, him being a very simple man, when all of a sudden, he, you know, he made up his mind that he’s gonna go and either die, or either kill, or be killed, right? So, he walk past by, it’s a kind of a sudden thing, of human being, that a thought just occur: ‘Well, doggone it, man, such is the basic need of a human being, I might as well enjoy it, man, before I kick the bucket’. You know, like that type of an attitude. I mean, it’s a, (Snaps finger), you cannot say the… it’s, it’s, it’s just an occurrence, you know.
Ted: I think you’d probably agree, Bruce, the thing that limited the appeal of Chinese films to Western audiences is that, it’s very unusual to find a Chinese actor who can act. And when I say that, I mean acting Western style, in that manner that would make non-Chinese pay money to see them. Ahhh, you seem to have crossed that barrier. How do you think you achieved it? Do you think it has to do with your time in the United States? You studied there, didn’t you?
Bruce: Oh, yes. It definitely has, you know. Because when I first arrived, you know, I did the Green Hornet, you know, television series, back in ’65. And if I look around, Man, I mean, I saw a lot of human beings. As, (laughs), I look at myself, I was the only robot there, because I was not being myself, and I’m trying to accumulate external security, external technique, or the way to move an arm, but never to ask and say what Bruce Lee would have done, if there were, such a thing happened to me. When I look around, I always learn something: to be always yourself, and to express yourself, to have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate them. Now that seems to me that, that is the prevalent thing happening in Hong Kong. Like, they always copy mannerisms, but they never start a the root of being, and that is: how, you see, can I be me? (laughs) I mean, I never believed the word ‘star’. That’s an illusion, man. I mean, that’s something the public calls you. You see. And when you become successful, when you become famous, it’s very very easy to be blinded by all these happenings. Everybody comes up, and you are Mr. Lee. When you have long hair, they would say: ‘Like, Hey, man, that’s cool, Man, Baby, that’s the in-thing’. But, if you have no name they would say: ‘Boy, look at that disgusting juvenile delinquent!’ I mean, too many people are yes-yes-yes to you all the time, you see. So, unless you really, at that time, have gone to a higher loft, and understand what life is about, and that right now, Man, some game is happening, and realizing such that is a game, finally then, it’s all right. But most people tend to be blinded by it because, I mean, if things are repeated too many times, you believe in it and it becomes a habit.
Ted: The danger is in believing the public impression.
Bruce: That’s right.
Ted: Your father warned you about the bad things in show business. Have you met them, too? I mean, apart from the illusion?
Bruce: Of course, of course.
Ted: You seemed to have come out of it remarkably well.
Bruce: Well, let me put it this way, ah, to be honest and all that, I am not as bad as some of them, but I definitely am not saying that I am a saint. (laughs). OK.?
Ted: Could we go back to the fighting, because like it or not, that is thing you are mainly identified with, at this moment.
Ted: You know a number of styles of fighting: Karate, Judo, Chinese Boxing….
Ted: And it’s a question you must have been asked hundreds of times before…
Ted: Which do you think is the most effective?
Bruce: You see, ah, my answer to that is this: there is no such thing as an effective segment of a totality. By that I mean, I personally do not believe in the word ‘style’. Why? Because unless there are human beings with three arms and four legs, unless we have another group of beings on earth that are structurally different from us, then there might be a different style of fighting. Why is that? Because we have two hands and two legs, now. The important thing is: How can we use it, to the maximum? In terms of path, well straight line, curved line, huh? Ah, round line, they might be slow, but depending on the circumstances, sometimes that might not be slow. And in terms of legs, you can kick up, straight. Same thing, right? Physically, how can I be very, so well coordinated? That means, you have to be an athlete. That means, you got to have jogging, and all these basic ingredients, right? Now, and after all that, then you ask yourself: how can you honestly express yourself at that moment? And being yourself when you punch, you really want to punch. Not: you want punch, because trying to avoid, not getting hit. But to really be. Be with it, and express yourself! Now, that is the out.., that is to me the most, one thing: How can I in the process of learning how to use my body, to understand myself? Now, the unfortunate thing is now: there is boxing, which uses hands; judo, which uses throwing. I’m not putting them down, mind you. But I’m saying one thing that is a bad thing, that is, because of style, people are separated. They are not united together, because styles became Law, Man. But, the original founder of the style started with hypotheses. (Laughs). But, now it has become the gospel truth. (Laughs). People that go into it, man, became proud of that. It doesn’t matter how you are, who you are, how you are structured, how you are built, how you are made. It doesn’t matter, you just go in there and be that product. And that to me is not right.
Ted: Bruce Lee, Thank you.
Bruce: Ted, I thank you, Man.