Unfortunately Brandon Lee died on set of The Crow movie, but who finished it in his place?
Brandon Lee was the son of legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee. He was just beginning to come into his own as a talent for the silver screen when Lee’s life was tragically ended at the age of 28 in 1993. Lee lost his life as a result of a bizarre accident on the set of his last film, 1994’s The Crow. Had this not happened, he might have become a major star.
The scene where Brandon Lee died
The opening scene in the appartement is actually one of the last scenes they shot for the film. Lee’s character walks into his apartment and finds out that his fiancée was beaten and raped. Actor Michael Massee’s character fires a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver at Lee as he enters the room and kills the character.
In the scene prior to the fatal scene, a gun was loaded with dummy bullets. They are bullets, but with no powder or igniter, so close-ups would show normal-looking shots. For the fatal scene, in which the revolver was to be fired at Lee from a distance of 3.6-4.5 meters (12-15 ft), the dummy cartridges were replaced with blanks, which have a real powder charge and igniter but no bullet, so that the gun could be fired without the risk of a real projectile. However, the bullet from a blank came loose from the cartridge and stuck in the barrel unseen. When the blank was fired, the bullet that had stuck in the barrel was propelled forward with nearly the same force as if the bullet were real, and it struck Lee in the abdomen.
Nobody noticed Lee had actually been shot until after the movie director Alex Proyas yelled “Cut,” and Brandon Lee failed to get up. At first, they thought he was joking around. However, they then discovered that he had been shot in the stomach. He was rushed to the hospital but unfortunately died later that night. It was A terrible tragedy for a young man who was about to get married after the movie ended.
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Who was his replacement?
Paramount Pictures initially developed and financed the film, but cancelled it after Lee’s death. That’s where Entertainment Media Investment Corporation was formed to finance the remaining production, using new CGI and body doubles for Lee.
Who finished The Crow after Brandon Lee died?
For several unfilmed scenes in which Lee’s character was essential, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, 38, enlisted stuntman Chad Stahelski as Lee’s body double.
The following scenes were completed/finalized after Brandon Lee’s death:
- Draven (Brandon Lee’s character) entering the apartment for the first time after digging himself out of his grave: Footage of Lee walking down an alley in the rain is digitally composed in the scene where Draven walks through the doorway. Some computer technology added water droplets to the door frame to keep the water on his back from looking out of place.
- The shot in which Draven falls out of the window was created by digitally compositing Lee’s face (complete with simulated blood) on a body double.
- The scene where Draven puts on his makeup was filmed with a double. The face in the broken mirror was Lee’s, adjusted with the computer to match the shards.
- The image of Draven walking to the window with the crow on his shoulder was a double with Lee’s face added during the lightning flashes.
- When Sarah visits the apartment, we never see Draven’s face because it is a double.
Once most of the actor’s scenes were finished, it was up to the special effects house Dream Quest to fill in the blanks, which they did in a number of ways. For the scene in which a newly returned from the grave Eric returns to his old apartment, for example, Lee’s unused footage was used, with the actor’s image digitally composited into a shot of the apartment’s set. However, for a few other key scenes, effects technicians used ridiculously modern techniques in 1993.
For a handful of scenes, including the scene where Eric wears his creepy makeup for the first time and approaches his window as lightning briefly illuminates the room, Chad Stahleski filled in for Lee during filming. Then Dream Quest used Lee’s shot footage to graft the actor’s face onto Stahleski’s body digitally. The resulting shots certainly benefit from their brevity and from the darkness in which they were shot, but even today, the effect holds up remarkably well.
Of course, the Crow was dedicated to Lee’s memory, and it had modest success in theaters before gaining a massive cult following upon its home video release. It’s a great film and a fitting tribute to a talent lost far too early – but according to Stahleski, the legacy goes far beyond that.