Philip Ng on Becoming Bruce Lee for ‘Birth of the Dragon’

     August 24, 2017


Philip Ng has been practicing martial arts since the ripe age of seven, studying under the tutelage of Bruce Lee’s former students and mentors. Like Lee, Ng even started his own branch of Wing Chun (founding the Wing Chung Association at the University of Illinois) before venturing out to Hong Kong and becoming an action star in films such as Once Upon a Time in Shanghai & Princess and the Seven Kung Fu Masters. It seems only fitting then that Ng’s big US film debut (Birth of the Dragon) is, of course, as Bruce Lee himself. 


Image via BH Tilt

Birth of the Dragon takes the basic true story of Bruce Lee’s early career fight versus Kung Fu master Wong Jack Man and spins a fictional story involving Chinese gangsters, indentured servants, and forbidden love. The film adds to the mythos of ‘Bruce Lee’ – pretty much an advocacy for the maxim, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” As Lee, Ng captures the myth-making appeal of Bruce Lee, nailing in on his cock-sure yet likable demeanor. Only Bruce Lee could trash-talk his opponent for hours AND still have the entire audience rooting for him – a feat, which Ng emulates perfectly. 

In the following interview with Philip Ng, the actor discusses his background in martial arts, his martial arts ‘philosophy’, playing ‘Bruce Lee’ and the differences between choreographing fight scenes in Hong Kong vs. the US. For the full interview, watch above. 

Philip N:

  • At what age did Philip Ng first get involved in martial arts? 
  • What are the differences between all the subsets of martial arts? 
  • Does Ng have a preference between these different martial arts styles? 
  • When did Ng first become exposed to Bruce Lee and his films? 
  • What’s Ng’s favorite Kung Fu film? 
  • Why Ng feels ‘spirituality’ has no place in Kung Fu/martial arts? 
  • What did Ng base his performance of ‘Bruce Lee’ on? 
  • Did Ng talk to people who knew Bruce Lee in preparation for the role? 
  • What are the differences between choreographing fight scenes in the US versus Hong Kong?

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