Before Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings became a part of the MCU, the character almost got a live-action adaptation starring Brandon Lee.
Marvel is about to go into Phase 4 of their cinema takeover and one film that fans just can’t wait to see is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Created by Steven Englehart and Jim Starlin, Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu Shang-Chi was introduced in 1973’s Special Marvel Edition #15. Marvel was apparently trying tap into the martial arts craze of the 1970s, but when they failed to acquire the comic book rights to the popular Kung Fu TV series, decided to make their own kung fu story. Shang-Chi was an instant success, and he was eventually given his own series titled Master of Kung Fu that ran for 125 issues.
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Shang-Chi is meant to be one of the best, if not the best, physical fighters of the entire Marvel universe. Born in Honan, a providence of China, he is the son of the supervillain Fu Manchu, but rejects his father’s ideals in order to become a hero. Trained since infancy, he’s a true master of martial arts and kung fu. Naturally, Stan Lee really wanted to see him in live-action, played by the son of a real-life kung fu master.
Stan Lee apparently had a lot love for Shang-Chi and wanted the hero to appear on the screen in some form or another, and, he wanted Brandon Lee to be the star. The son of legend Bruce Lee, who served as the model and inspiration for Shang-Chi, Brandon Lee was also a trained martial artist and skilled actor. Following in his father’s footsteps, he was on the rise to stardom in the late ’80s and early ’90s thanks to films such as Legacy of Rage and Showdown in Little Toyko. His life was cut short in 1993 when he was shot dead at the age of 28 while performing a stunt on the set of The Crow.
In an interview with Inverse, former President and CEO of Marvel Productions, Margaret Loesch, revealed how hard Stan Lee pushed to bring Brandon in.
“Stan did believe in the character,” Loesch said. “He used that as an example of the comic that could transition into the movie and television world.” She continued, “Stan had great hope [for Brandon]. He thought Brandon would be a future star.”
Stan Lee had a meeting with Bruce Lee’s widow, Linda Lee, and her son Brandon to discuss possible comic characters that Lee could play. “They talked about the kinds of comics that Stan had done, and he mentioned that comic,” Loesch said, referring to Master of Kung Fu. “Stan had great belief that those movies and TV shows based on those types of characters could be very popular. I can’t remember what happened, I think maybe we felt out the networks and they weren’t interested because of the violence. But that’s how I recall that property, because I had not been familiar with it until then.”
The exact date of this meeting is not specified as Loesch admits that she can’t remember when it took place. It was, of course, way before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was around though. The MCU didn’t officially start until 2008 with the release of Iron Man. Whatever version of Shang-Chi he would’ve played would have had nothing to do with the MCU, although, it’s possible that Lee wouldn’t have taken the role anyway. During this time, he was trying to make a name for himself outside of his father’s legacy by taking fewer roles based in martial arts.
The role of Shang-Chi will be played by actor and stuntman Sinu Liu in the upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. After some delay, the film is set to be released on July 9, 2021.
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