ASIAN AMERICAN ISSUES
WHAT HAPPENED TO JASON SCOTT LEE?
e's played an Inuit Eskimo (Map of the Human Heart), a Polynesian prince (Rapa Nui) and practically every Asiatic ethnicity in between, including the ultimate icon of his own (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story). Five have been bona fide romantic leads -- a major achievement for an Asian American actor. What has made Jason Scott Lee's roles so memorable for many is their animal physicality.
Sweat glistening over rippling muscles, Lee has battled, raged and made hot love -- not exactly the images Hollywood often links with Asian men. Like a true hero, he has saved studios big bucks in wardrobe costs and spared millions of females the rigors of imagining the physique attached to those smoldering eyes and full lips.
So what happened to him?
After Jungle Book (1994) and the cinematically beautiful, financially ugly Rapa Nui (1994), Lee sleepwalked through several forgettable movies. The last most of us saw him, he was Aladdin in the 1999 Hallmark miniseries Arabian Nights -- unless you were in London the following year and caught the stage production of The King and I.
Few Hollywood careers have risen to such a sustained crescendo, then faded so quickly.
Lee was born in Los Angeles on November 19, 1966 to a Chinese-Hawaiian father and a Chinese mother. He was two when his family moved to Hawaii. An undistinguished record at Pearl City High left him few options. A year after graduation Lee enrolled at Fullerton Community College. Before long he turned to acting and landed a bit part in Cheech Marin's Born in East LA. A credible portrayal of a tortured young Inuit led to an audition for The Last of the Mohicans. Too Asian to play an Indian, decided the director. So he suggested Lee for the lead in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993). The young actor's success in capturing the icon's moves and moods brought international celebrity, making him a latter-day reincarnation of Bruce Lee to the under-40 set.
It was a key that opened many doors, but they all seemed to lead to the great outdoors. Having been typecast as Primal Man, Lee couldn't seem to get near a role calling for street clothes. Meanwhile, he now spends a lot of time indulging his passion for growing tropical plants. He's even considering a career as an herbalist.
Hollywood careers built in loincloths having seen their heyday when Johnny Weissmuller played Tarzan, could Lee's physical beauty and animal magnetism have sent him down a dead end? That's one theory. What's yours?
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WHAT YOU SAY
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Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 06:00:50 PM)
Lee, 35, starred for six months in a stage production of "The King
and I" in London, spent three months in Romania for "Dracula,"
worked on an organic farm in Japan for six weeks, visited Tibet
and China, moved from his ocean-view Kaaawa home to 25 acres
of rain forest in Volcano, and mourned the death of his father.
Lee, a mixture of Chinese and Hawaiian, is an accomplished jeet
kune do martial artist, which may explain why he was picked to
play Bruce Lee in the 1993 film "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story."
Since then he's appeared in "Map of the Human Heart"
(1993) , "Rapa Nui" (1994), "Jungle Book" (1994), "Picture Bride"
(1995), "Murder in Mind" (1997), "Soldier" (1998) and "Tale of the
His voice will be heard this summer in the Disney animated
feature "Lilo & Stitch," a story based on Kauai. Lee currently is in
Los Angeles filming the straight-to-video Universal Studios
production of "Time Cop II." He will choreograph much of the fight
scenes, striving "to make the action as honest as possible with a
minimum of special effects."
Saturday, April 13, 2002 at 16:49:19 (PDT)
I know we don't like to hear it,but yes,Hollywood is racist. It's been like that for many years, with african-american, asian,latin people.. In my opinion almost everything is about business and money. I am not asian-american, I am a spanish woman and let me ask you something, what do we usually see about latin women in Hollywood movies? think about it. And about Jason...too asian to play an Indian? well,Daniel Day-Lewis' green eyes are more appropriate for an indian I guess..(I have to say he is a wonderful actor, and he made a great job). But back to Jason,he is an amazing actor, truly talented,charismatic and gorgeous, he's got the sweetest eyes I have seen in my life and he's got something special, and he will do whatever he wants with his life. If he stops acting, it's allright(although in my opinion he's not going to make an end with his acting career), because we have seen those eyes and nothing can change that!!
Saturday, April 13, 2002 at 02:47:37 (PDT)
I agree wholeheartedly with "An Admirer of JSL" (January 13) when he (she?) suggests that the sort of androgynous beauty that Jason Scott Lee possesses, which is entirely acceptable among white leading men, is not supportable (at least in Hollywood) for Asian actors. Asian leading men have to be "macho" in a way that white leading men don't, perhaps because white America, in typical fashion for a dominant culture, has relaxed its discomfort with gender confusion (and, as a consequence, homophobia) when it comes to its own kind, but not when it comes to different races. When Jason Scott Lee was young, his androgynous beauty would not have created such ambivalence. But now that he is a mature thirty-five-year-old man, it is certain to engender discomfort in the dominant culture, and good parts for him have undoubtedly dried up. Frankly, I think Jason Scott Lee should be congratulated for what he managed to accomplish under the circumstances, and is probabaly well out of such a racist and homophobic system.
Caroline G., who has watched Dragon a hundred times
Friday, April 12, 2002 at 12:02:45 (PDT)
I agree with firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really could not agree more, about the hollywood fakeness and glitz!!!
But then again who is to know what they are all like in that business, unless you really know them personally.
like, here we all are discussing about this guy who we have not met in a personal circumstance and trying to presume and assume who he is.
It is great to know that even though that it has been nearly ten years since he has been in the limelight of hollywood, yet people still are talking about him. I guess this is a positive thing and that he was recognised for his acting abilities back then, making people wanting more of his beauty as an actor.
I believe that he is a very special actor with so much colours and the only thing against him is his race, of being an asian amongst the whites, obviously limiting the roles that he could play.
He has done many roles which is hard to specify him as 'such' actor...meaning that when he went in to the limelight with his performance in Dragon. Most people remember him as an 'action hero'
But when you look at his works he really is a diverse actor and probably the only asian to break the mould of the Hollywoods' thinking. As that asians are all martial artist and that is the only thing that they can offer...
I mean that shows the narrow mindeness of this whole business, doesn't it?
For, could you imagine some asian actor in a romantic comedy?
But in my opinion I believe that Jason could easily charm audiences.
For he is an actor, a true actor within the heart.
He has the ability to touch people and it is time that hollywood breaks the stereotypical roles and venture into the beyond and produce better movies.
The funny thing is that people say that we should get rid of racism in the world but America..the world trying to control the world is contradicting this in Hollywood.
The ironic thing is that the movie industry is the biggest profit for American business!!!
Friday, April 12, 2002 at 09:25:29 (PDT)
I think he should do what makes him happy and I don't think its in Hollywood. I think he gets to choose what roles he plays in, and sometimes he just says "no". Then he goes to play in the ocean or water his herbs. If he doesn't get a part he did want, or something doesn't work out, he's not too disappointed cause he knows their will be other oppertunities. I am crazy about him, and hope to see him in more movies. He is the most gorgeous man alive!!! I think he is making more films even as I write this. I hope to see more asian actors. Too much white is boring. I think their should be a variety of all kinds of people. Like it is in the real world. asian, african, latin, european, fat, thin, short, tall. etc. etc. ect.
Friday, April 12, 2002 at 07:55:47 (PDT)
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