James Tien was the original star of Bruce Lee’s first kung fu movie, The Big Boss. Here’s the story of how Lee had to compete with Tien for the job.

Bruce Lee had to beat James Tien for the lead role in The big boss. Released in 1971, the Hong Kong film was Lee’s first kung fu film. The huge box office success was largely responsible for Lee’s transformation into a martial arts superstar. Directed by Lo Wei and produced by Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest, The big boss starred Bruce Lee as Cheng Chao-an, a person who swore to his late mother that he would not participate in any fights.

This promise was put to the test when he went to live with his cousins, who worked in an ice factory. One of them was Hsu Chien (James Tien), a highly skilled martial artist. While there, Cheng became embroiled in a battle with gangsters who used the factory for their drug smuggling operations. When she found out they were the reason some of her cousins ​​(including Hsu Chien) were mysteriously disappearing, she had no choice but to break her vow and fight the villains.

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Lee’s character is the hero of The big boss it wasn’t really how the story was supposed to go. Originally, the lead role belonged to James Tien, an actor who already had a career in martial movies at Shaw Brothers Studios. Golden Harvest’s plan for the film began to change a bit when they signed a contract with Lee, having been impressed with his work on The green Hornet (1966). He was later chosen as one of the characters The big boss, but not as the protagonist. When Lee clashed with director Wu Chia-Hsiang over martial arts choreography, Golden Harvest replaced the director with Lo Wei, who was inclined to make Lee the new star.

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Even while filming was still in progress, which actor would end up playing the title character remained on the air. To help make a decision, Lo had Tien and Lee on alternate days when they filmed their respective fight scenes. The fact that the script was only three pages long gave Lo a lot of leeway when planning the film. Although he didn’t get along with Lee, Lo was still more satisfied with Lee’s performance than Tien’s. He eventually came to the conclusion that Lee was the best option to play the main character. As a result, they made some adjustments and killed Tien’s Hsu Chien, which explains why he disappeared from the story early on. He became one of the missing cousins ​​that Lee’s hero had to investigate.

Needless to say, the move turned out to be good, as Lee became the main star of Golden Harvest after The big boss. As for James Tien, of course he wasn’t as successful as Lee. After that, he was cast primarily for supporting roles, one of which was in Lee’s second martial arts film, Fist of fury. He also appeared in dozens of lesser-known kung fu movies for Golden Harvest during the 1970s and 1980s, and many of them were Jackie Chan vehicles.

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