Put the great Bruce Lee in a ring with the unstoppable force of Chuck Norris and you get a generation-defining duel of titans, though match him up against Jason Statham, Tom Cruise or even Dwayne Johnson and there’s simply no contest. Even after almost 50 years since the death of Bruce Lee, he remains one of the most respected names in all of martial arts. Appearing in over 30 different filmmaking projects in his career that span from 1946-1973, Lee took Hollywood by storm, becoming an icon of Asian/American cinema thanks to roles in Way of the Dragon, The Green Hornet and The Game of Death.
A dominant figure of popular culture due to his pronounced philosophical view on the world and apparent prioritisation of honour and positive mental health, Bruce Lee would become an icon of 20th-century pop culture. In one of the most celebrated on-screen fights of all time, Lee would be forever remembered for his bout alongside Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon, an actor he enjoyed spending considerable time with even outside of the fighting ring.
Speaking about the iconic martial artist, Chuck Norris once stated in an interview with Black Belt: “The truth is Lee was a formidable opponent with a chiselled physique and technique. I totally enjoyed sparring and just spending time with him”.
Continuing, the actor added: “He was as charismatic and friendly in the ring and at home as he was on film. His confidence and wit were dazzling, and sometimes even debilitating to others. […] Lee was lightning fast, very agile and incredibly strong for his size”.
Though, despite his stoical, sober facade, Bruce Lee was a secret drug user with an alleged dependence on cocaine, according to some recently unearthed letters between Lee and his close network of friends and family. The letters themselves were recently discovered at a flea market and have since been auctioned in the USA for approximately $160,000 and include correspondence between the actor, his wife Linda and fellow Hollywood actor Robert Baker.
These handwritten letters detail the personal lives of the stars whilst also containing various references to drugs including marijuana, cocaine and LSD. Often codenamed ‘holy stuff’, ‘Coca-Cola’, ‘super duper’, ‘M pills’, ‘H oil’ and even ‘good tasting paper’, an effort was clearly made by the group to cover their tracks just in case they ever got caught. In one letter, Bruce Lee allegedly writes: “I told Linda to call you to forget about the ‘stuff’ because I really don’t need them in my training. I feel that I have ‘gained’ in trying them, but the excessive indulgence of them just isn’t in my road in Jeet Kune Do”.
Detailing the shipping, purchase and use of narcotics, such letters discuss the actor being “stoned as hell”, adding that the actor needed “some coke” to “help” him write among many other topics. Whilst knowledge of his marijuana use was well-known, the true extent of his drug usage was previously an untold secret. These letters provide a fascinating insight into the private life of the iconic star, as well as his gleaning light on his occasionally erratic behaviour on film sets, as recently explored by Quentin Tarantino in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
A spokesman for Heritage Auctions in Dallas told The Sun: “Bruce Lee is the most influential martial artist of all time and a pop culture icon of the 20th century and these letters show he kept an explosive secret”.
Take a look at these revealing letters from Bruce Lee, below.