Question & Answer with Jon Benn - Italian Mafia Boss in 'The Way of the Dragon'
My gratitude to David Tadman for arranging and Mr Jon Benn for taking the time and effort in answering all our questions.
1/ Did you know anything about Bruce before you worked on "Way of the Dragon"? Did you see him on Hong Kong TV? How did you get that job, by the way? Were you an actor/supporting yourself as such?
Jon Benn : No. I didn't know who he was, but I wanted to be in a Chinese film. No. I met Raymond Chow at a party and he asked me if I wanted to be in a movie with Bruce Lee I said sure! No.
2/ What was your initial impression of Bruce upon meeting him? How did you meet? Did your impression of him change at all over the time you knew him? If so, how?
Jon Benn : A very nice guy. I met on the set and we finished the first scene 15 minutes later. I got to know him over a one year period and I was very impressed with his intelligence and ability.
3/ Did you attend the Hong Kong premiere of 'The Way of the Dragon'? How was the experience and how was the movie received?
Jon Benn : Yes a full house. Everyone liked it! Especially my
4/ I've read that Bruce used to get mobbed by fans all the time in Hong Kong. Did you witness any of these events. Was it difficult for Bruce to do normal
things. How did Bruce interact with his many fans in person. What was the biggest fan mobbing that you saw?
Jon Benn : It was hard for him to walk down the street as so many wanted to talk to him. I had a beach house on Lantau island and he and his family came there to get away.
5/ Can you tell me more about the big press event that was filmed prior to the filming of 'The Way of the Dragon'. From the footages, Bruce is seen in a red top with Unicorn Chan, Tang Di, Nora Miao, yourself and many other co-stars that appeared in 'Way of the Dragon' and 'Fist of Unicorn'. Was this event for Bruce or for his good friend Unicorn and his first leading role? Who organised this press event and how were you involved? Thanks.
Jon Benn : I don't know who organized it. I was invited as I was involved. I don't think it was especially for Unicorn.
6/ Is it true that you were basically the first & only businessman in Hong Kong to dedicate a place of business (was it a bar or restaurant?) to Bruce's
memory by having memorabilia on display there? Have you seen & what do you think of the new statue of Bruce now on display in Hong Kong? Why do you think it took Hong Kong so long to do something like this for Bruce (he was, afterall, & pretty much remains, HK's most famous international star)?
Jon Benn : I set up the Bruce Lee Cafe/Museum in Hong Kong - the first and only place of tribute for Bruce. Many thousands of fans came and the HK Government made me a Goodwill Ambassador for bringing so many tourists to the city. I was present at the unvailing of the BL statue, but was not invited by the BL Club. They never did anything to assist me in the Cafe as I think they didn't like the fact that a white boy did what none of them were capable or willing to do. I tried for several years to get the government to do something for Bruce, but HK people are only interested in making money.
7/ One more, while I'm thinking about it: though I haven't seen the movie, I recall reading that you had a role (as a "mad scientist"?) in a Bruce Lee
exploitation movie called "Enter Three Dragons". How did you get involved with this film, do you have any amusing or interesting recollections of the
experience? And, I've got to ask, how did Bruce's "clones" compare with the real deal?
Jon Benn : It was called 'Clones of Bruce Lee'. It is now a cult film as it is so bad! The clones did a good job and we had fun doing it, especially with all the nude girls on the beach, you should see it!
8/ You play an Italian Mafia Boss in Rome but your character speaks in English. Did Bruce ever explain the reasoning behind it?
Jon Benn : Bruce did my voice over, he didn't speak Italian.
9/ Do you know if Bruce planned to continue the saga of 'Tang Lung aka Chinese Dragon' character? The ending of 'The Way of the Dragon' sets up a
continuation like in the old Japanese Samurai films that Bruce enjoyed and respected. Did Bruce ever talk about his passion for the Japanese Samurai pictures?
Jon Benn : He probably would have done a Way 2 if he was still around. He did admire the Samurais.
10/ Have you kept in contact or have you since seen other co-stars/extras that appeared in 'The Way of the Dragon'?
Jon Benn : I have seen a few of them over the years, but no other contact.
11/ Do you have anymore copies of your book on Bruce available for purchase?
Jon Benn : Yes, send US$30 in cash to:
Penthouse 30F, Tower 6
888 Shan Xi Nan Road
I will send an autographed copy of 'Remembering Bruce
Lee' by paid Air Mail.
12/ Mr. Benn, I've seen photos of you on the set of "Way of the Dragon" (sort of out in the country location) while Bruce & korean martial artist Whang
Ing Sik (who played the japanese karate fighter in "Way") were demonstrating various kicks on eachother using Bruce's kicking shield; do you recall what led to their "demo"? Were they competetive with each other? Did either of them seem to have an edge over the other speed &/or power wise? Did there seem to be any friendly competetiveness in general between Bruce & the other martial artists in the movie? Did they get along well with one another?
Jon Benn : They were all friendly and knew that Bruce was the best and tried to learn from him.
13/ Did Bruce share with you any of his hopes for expanding his career in Hollywood, namely that of remaking "The Way of the Dragon" in the States?
Jon Benn: He said he would like to go back to California. And work there again since he had become well known.
14/ Did Bruce offer to teach you any basic self defence techniques that would become useful in your daily life?
Jon Benn : He taught me a lot of moves that I now use to keep the girls at a distance!
15/ You've said before that Bruce was getting headaches on the set of 'Way of the Dragon' so my question is did you ever witness Bruce taking any pain
killers for his headaches?
Jon Benn : No, but he often had splitting headaches and would just sit down till they went away and he would apologize and keep on going.
16/ What was the relationship between Bruce and Bob Wall like on the set? Would they tease each other, with one trying to oudto the other in terms of pulling off practical jokes on each other? Same question goes for Chuck Norris: how did he get along with Bruce Lee and vice-versa?
Jon Benn : Everyone got along great with Bruce. He was always joking and playing tricks and showing off. He never had a cross work with anyone, but he was a perfectionist and keep everyone working tilll they got it right.
17/ How long did your scenes take to film? Did you use a script with your lines already written out or did Bruce improvise with the filming?
Jon Benn : Everything was improvised with only the basic outline of a script. He would just tell me what to say next. They called me 'one take Benn' as I was able to do it right in one take. Except for the time when he knocked me back in my chair in the office. He hit me so hard I flipped back and so did the chair! He pulled me up and really apologized. That took 2 takes and he put a big guy behind the chair to hold it up.
18/ Did Bruce plan to use you for a role in a future film? Did you see Bruce after you had filmed 'Way of the Dragon'?
Jon Benn : If he had a plan he didn't tell me. I did ask him if I would get a credit in the film. He said all of his actors would get a credit - I didn't!
19/ Mr. Benn, there have been stories about Bruce not getting along with & planning to end his partnership with Raymond Chow; did you see any indication of problems? Did Bruce & Raymond get along well, work well together? How, by the way, do you remember Raymond Chow? Did he seem like a decent chap, an
honest business man? Have you had any contact with him since working on "Way of the Dragon"?
Jon Benn : He is a decent enough man and is very successful. He does have a reputation for not keeping his word, like Bruce. I have seen him several times since.
20/ There have also been rumors of home movies/behind the scenes footage from the set of "Way of the Dragon" existing; did you see anyone filming anything like this? If you did, would you have any idea who would have it & what it consisted of?
Jon Benn : I never saw this happen.
21/ Did Bruce ever discuss his next project, The Game of Death after the completion of Way of the Dragon? Were there any messages he was trying to showcase in his films ? Was he trying to educate the martial arts community about his own art of JKD? Any views on these matters? Thanks.
Jon Benn : I really don't know about this and i don't remember him discussing his next project, but he probably did as he was always talking about one thing or another.
22/ I was wondering how much input Unicorn Chan had on choreographing the fight sequences together with Bruce, as Chan had a credit as co-instructor in
staging the action on the film?
Jon Benn : I never saw Unicorn choreographing anything during the filming.
23/ Were any of your scenes cut from the film? If so, can you describe what they were?
Jon Benn : I don't think anything was cut.
24/ What are your fondest memories of Bruce?
Jon Benn : His constant flirting on the set, there were always lots of pretty girls around.
25/ Finally, how did you find out about & what was your initial reaction to the news of Bruce's death? Do you give any credence to any of the many theories (speculations?) about how he died? Did you find the official verdict as to the cause of death (swelling of the brain caused by an allergic reaction to an ingredient or ingredients in a prescription painkiller) at all questionable?
Thanks very much for your time & responses. I enjoyed your contributions to the audio commentary track on HKL's "Way of the Dragon" special edition DVD with Bey Logan.
Jon Benn : I was to have dinner with Bruce and Raymond. Betty called and said that she couldn't wake him up. Raymond left immediately to her house. You know the rest. I believe the verdict was correct as he was always having bad headaches.
Thank you for your interest!
(My thanks to all who helped with the questions - Walker, Bruce & Pedro. Conducted January 2006 - Nick Clarke)