Original note from Jeff Bona- “Please, I know I sound pathetic but I was nervous as hell! Not only that, but I was doing this in a rush on HIS time….”
Bob Wall (BW): Wall Street Estates.
Jeff Bona (JB): Hey Bob, how are you doing?
BW: Hey Jeff, how are you?
JB: Good, how did your move go?
BW: Wonderful, it’s all moved.
JB: Cool deal man! I can’t get over this, after watching Game of Death, and now I’m talking to you. Okay, here we go, okay, I’m a little nervous here.
BW: There’s nothing to be nervous about.
JB: I gotta be man, I mean I’ve been a Bruce Lee fan since as long as I can remember. Seeing you in ‘Way of the Dragon’, ‘Enter the Dragon’, and ‘Game of Death’…..
BW: He’s (Bruce) a hell of a guy.
JB: Okay, here we go, first question: When did you first hear of Bruce Lee?
BW: I actually first met him in 1963 at a restaurant in Chinatown. I’d gone down there with a couple of karate friends to this martial arts demonstration and this guy was doing the usual, you now, routine at that time about kung fu, and how deadly it was and karate was blah, blah, blah, ignoring the fact that at the time there had never been a kung fu person able to go past first round in Thailand, they had all been knocked out. Anyway, this guy saw some Caucasians in the audience and said “I see some karate people. I invite them up and I’ll show you karate doesn’t work” so three guys went up there and he held out his arm and they all hit his arm, and then he said “Now I’ll show you kung fu is much deadlier than karate” and none of the guys let him (kung fu man) hit their arms and the guy “There that shows that kung fu is deadlier than karate” I then said “You didn’t hit my arm” he freaked out I suppose, and so I walked up to this little stage, stuck my arm out and unlike when he had the guys hit him on the arm, he whacked me on the wrist three times..and you know, it’s like, uh, I’ve had everybody in the world who hits hard hit me, you know, I was yelled at him “Punch me, kick me, as hard as you can, I have my black belt”
BW: So it’s like you I looked at him and it was irritating me that he was hitting me on the wrist and not the arm so he hit 3 times and I said that doesn’t hurt. Where’s the big diffence? Where’s my broken arm?” and so I reach up and slapped him, hard, naturally, and I said “you know what I do, I fight, lets you and I do that” and he didn’t expect that and he spun around, and you know all I did was slap him, and he ran off the stage….
BW: …and I’m standing there all on the stage and then I realize I still have my drink in my hand.
BW: But you know it freaked him that number one, I would allow him to hit me and number 2, I slapped him, and number 3, NOT GET MY DRINK KNOCKED OUT!
JB: (Laughs hard)
BW: A couple of my buddies said ‘Hey that was cool but you notice that there’s a lot of Chinese here and very few Caucasians here. I think it’s a good idea to get out of Dodge’. At that point reality hit that I’d blown this guy’s demo, so I started walking toward the door and I saw this tough looking guy walking towards so I said ‘This guy, I’m gonna clock’ and he walks up close to me and says “Hey that was funny, I’m Bruce Lee!’
BW: So we stepped outside and talked and talked and we were outside about 3 or 4 hours after the restaurant closed.
BW: He was a very charasmatic guy and one of the million things he talked about was that he would do the same things I did . He said ‘Its amazing, you’re as cocky as I am! I like that!’ So I didn’t want to put the guy down but that formed the basis for a long-term friendship……
BW: ……for ten years until he died in 1973 and I found Bruce to be the real deal. Bruce wasn’t afraid of challenges. He was a very bright exciting guy you know , and it s funny, because he got inot a little group of Joe Lewis and Chuck Norris, Mike Stone, a lot of us that were world champions. There were four of us and we lived in L.A. and we got together all the time, and there were a lot of other guys that were at our level and a lot of them had black belts. We had a lot of guys that worked out with us; boxers, wrestlers, street fighters, Thai fighters, juijitsu guys, you know and we were sharing out knowledge. Two time judo national champion, Gene LeBell, a real tough old man, later on, Gene was one of the few guy that Bruce would take lessons from.
BW: Gene LeBell is former world heavyweight wresting champion, a two-time champion, I mean he’ a phenomenal man. Never lost a fight in his life…..
BW:…..you know a REAL fight. And I introduced him to Bruce. But at any rate, we formed a friendship and we found we were in the world of top-flight martial artists, and, Bruce would never admit it, but he learned as much from us as we learned from him and that’s how the deal was. Everybody traded knowledge and stuff but Bruce was a lot more outspoken. But I just admired the hell out of him. He was a little man that created a big man’s body and he trained fanatically, he was into reality, he always believed in full contact, he had a lot of what was
in already, among our group, right on.
BW: So its kind’ve like if you meet a bigot, you know, once you’re a bigot, you repulse people, and so when you’re around people who think you do, and they’re refreshing, and they’re young and dynamic, Bruce was very very bright, a lot of people don’t know but he was 1/8th German, so we really had an affinity for the east and the west, and he was a very, well read guy, a very bright guy, and he was fun to be with. And we shared a lot of interests, equipment for example, I made a big bag for him, which really came out of joke. At the time Joe Lewis was heavyweight champ was always splitting bags and I got tired of buying bags for him so I made him a special bag and I stuffed it. A normal bag weighs about 55 pounds and his weighed about 110, so Joe was real
proud of it because nobody else could kick it except he and I and it never broke, it had a special thick canvas around it, leather rather, and so he loved to kick that bag, but Bruce would come in and tease him about it “Awww why don’t you get a MAN-sized bag” he would tell him it was ‘girl-size’ bag and Bruce turned to me and said “Why don’t you make me man-sized bag” and Joe and I said “We’re going to get Bruce”
BW: And so I went as a joke, made him a 300 pound bag. I don’t think there’s a bag bigger than that. And so I stuffed it and called Bruce up in Bel Air and he had a porshe, and I said “Hey Bruce, why don’t you come on down, I made you a man-sized bag” and he came and Joe and a bunch of our students all hid, I got on the phone, pretending to be on the phone, and I said “Yeah Bruce, go ahead and throw it in the back, its in there hanging up” and so he walked in and the expression on his face would have been great to have on film, and we all fell over when he saw the size of bag….
BW: …but he wouldn’t allow us to let him think it was a joke (at this point Bob gets another call but quickly returns)
BW: It was a friend of mine but I told him I’m in the middle of an interview so anyway we all popped out laughing and Bruce kick it once and fell over and then we helped him take it over to his place and hung it up in the garage and then he went over and kicked it and it broke the whole structure of the garage!
BW: And so he had Herb (Jackson) come over and redo the whole garage and I’ll tell you, two months later, I saw him and he could kick the heck out of the bag!
BW: He was just a determined guy and so I loved him and he loved himself and so we just had a lot of common interests, things like that and we built a heck of a friendship.
BW: People would ask ‘How did you wound up being in 3 out of his 5 films?’ and i say well i didn’t have any sayso in the first two , but in the third, fourth, and fifth film which i did, he said ‘you know I really like to make contact, i want to make the fights scense real, he wanted to hit me, really hard, and I said ‘Go for it, I’m a professional’ and so he did, like that side kick in ETD, we did several times, about the sixth or seventh time,he hit me so hard the thrust broke one of the guy’s arms behind me ….
JB: Yeah I read about that
BW: So the bottom line was he hit real hard, he liked to hit and I liked to get hit ….
JB: You like to get hit?!
BW: … I was there to do a job and anyway it was a lot of fun. He was a lot of fun but anyway its a long answer to your question.
JB: That’s cool man, take your time! Very interesting. So everything about, I mean, I know its bullcrap, but why did Robert Clouse make up such a story that that was a real fight between you and Bruce?
BW: Real simple because Robert Clouse is one of the worst directors and the reality is that Bruce didn’t like him. And he would run him anytime there were fight scenes. And so they had a constant battle going back and forth that’s why he(Clouse) left ‘Dr. Braitwaite’ in there. Bruce Lee had a very dynamic personality and you have to understand that he was a good-looking guy, a talented guy, a brilliant guy and all these things and he finally got his shot to star in a major movie by Warner Bros., the first big martial arts movie, a huge budget by the standards of his other films, and the reality was that he wasn’t going to blow it. And so there was a lot of problems between the two of them and Clouse had no respect for action people, only respect for actors….
BW: ….he didn’t consider Bruce or I ‘actors’, but its kind’ve strange that I’m in the only martial films that have grossed $200 million, ETD and GOD, but I’m not an actor but everyone in the world believes that i was a killer you know everyone hated me because of my character….
JB: Yeah I sure did!
BW: That’s called acting!
JB: Yeah exactly and you did a pretty good job!
BW: But in any event, nobody ever heard of Bob Clouse before ETD, they heard of him later because of ETD because he got his name up there as director, but the reality is there was bad stuff going on and Clouse was only nice to STARS of movies but he wasn’t nice to the star of that movie, Bruce, so he(Clouse) was very nice to John Saxon because he was an ‘actor’ but not to Bruce and I so therefore when you’re not nice to me, I slap you on the head! So I didn’t take any of his bull**** and he couldn’t fire me and so his way to get to me was to try to make up bull****. And also, he was smart, he saw after Bruce died, he saw what a phenomenon he was, the film became a classic and gave him a career but he’s had no career since then so, he could sell a book but
with no sex or sin, what better to sell than bull****…
BW: Bull**** sells but the reality is that even Clouse with all of his bull**** had to admit that Bruce and I, Bruce got cut during one of the fight scenes so Clouse spread the rumor that Bruce was going to kill me. Freddy Weintraub came to me ‘Bob you better get out of town’ and I said first of all Bruce and I are good friends. Second, I am afraid of nobody. Anybody that wants to start killing me better pack their lunch. So I went over to Bruce’s house, and of course I felt terrible , he was a friend. How would you feel if you were involved in an accident where a friend gets hurt. You don’t feel good. So I went over to Bruce’s house and I said straight up there’s a rumor that we couldn’t prove was coming Clouse but we eventually did, so I said straight up ‘Bruce, do you think the accident was my fault?’ and he said ‘Absolutely not. It was timing’ My instruction was …. first of all you got a genius, Clouse, and I mean that superlistictly, he’s an idiot, telling me to break the bottles , now remember we had to do that eight times, well he didn’t have fake glass , everytime i’m breaking real bottles, well when i break real bottles , guess what?: I’m not allowed to look down to see where the chunks go! and guess what? I gotta fall on them! The camera doesn’t show that but guess what, that’s real glass i got to fall on…
JB: Aww man!
BW: It cut holes in my back, my knees…
JB: Oh god.
BW: …I had to fall like i’m dead, right?
BW: But forget that, that doesn’t show up in the movie and so it should have been fake glass. Bruce’s instructions to me were….the reason he had me in 3 out of his 5 films…. is because I went to here to make him look good. I took the hits. I’m told Bruce is the fastest guy on earth well guess what ? What good is that if the slowest guy on earth is taking the hits. You still got to sell them. He may not be hitting me hard on the body but you got to make em look like he did. And so Bruce says when you break the bottles, come at me as fast as you can and aim at my right pec. All right. He doesn’t say throw the bottle away. And so 6 times we do it perfectly , the seventh time he missed. If you hit youself anywhere between the hand and elbow, your arms going to fly. Anything above, it isn’t. So what happend was timing.
BW: So the bottom line is I told Bruce ‘I’m heartbroken that your hand got hurt. But what about these rumors” and he said they were hogwash. But the Chinese put a high priority on loss of face so when Bruce heard the rumor had gotten around big time he said ‘Hey I can’t kill Bob Wall. He’s important, he’s got to finish the movie….
BW: ….otherwise, I’d kill him!’
BW: And then everybody made a big joke out of it right but we were cleaning up what Clouse started. He ultimately put pressure on Clouse and found out he started the rumor. But it was just his way of trying to create extra tension. The reality is we shot the scene three more times and you know what? I’m supposed to be half dazed and I’m just sitting there, i not defending myself, not blocking, Bruce comes up and sidekicks whereever he could have wanted to , it could’ve been at my head , my throat, it could ‘ve been anywhere he would have wanted, but you know what? He hit the same spot everytime.
JB: Oh man. Hey how did it feel? What does it feel like?
BW: Anyone that explodes enough to send you back to break somebody’s arm behind you but I know how to take a punch, i know how to take a kick but the guy behind me didn’t.. The bottom line is its one thing to get hit that hard once or twice but try it eight times in a row. Let me tell you, about the fourth time, you know what’s coming, you’re going to get popped real hard, and you just have to say ‘hey i’m here to do a job. Make it real.’
JB: Yeah you can see it on film. Geez.
BW: But the bottom line is the film is 25 years old and warner bros is 75 years old and they’ve made thousands of films, and they brought out their top 10 grossing films of all time, and ETD is on that list….
JB: Wow, I didn’t know that!
BW: And its the lowest budget film! Bear in mind the statistics of 1973 a little film called Godfather came out which cost about $17 million and grossed 88 million . ETD cost $850,000 and grossed over $200 million.
BW: Now if you’re putting up $850000 or $17 million, which return do you want?
BW: So the bottom line is its a phenomenal film, made by Freddy and Paul Heller, and it stars Bruce Lee in his greatest film.
JB: By the way, they were supposed to rerelease it theaters. Why didn’t that go on?
BW: I’m sorry.
JB: They were supposed to rerelease in theaters. And I know that it got limited release.
BW: Yeah they did a limited rerelease.
JB: God, that sucks!
BW: That was a mistake. Warner Bros thought it was too old and they just did a little releasing here and there but the bottom line is that that was their decision. They have made so much money out of that film.
JB: Did Bruce want you to be in the original game of death?
BW: I was in the original film.
JB: Really? In ’73?
BW: In ’73.
BW: Sure, the bottom line is that when we were doing the original story, it was like Hercules and the 7 doors but here, there was a 7 floor building, each floor had a bigger, meaner, monster and I was on level 5, Kareem Abdul Jabbar was on level 7 ….
JB: Oh Gosh!
BW: Part of the fight scene in the locker room is Bruce lee and I from that fifth floor and part of it is real Kareem Abdul Jabbar and part of it is a stand in because they changed the script. Thats why when you see the great KAA fight scene, Bruce is so heavily out of wind, there is no explanation for it because in the original he had come up 7 flights and fought 6 monsters. And in this one (GOD’78) they didn’t have it that way.
JB: ARe you serious?
BW: And so they used Danny Inosanto was in the real one, and they came back in ’77 and shot more scenes with me, all the scenes with the doctor are all new scenes but that’s without Bruce. In the locker scene, part of it is with the real bruce and part of it is not.
JB: Geez, I didn’t know that.
BW: As matter of fact they had 3 guys to play Bruce, one Chinese guy gave the English dialogue and he didn’t do any martial arts so he did the dialogue scenes , another guy did all the stunts except the martial arts he did all the motorcycles and all those crashes but he didn’t speak English and then they had a Korean guy who did the fight scenes and he could not hold his leg up and remember that scene where I get kicked five times…
JB: Yeah yeah…
BW: …it was me kicking me!
JB: Oh really?!
BW: Yeah because he couldn’t hold his leg up . What we did was shot across my hip to my leg and I went whap, whap whap whap whap ! And then I turned around and went “Uh uh uh uh uh uh!” So it’s me kicking me in the locker.
JB: Oh man.
BW: And we just cut it together.
JB: That’s crazy!
BW: Sammo Hung who’s now starring in ‘Martial Law’ , he’s the guy i beat up in GOD.
BW: So he’s the guy that set up the fight scene together when i got back. What i told him in the beginning when they called me about GOD was ‘Oh no , not Bob Clouse!’ he’s the worst director in the world. I told Sammo ‘He’ll ruin all your fight scenes’ and sure enough they were all lousy so they called me back , i left there in october of ’77, and they called me back in december saying you have to reshoot the fight scenes and i said the only way i’m coming back is if in the contract which i have it says ‘Bob Clouse is not allowed in the country! And then i’ll do the fight scenes, get me Sammo and all these guys and i’ll direct them . So i went back and shot all the locker room stuff and all the stuff of me beating up Sammo in the ring. I directed all that.
JB: Wow, really.
BW: Sammo and I. The reality is that Bob Clouse is an idiot and fortunately for the world he can’t make anymore movies.
JB: Did you realize they were going to do a lot of awful things to do this movie like the cardboard cut in and all that lousy stuff?
BW: Well again the problem is Bob Clouse. Isnt’ it amazing that everbody knows all this stupid stuff that was done but this is the ‘brilliant’ director of ETD . So how come he was ‘brilliant’ with ETD and then do this ****.
JB: Because Bruce directed ETD.
BW: The bottom line is Bruce at that point was dead and I was no longer doing it for Bruce and they were stuck with me because i was already in the original. Why do you think they had me back? They couldn’t replace me. They replaced Bruce but if we would have had a good director, there was plenty of footage to make a good film. The bottom line is its a good film , its not a horrible film, there’s a lot of stupid thing in it but how do you argue with critics who come out saying its horrible and it goes on to make $200 million. The fact is Bruce was in it.
JB: I heard they are going to release all the footage Bruce filmed.
BW: Well Raymond Chow has sold everything now so I don’t know what will happen.
JB: Kind’ve sucks. Geez. What about Way of the Dragon? What was it like on the set?
BW:Well that was the film we did, you know Chuck Norris and I with bruce and it was great fun, we had a ball . It was the first HK film filmed in a foreign location , We spent 3 weeks in Rome and when we got the Colesium was closed . My wife Lilian knew a few connections and got him in there.
JB: Right on!
BW: Nobody had filmed in there for years and nobody has filmed in there since.
BW: But we got in there and it was special we got a to spend a week in there and i got some amazing photos from in there , sectios that were closed off to the public. It was a great experience i really enjoyed it and we learned a lot from Bruce We went back to Hong Kong to finish the film . I was gone 3 months for WOTD and 3 months for ETD.
JB: Wow! Nora Miao man, did you meet her?
BW: oh sure
JB: Nice girl?
BW: Nice girl . She didn’t speak much English . Nora was a very nice talented girl
JB: I fell in love with her on the screen. Wow this is interesting. Okay, how about all these rumors about people on the bruce lee sets challenging him you know like on ETD did you ever witness any of this, is there anything on film?
BW: Well yeah yeah i saw bruce beat up a couple of people . There weren’t a lot of challenges . There’s a lot of people who ‘talk’ like Steven Seagal….
JB: Oooh i have to ask you about him.
BW: The main incident was a guy on the wall speaking in cantonese who was basically saying ‘you’re not a martial artist you’re just an actor and bruce said ‘oh really. Come on down and show me what you got’ and the guy goes down there and bruce was just playing around with him and the guy was trying to take his head off and bruce realized, i know bruce real well , i saw his whole face change cause this guy was really trying to hurt him and bruce just then kick the **** out of him , rammed him to the wall, armlocked him smacked him 3 or 4 times on the face and the guy just started going ‘I quit I quit I quit’ Bruce smacked him a few more times . The guy couldn’t move at all . And then Bruce told him ‘Not bad for an actor’. and the guy then bowed to him.
JB: (laughs hard)
BW:That’s teh difference between Seagal and Bruce . Seagal would ‘ve fired him but bruce just let him fly back on the wall. But he let him know on no uncertain terms that they were totally mismatched you see Bruce was a world class martial artist and there are a lot of Black Belts walking around think there’s no difference between a world class and a black belt . But there is a big difference . Bruce was the real deal. I remember one time when chuck and I came to HK from Rome there were headlines when we got there in all the papers basically saying the whan bang what’s his name was challenging Chuck Norris . Bruce said awww forget it , i get these all the time, you knock down 2 , 4 more come up, you knock 4 down, 8 more come up just ignore it
but Chuck was very upset about it and chuck doesn’t back down from anybody, talk about an authentic world champion and he doesn’t take that kind of stuff. But they didn’t mention anything about me so I told chuck dont’ worry about it and so I said “I’m Chuck’ student i accept the challenge but a couple of little things Were going to be on Enjoy yourself tonight , (a show in HK that was kind’ve like johnny carson,) Lets have a death match with no rules . I’m going to kill all the challengers on live tv . Come on over to Enjoy yourself, i’m going to let you hit me first and then i’m going to kill you . And anybody that doesn’t show up is a chicken! So all challenges, anywhere, come on over, no tricks no hogwash , it’ll be just you and me, we’re going to get out there and we’re gonna go for it!” So we got there and there’s thousands and thousands of people around and we go on and all of the sudden there is just silence. All these ‘mouths’ didn’t want to step up. JB: (Laughs)
BW: So then it was embarrassing because we thought we would have at least 3 or 4 dead bodies with us and all of the sudden all the ‘talkers’ didn’t want to walk! So they just asked Chuck and I to do a demonstration but Chuck was still steamed up and he just whacked the **** out of me all over the stage. In fact, we didn’t realize we were on a platform , with black curtains all around it, when in the end of the demo, he did a jump spinning back kick to me, and all of the sudden, I realize I’m flying off the stage! I’m looking down and there’s nothing for thirteen feet but steel frames . I’m starting to fall and all of the sudden Chuck snatches me! How he did it, I still don’t know. I was able to hang on and he pulled me back up. As he did, the cameras zoomed up and showed the welts all over my chest and everybody went ‘oooooohhhhh!’. So after that my name in Chinese after that was “Oooohh Robertt”, Chuck’s was Lo Li Sing, and of course Bruce’s was Lee Siu Loong. So everywhere we went, everbody went ‘Lo Li Sing, Lo Li Sing’ and ‘Ooooh Robert. Tough man, tough man (said with a fake Chinese accent).
JB: Gosh, is this all on film?
BW: Oh sure. Somebody’s got it.
JB: You don’t have a copy yourself?
JB: Why not?!
BW: You know at the time, to us, we didn’t understand these young fighters, you don’t think when you’re a young world champion that, everything is years out there, so sure, now we’re smart, and now I’d love to have a copy of it. Somebody’s got it out there.
JB: Yeah somebody’s going to make money of it one of these days!
BW: The only film I know of that was shot of Bruce Lee was shot by Ahna Capri, on the set of ETD. In it we sparred for about 10 minutes.
JB: Oh really? This hasn’t been released to the public, I take it?
BW: Well she’s got a problem. I had offered her a pretty good chunk of money so that Freddy Weintraub could put it in “Curse of the Dragon” and she turned him down. But she can’t sell because she has to have releases. She can sell it to a private collector but she want 65 grand for it. Its not worth 65 grand. Its about 12 minutes of film and about 5 minutes of Bruce , us sparring….
JB: So you have to put it into some kind of documentary…
BW: Well, I’m in the film, I have to sign a release. Am I going to sign one for free? Is Warner Bros going to sign one for free? It was shot on a Warner Bros. set. Is Bruce Lee’s widow going to sign one for free?Is Freddy Weintraub going to sign one for free? And all the people in it? You can’t just go out and sell stuff. So she’s got a private film that she can only view privately.
JB: That sucks!
BW: I tried to get it and I had her appeal. They would have given her a nice chunk of change and she wouldn’t go for it.
JB: Aww man!!!
BW: She filmed it in ’73 and still hasn’t been able to sell it. If she ever does sell it and whoever buys it will be sued. So it’s unfortunate. The same thing applies to all the other stuff we did. Nobody can sell the films of Chuck and I doing the demo and my doing the challenge, without my release. I’m not going to let someone earn money off me for free! So the odds are it will never get sold. A collector might wind up with it and they can show it privately. But if he’s ever charges a dime …..
JB: Hmmm….while on ETD did Bruce ever talk about his next projects , you know, with you?
BW: As matter of fact, the last time I saw him , you know he died on July 20, 1973, and in May of ’73, he passed out , almost died, so he was concerned about it. Hong Kong doctors couldn’t tell him what was wrong and so he came to Beverly Hills from June 1st til June 8th for a physical. I used to fly him all his protein so I saw him on June 1st , I had lunch with him , and then I saw him the day before he left, and Bruce was excited saying “They say I got a body of an 18-year old ” But at that time, they didn’t know about MRIs for brain tissue, because when Bruce died, he had the brain tissue of a 90-year old! Obviously he died at least its clear to me, of an anuerysm , caused by taking , he had hurt his back in 1970, these tablets of equagesic, which is a painkiller common to aspirin, so [folks at points, things were extremely difficult to hear] he was taking this every six months, without any reaction, but as…(????) Bruce kept taking more and more , it caused the swelling in his brain, but he didn’t realize that and his doctors didn’t know that.
BW: But in any event, I saw him three times that week , and its a shame he didn’t see how the film did, but one of the things he talked about , to answer your question, his fifth film was going to be with Carlo Ponti , who’s still alive and married to Sophia Loren, and Bruce said “Hey Bob you get to be a good guy in the next one! ” The script was to have Bruce play a CIA type of guy and international drug terrorist and dealers and I was going to be a CIA agent coming to help him out.
BW: I would’ve been a good guy in that one. We were just about a month away from signing a contract. It was going to be shot in Rome.
JB: Oh gosh. Was there a title for this?
BW: No. There was a working title and it was, uh , ‘Drug Terror’.
JB: Really? Geez. Did you ever, back after Bruce died, did any HK producers try to get you to appear in a Bruce Li or Bruce Le film?
BW: Yep lots of ’em.
JB: (Laughs) So you turned them all down, huh?
BW: I turned them all down because , number one, I did all those films for Bruce, I loved Bruce. I’m always enthused when people say ‘Whatever happened to Bob Wall?’ Well lets see after GOD, I did Sidekicks, I was in Code of Silence, I did Invasion USA,…
JB: No way! You weren’t in that!?
BW: Yep, I did Firewalker in ’86, I did Lone Wolf McQuade in ’85, uh..
JB: Get out!
BW: I did ‘Hero and the Terror’ in ’88, Sidekicks in ’91, and I’ve done 14 ‘Walkers’. Gee , I wonder what happened to him?
BW: The bottom line is Warner Bros offered me , actually several companies offered me but Warner Bros was the one I was interested in , they offered me a 3 picture film deal. My wife felt very strong against it. Everybody she’s ever seen, I’ve taught Elvis, I’ve taught Paul Newman, Elke Sommers, Debbie Reynolds, and on and on and on… and Freddie Prinze, and I had a lot of celebrity clients and uh the reality is all of them have gone through divorce! Even Chuck Norris got divorced. The reality is that business is not good for the homelife, I mean you’re gone all the time but what do mates do when they’re gone 3 or 4 months at a time? Basically it leads to things that get them in trouble. And so we turned it down because we thought I’m making a lot of
money in real estate I got a lot of my from my film career, i’m famous enough that people who know martial arts or know Bruce Lee films know me but i’m not so famous that i can’t walk down a street, i can go in and out of a restaurant , i don’t lose my privacy, and let me tell you its tough enough to go away 3 months 3 times without my family and the third time, I took my wife with me but we had to leave the kids so the bottom line is we just decided against a film career for that reason . You know Chuck Norris is the wealthiest guy in the martial arts ever but that’s what he wanted to do and I’ve did what I’ve wanted to do.
JB: I didn’t realize you were in all those films.
BW: The reason is I didn’t want to be gone from my family. I wouldn’t take a starring or costarring role. But I was there. In Code of Silence when Chuck’s character walks in that Puerto Rican bar, I’m standing by a pool table, saying ‘hey you can’t go in there!’ and I’m dressed up looking like a Puerto Rican and Chuck says ‘If I want an opinion out of you, I’ll beat it out of you’ and he knocks the crap out of me . Then he goes back and he smashes the bad guy’s face down in a whole stack of cocaine and I’m the guy who steps up and beats him up but I’m playing another character . And then when the two black guys walk into the cops bar and they pull their guns out , I’m the guy standing right behind them with a gun to his head , and I was also in several scenes with stunts . In ‘Invasion USA’ I got killed 12 time in that, I was a red soldier, a blue soldier, I was several people. I was killed by a mortar, I was thrown out of a window once , I was in a helicopter and got shot out of it but the bottom line is they’re not starring roles . In ‘Firewalker’ I was predominantly a character that was picked up by Norris’ character. 3 ofthem. One of them was a character that was killed by the ‘Firewalker’ and the other was portrayed by a national karate champion . We were featured predominantly as people who got the hell beat out of them . They were just stunts. I would down to Mexico for two weeks , I went to Atlanta for two
weeks, so I make the money, I play with Chuck and I don’t lose my family. I got what I wanted.
JB: So you and Chuck keep in contact pretty much?
BW: Yep as matter of fact, we had dinner last night at a restaurant.
JB: Wow. How come you didn’t invite me? What’s the deal?
BW: Just step on over!
JB: Ha ha. How about Mike Stone, do you still keep in touch with him?
BW: No I haven’t seen Mike for years. He got married to a Filipina girl.
JB: Oh really, I’m Filipino. Okay I want to ask you some really , I mean you don’t have to answer them, these are for the fans, they really want to know. I don’t know if you’re familiar with a book called ‘Unsettled Matters’.
JB: It was written by Tom Bleecker who is Linda Lee’s ex-husband , they got a divorce….
BW: Oh yeah, can you send me a copy of it?
JB: I have a copy right here. I can get you a copy sure.
BW: I’d love to see because it’s stuff like that that I don’t hear, never see it…
JB: It’s a really independent book, like almost underground .
BW: Yeah if you can get me a copy of it I’d really appreciate it.
JB: Yeah sure. Anyway, its a book about the flaws of Bruce Lee.
BW: He talks about Bruce Lee’s flaws?
BW: Ho ho. That’s got to be interesting.
JB: I mean I know its all about money but I just want to run down some of the stuff with you.
JB: Um….Steroids and Bruce. Do they go together?
BW: Bruce was very anti-drug as matter of fact, let me tell you a story . When we rapped on ‘Return of the Dragon’ when we were going back to Hong Kong, we had a running debate because I love wine and still do. I got Bruce to try some Italian stuff and he didn’t like it. But the running thing was he liked marijuana and I didn’t . He said ‘How can you not like it if you’ve never tried it?’ and I said I don’t like the contents. Its not for me and I didn’t want to smoke it, I’ve never smoked. He said ‘Well I don’t like to smoke either but its a great way to relax’. Bruce was a very nervous guy. But in ’72 he got the concept from…..to bake hashish in cookies and that became Bruce’s new way to relax. He was a very intense guy. That’s the only drug he ever used. He hurt his
back and they told him he’d never walk again, in 1970 lifting weights, and he started taking equagesic tablets. Other than those two, Bruce never took drugs. And certainly, he would have never taken steroids. His whole thing was these hashish cookies that he didn’t have to smoke it. There was also a big article in ’72 in Playboy magazine that he kept showing me at the time that there was a relationship established between wine and marijuana . I didn’t buy it but the bottom line is , he’s(Bleecker) entitled to that opinion, but there is no way
that he(Bruce) ever used steroids .
JB: No way.
BW: No way, bull****. The problem is people like Bleecker never worked hard in their life and don’t know what hard work is. But you know what? When I graduated from high school I was 5’7” and weighed 133 lbs. My normal weight now is 182 and I’m 6’1″. I went up to 202 lbs for ETD because the character was supposed to be 6’6″ so I went up to be the most menancing character I could. Even the way I cut the beard was designed, I have a narrow face, to widen my face…
JB: Yeah I noticed.
BW: So that’s all part of the job to create a character, including the scar…
JB: Yeah it worked ! You looked totally different than in WOTD or GOD.
BW: Yeah exactly, you know I laugh when people say how great of an actor I was but the reality is I created a role to become a classic killer.
JB: Yeah, definitely.
BW: But you know Bruce was one of those rare people who worked extremely hard to the most of anyone’s imagination. I never in my life saw anyone work out harder than Bruce. Chuck Norris worked out as hard, Joe Lewis worked out as hard, there were a few people, but darn few. So that’s just plain hogwash about Bruce using steroids cause he was much too wise and he never touched steroids. And if he had, c’mon, at his peak he weighed 150 lbs at 5’7″, if he had been using steroids he would’ve be 190 lbs. So that’s hogwash. So what’s the next hogwash?
JB: (laughs) Next hogwash is…. did Bruce ever cheat on his wife , you know, did he ever have any sexual affairs with any of his leading actresses? This is just stuff I’m reading from the book to you.
BW: Well there’s a lot of rumors about that stuff. I was never with Bruce when he was with any girl but I can tell you I was around Betty Ting Pei, Nora Miao, and there was none of that stuff going on around us, but all I can tell you is …..he loooved his wife. Linda Lee , for my money, was one of the best wives I’ve ever seen in my life. She was a fabulous wife to Bruce. I had several onversations with him about how much he loved her and he would never do anything to risk losing her and the fact is that woman loved him, still I think she loves him, beyond the grave. She married another Bruce. Her current husband is Bruce (Cadwell). But the reality is she’s a classy bright woman, who took great care of him , was very sexual with him was very womanly with him
and she was probably more fluent in Cantonese than Bruce was. She really took it seriously about being his wife. I can’t imagine… look, you know what, when you’re an actor like Bruce and you have a million women attracted to him and you’re taking pictures with actresses all the time, so it’s very easy…..I don’t know if you remember in high school you know like it was once thought that anyone wearing a yellow sweater was a hooker so if you saw ‘Mary’ wearing a yellow sweater she’s a hooker…so the reality is that on the sets Bruce was very friendly to everyone , he was a charming guy and I can’t say for sure because I don’t know but I can tell you my opinion is no.
JB: No, okay. Right on.
BW: You know I’ve been married for 34 years to the greatest woman in the world and I know Bruce felt about Linda like I do about my wife. And you know what? If Bruce had cheated had her and Linda had known about it, she would’ve divorced him.
BW: And she didn’t. Hogwash number 2 as far as I’m concerned.
JB: Ha ha. That’s all the ‘hogwash’ questions. But where were you the night Bruce Lee died, what was your reaction?
BW: Well, it was daytime when Linda called and I was doing a film called ‘Black Belt Jones’ by Freddy Weintraub and we were up in Mount Marriott College when I got the call from Linda and she asked for Freddy and I and said ‘Bruce died’ and right away my first thought was ‘How can this be? He was going to live to be a hundred. He was so vital’. He took such great care of himself, great diet, great exercise, he was in phenomenal shape, stretching all the time, and so when it sunk in, I asked Linda if he died in a car accident and she said no .
BW: You see Bruce was the worst driver on the planet and if he would’ve died of anything, I thought it would’ve been in a car accident. He was a terrible, terrible driver. It was so amazing that he was the most brilliant athlete but was a terrible driver because he never paid attention to what he was doing. His mind was always going a million miles a minute. So that’s where I was, Mount Marriott College, on July 20, 1973, shooting a film called ‘Black Belt Jones’. I’ll never forget it.
JB: So tell me, are you still interested in martial arts films? Who do enjoy watching on the screen today?
BW: You know the only interesting martial artist on film is Chuck Norris. I love his stuff because he incorporates his character into it. I love ‘Walker’ . I own everyone of Chuck’s 24 films , I mean I’m a fan. But outside of him , you know uh Steven Seagal, I hear he’s trying to reform now, but I’ve never seen one of his films, because he was a jerk, and we recently had a little talk about who’s real and who’s not, and uh, he apologized and I accepted that. Jean Claude Van Damme who unfortunately I helped created his career , he had gotten beat up in a workout with Bill Wallace. Chuck was there and hired him as a gofer and he worked with Chuck for a year and that’s how he got in ‘Bloodsport’, using Chuck’s producers, but he never acknowledged Chuck so he’s not a nice person so I’ve never bothered with his films . And uh, um I ‘m not a fan…I mean I like Jackie Chan as a person, and I admire him as an athlete, not as a martial artist which he is really not much of, but as
an athlete, he’s a heck of a stuntman but I’m just not into the slapstick comedy stuff . I tried to watch them, I watched ‘Big Brawl’, I’ve watched a few minutes of a few other things but it just doesn’t do it for me. And Jet Li, the only film I saw him in was ‘Lethal Weapon 4’ and it was such an awful film that I couldn’t finish it. I rented it and I was watching it at home and I couldn’t do it . I actually turned it off before it got to Jet Li’s part so I never saw him do anything. And of course who wants to see all this imitations of Bruce?
JB: Yeah exactly. They even got a guy to imitate you also!
BW: You’re kidding.
JB: Yeah there are so many out there.
BW: What film?
JB: I mean there are so many. They had guys that looked like Bob Baker, Kareem, and you. They intentionally got a guy with a beard and a scar that looked like you. Even Linda Lee was imitated in one.
JB: Yeah. So is ‘Curse of the Dragon II’ ever going to come out? Are you going to produce it?
BW: Well we actually gathered 44 hours and went through it and took an hour and a half for ‘Curse of the Dragon’ and I very much want to do a sequel because there is so much great stuff left but Freddy feels we haven’t yet hit on the concept so it’s really ….what I’m looking for is people like yourself …what would they like to see… what should the makeup of the film be…. see my concept was we going into the making of WOTD, ETD, GOD, and ‘Curse of the Dragon’, we go into the back stuff, about how that happened, how this happened, why we did it this way, recreating how Bruce got cut, all of this ….
JB: Yeah that would be great!
BW: …but Freddy doesnt think that’s interesting but I do
BW: I’ve gotten hundred and hundreds of fan letters. Today, I average 150 fan letters a month. Of course a lot of them start off “Hi Mr.Wall , I’m a great fan of yours and I’m a fan of Bruce Lee ” and I know they really want to know more about Bruce than me so I understand so I answer everyone back and I work my butt off spending a fortune , I don’t have a studio paying for all this, nobody ever bothers to send me 10 bucks to pay for the photo. I pay for the photo , I take the time to write the letters, I answer, I autograph, seal it in the evelope, and send it out, but never have I had anyone ever say ‘Hey this probably costs money!’ But in any event several years ago I got smart. I was out on tour when a collector would come up to me for an autograph and I said ‘What do you got for me? ‘What do you mean?’ he said. I said ‘What’s in it for me?’ and it’s amazing, I now have the greatest collection on the planet , books, magazines, so on, things people never even eard of, but it’s by asking that I get . So what I would love is for a bunch of fans to write to tell me what they want so that way we can have the impetus. It’s going to happen . With ‘COTD’, we all had a concept, we all agreed on it and we all went for it. The only thing pissing me was I did all the interviews except for (Albert) Goldman and George Tan. They’re both weasels and George Tan is the biggest weasel of all time! So I wouldn’t interview those guys but everyone else I did the off-camera interview , Kareem, Chuck, James Coburn, and on and on and on. I interviewed everybody. But at any rate, it’s a matter of us agreeing on what the fans want to see and I think my concept is right on.
JB: Yeah it is. Dead on.
BW: Maybe you can get a list from fans of the top 100 questions fans want to know the answer to. We’re going to do it. We got releases on it. It’s so simple to put it together. We spent over a year doing COTD. You’ve seen that right?
BW: What did you think of it?
JB: It was great. It was good. I loved it.
BW: The whole film was pretty well done. My idea was, I thought ‘Dragon:The Bruce Lee Story’ was so awful
JB: Oh yeah, yeah…
BW: The whole idea of metal monsters chasing him and all his whining and crying with his back broken , all that never happened , I mean I’m going “Come on!” The real Bruce Lee was much more exciting than that film . So that was the impetus for us doing COTD, because its all truth and it’s what his friends thought of him.
JB: Yeah you guys have definitely got to do another one, it was really interesting.
BW: And it made quite a bit of a fortune. So anyway that’s what we are looking for. What do the fans want?
JB: You guys should get a website going or something.
BW: It’ll get done. I’m winding down my real estate career and I’ve got an internet company so I’ll probably get something going like that.
JB: Yeah. Man, you just do everything.
BW: Come on, let’s do lunch.
JB: Are you still a tough guy.
BW: Well I don’t know if I’m a tough guy but lets just say nobody has ever beaten me up. I consider myself an ‘educator’. And I ‘educate’ someone about every 4 or 5 months whether it be a robber, a criminal, when I see a criminal I adjust them radically. I’m 59 years old and I train, quite a bit in arm locks, dead locks, and chokes. So I’m able to alter the attitudes of people. One of my goals is to live to be a hundred.
JB: Just some quick easy questions just for my personal knowledge. Which Bruce Lee film is your favorite?
BW: My favorite is ETD. And my second favorite is GOD.
JB: Oh really.
BW: The reason being because , having done it with the worst director on the planet ,it could have been great the fact is that without Raymond Chow, putting up the money doing it, there was nuggets in there, it was like going through **** to get nuggets, and the reality is , I know what it could’ve been, knowing what we were able to do in spite of that idiot(Clouse) , it was all the bstacles , imagine if Bruce was alive, what we could have done with that film but you have a dead hero and an idiot director. So I think its not given the credit it deserves but the fact is it’s one of the highest grossing martial arts films, it outgrossed all the ‘Karate Kid’ films .
JB: Cool. Cool deal.
BW: And on the other side, I certainly liked WOTD because it was filmed as a comedy and while its not the greatest film in the world, but it can play side by side with GOD, because there’s nuggets in WOTD just like in GOD but I liked GOD better.
JB: Any other Bruce Lee projects coming out that you know of?
BW: I wanted to do…I mean, I have probably about a million dollars worth of Bruce Lee memoribilia , letters he’s written me, tremendous amounts of books , some articles of clothing he wore on WOTD, a couple of pairs of his nunchuks, I have taped recordings, I have film of Bruce teaching Steve McQueen and James Coburn. I have like 2 hours of that stuff of Bruce instructing them. I have footage of Bruce kicking the 300 lb bag. But the best thing I have is the original uncut version of ETD from the original negatives. Warner Bros. had called and said ‘Hey come over and get what you want. We’re burning everything tomorrow.’ I went over and started taking stuff, a little more , a little more, and they told me to just take the whole thing. I have all original stills from
the movie. I have great still sets from WOTD and GOD. People have asked why haven’t I shown this stuff….
JB: You should!
BW: I went to Vegas , the Imperial Palace, to have a show we had about 6000 ft so we started off with 1500 ft with Brandon and Bruce , we would have Bruce ‘grow up’ because I have 5 of his kid films . I have a film of him and his father when he was 5 years old. I have film of Bruce and Brandon when Brandon was five years old on a demo on HK television . I have so much great stuff. I would interacted them . Imperial Palace had bought two of Bruce’s cars, his Mecedes Benz and the Green Hornet car so we were going to have a phenomenal thing, we went to several meetings, with Bruce’s attorney (Marshall?) and we were getting ready to sign the contract, and Linda killed it . She didn’t want to lose it to gambling. I have film of Bruce and Brandon when Brandon
was five years old on a demo on HK television . I have so much great stuff. I would interacted them . Imperial Palace had bought two of Bruce’s cars, his Mecedes Benz and the Green Hornet car so we were going to have a phenomenal thing, we went to several meetings, with teh Imperial Palace owner, with Bruce’s attorney (Marshall?) and we were getting ready to sign the contract, and Linda killed it . She didn’t want to lose it to gambling.
JB: Aww man!
BW: But I set up the Elvis Presley estate museum(?) and last year and it made $21 million. Dead heroes don’t grow old. They continue to find a new generation that discovers them. And Bruce is one of those heroes. Tragically he died at 32 but he changed the film industry so I know it will be a success.
JB: Wow. You’re holding back on us man.
BW: Well, I’m just waiting for the right time so the public can view it. So anything else I can answer for you?
JB: No that will be it man. You did a great deal already.
BW: I’d love to read that book that you mentioned….
JB: Yeah I’ll definitely send it. You gave me the photos, I’ll send you the book. There you go.
BW: You got the photos okay?
JB: Yeah they’re great!
BW: I thought you might enjoy them.
JB: Yeah they’re up on my wall.
BW: A lot of people don’t remember to acknowledge. Now I always ask . In the old days, I never did . Its nice to hear ‘Gee thanks, you took the time to send the photographs, autograph, pay for the postage.’ Because they’re so much stuff out there that I don’t hear about and I love memoribilia . At any rate, it’s a pleasure, I’m glad I was able to help out ….
JB: It was great, I really appreciate this. Thank you Bob Wall.
BW: It was my pleasure.
JB: Take care.
BW: Have a good one
Bob Wall was Bruce Lee’s co-star in Enter the Dragon. This interview with Bob Wall was conducted around about 1998.Jeff Bona