When he was just 28 years old, Brandon Lee was accidentally killed on the set of the cult classic “The Crow.” Over 25 years later, mystery still surrounds his death.
The son of late international film star Bruce Lee, Brandon's star was rising in the early '90s, with movies like “Kung Fu: The Movie,” “Showdown in Little Tokyo,” and “Rapid Fire.”
In 1993, he took the lead role in the movie adaptation of the graphic novel “The Crow,” which centers on a rock star coming back from the dead to avenge his murder as well as that of his fiancee.
However during the final two weeks of filming “The Crow” in North Carolina, a prop gun was improperly prepared and fired at the actor from 20 feet away, hitting Brandon in the stomach. He was rushed the hospital but died after several hours of surgery on March 31, 1993.
Filming for the movie was supposed to end on April 8, 1993. Lee was set to get married to girlfriend Eliza Hutton on April 17, 1993.
So what happened? To this day, it remains unclear. The production company behind the film said that a metal projectile became accidentally lodged in the gun, while the autopsy showed a live round was removed from Brandon's body.
Complicating matters at the time was that in the scene in question, Brandon was supposed to walk into a doorway carrying grocery bags. The gun was supposed to be fired and mini-explosives were to be set off simultaneously inside the bags to simulate Brandon’s character, Eric Draven, getting shot.
Initially, no one on set had realized that Brandon had been actually shot since the grocery bags detonated properly and the actor hit the floor as planned. It wasn't until they saw blood pooling around Brandon’s right side that the staff and crew realized what had happened, according to Entertainment Weekly.
"It didn’t really appear to the people on the set like anything was wrong,” one eyewitness told EW at the time.
At the hospital, doctors gave the actor 60 pints of blood, a full supply for five adult men, but it wasn't enough. He bled out.
According to the autopsy report, .44 caliber bullet was removed from Brandon’s body, inconsistent with the explanation that part of the dummy bullet loaded into the gun dislodged from its casing and became wedged in the gun, turning it into a live weapon.
“You don’t see a .44 caliber bullet on a movie set, it is just that simple,” Ed Parker Jr., a martial arts expert and actor, told Inside Edition in 1993.
Nonetheless, the death was ruled as accidental. No one was ever charged in connection with the death.
Brandon wasn't alone in being wounded on set, though he was the only person to die. The filming of “The Crow” was plagued by injuries to various members of the crew. An electrician on the film was electrocuted and severely burned when a live wire he was working on connected with a piece of equipment improperly. Two other accidents occurred during filming as well, leading the string of misfortune to be dubbed “The Curse of the Crow.”
“Nothing ever seemed to go right,” one crew member, who wished to not be identified, told Inside Edition in 1993. “People have tried to say it was haunted, I don’t know about that, but there was definitely some bad vibes on that set.”
A publicist for the film denied to Inside Edition that the working conditions were unsafe.
Brandon's death, like his famous father’s passing, became the subject of much speculation.
Bruce Lee died of a brain edema in 1973 when he was 32. But Brandon reportedly believed that his father was killed by the Triads, an Asian mafia with ties to the Hong Kong and Taiwan film industries.
Brandon wanted to keep his father's legacy alive, which was why he followed in his footsteps.
“If I had a child and for some reason I weren’t around to take care of my child, I would want for whatever I accomplished for my child to be a benefit to him,” Brandon told Inside Edition in 1992.
"The Crow" went on to make more than $50 million at the box office and spawned a series of sequels, as well as a short-lived television series.