Chuck Norris had no interest in appearing multiple Bruce Lee films. The former world karate champion and martial arts movie star’s first and only movie with Lee was Way of the Dragon. The action sequence involving the two actors at the end of the movie is remembered today as one of the most iconic fight scenes of all time.
Prior to his role as Colt in Way of the Dragon, Norris was known only as a martial artist. Whereas Lee was already in the process of establishing himself as a kung fu star, Norris’s only acting experience at the time was a bit role in The Wrecking Crew. At the time, Norris and Lee were longtime friends who had trained together often. Later, when Lee was making Way of the Dragon with Golden Harvest in Hong Kong, he contacted Norris and offered him the role of the final villain. Though Norris received little screen time in the movie, the part of Colt laid the groundwork for him to enjoy a long and profitable career in Hollywood.
Chuck Norris Didn’t Want To Make A Second Bruce Lee Movie
According to Bruce Lee: A Life by Mathew Polly, Norris clarified to Lee before appearing in Way of the Dragon that their collaboration would be a “one time” occurrence. While Norris had no problem with his character losing to Bruce Lee in the 1972 movie, he was opposed to going through that more than once. In light of that attitude, it makes sense that Norris wouldn’t want to be in Game of Death or Enter the Dragon. Unless Lee would’ve wanted him for a team-up movie, it stands to reason that any character he played would wind up getting defeated by the end of the movie. Reportedly, Norris was determined to play the hero if and when he ever returned to the big screen after Way of the Dragon.
Polly wrote in his book that Norris turned down an opportunity to appear in Warner Bros.’ Enter the Dragon. The Bruce Lee biography claims that the martial arts icon later asked Norris to play O’Hara, one of the film’s secondary antagonists. When Norris declined the part for the reasons described above, Lee said he would give the role to karate expert Robert Wall. Polly noted that Norris supported Lee’s decision to cast Wall in his place.
What Chuck Norris Did After Way of the Dragon
While Norris did eventually establish himself as an action hero, Way of the Dragon wasn’t his last villain role, nor was it the last time his character lost a fight at the end of a movie. Two years after the release of Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon, Norris played an evil gangster in Yellow-Faced Tiger. It wasn’t until his next movie, Breaker! Breaker!, that Norris received his big break. After playing the main protagonist in the film, Chuck Norris followed it up with a string of popular action movies which kept him busy through the rest of the 1970s and much of the 1980s.