Dedicated disciple

Text : Alice Fung Photo : Dicky Chan
Dedicated disciple
Television actor and host Stephen Au Kam-tong is just crazy about Bruce Lee. Not only has he made a film about his kung-fu fighting hero
and become the sole sponsor of a memorabilia exhibition, he even follows Lee's philosophy on life.

"I've been a huge fan of Bruce Lee since I was about six. Back then, in the 1970s, everyone was crazy about Bruce Lee and his kung fu films. My father used to take me to the cinema to watch them. I started to learn kung fu at the age of nine and, of course, I couldn't fight like Bruce Lee. This only made me admire him more. Bruce Lee became my hero and he still is: no one can replace him.

As I grew up, I started to read books about Bruce Lee and my impression of him changed. I learned about his philosophy and his life in America. I started to respect him more as a real life role model than simply as an idol or fictional hero. The main thing is that he was confident and no matter what difficulties he faced in his life, he dealt with them with courage. Also, he believed that if you thought that you were going to fail, you would definitely fail. But if you believed that you were going to win, you would win. This way of thinking has affected me a lot and I've tried as much as possible to emulate it.

In 1990, I started my acting career with ATV. I can still remember quoting Bruce Lee in my interview for the job. He said that only a person who had a dream would have his or her dream come true. Since I was small, I had dreamt of being an actor and performing on the stage. I also used to dream of directing my own film about Bruce Lee, as a homage to my inspiration. For me, there's truth in what Bruce Lee said because these dreams of mine really have come true.

In 1996, I made an independent film about Bruce Lee called What Are You Gonna Do, Sai Fung? As well as directing, I wrote the script, produced the film and appeared in it. The film was set in April 1959 and told the story of Bruce Lee's last day before leaving for San Francisco on the journey that led him to success in America.

I did a lot of research trying to piece together what he really did on that last day in Hong Kong. I played Bruce Lee and everything that I'd learned about his character and mentality, I put into the role. The film was not a great success, but the main thing for me is that I achieved one of my childhood dreams, to make a film dedicated to Bruce Lee.

This year, I've also opened a Bruce Lee exhibition in Yau Ma Tei called the Dragon Pavilion which will run for a year. On display are the personal collections of some of Bruce Lee's biggest fans in Hong Kong. The exhibits include posters, books, newspaper clippings and magazines.

Among my contributions are two awards that were granted posthumously to Lee. One is from Esquire magazine in America which cites Lee as one of the people of the century and the other is from RTHK, naming Fist of Fury as one of the 10 classic Hong Kong films of the past 50 years. I was chosen to accept these awards on Lee's behalf because I'm a well-known Bruce Lee fan.

I'm the sole sponsor of this exhibition and some people, even some of my friends, say that I'm crazy but I don't think so. This has also been one of my dreams and I'm going to keep the place open for at least a year.

I think the main reason that people like to associate me with Bruce Lee is that I've often been hired for jobs doing an impression of him. I've appeared in advertisements for shower gel, saunas, and Chinese rice wine doing impressions of Lee in his famous fighting postures.

I don't mind doing these impressions but a few months ago, I had a bad experience when a Japanese film production company asked me to act the role of Bruce Lee. In the end I didn't take the part, even though I thought the film was a good idea. The problem was that at the time, I had very short hair and I knew that Bruce Lee never had short hair like this. I asked the director to allow me to wear a wig but he refused. You may call me stubborn but I want it to be perfect if I'm appearing as Lee.

I still long to make a proper film about the life of Bruce Lee and I'd be happy to take on his role. It would have to be very well researched and made. I would hope that it would help pass on Bruce Lee culture to the next generation."

-- from iMag - Friday December 22, 2000 --