‘Be Water’ chronicles how Bruce Lee defied Hollywood’s racism

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The film “Be Water” shows how Bruce Lee became a household name. Credit: Bruce Lee Family Archive.

“Be Water” is a new ESPN documentary that tells the story of Bruce Lee, a martial arts actor who straddled two worlds: Asia and North America. 

He was born in San Francisco but grew up in Hong Kong. He returned to America and got a break in Hollywood in the early 1960s, but struggled to convince the studios to take him seriously, and by extension, to take Asian actors seriously.

His final film, “Enter the Dragon,” made him a household name. The documentary, which airs Sunday on ESPN, follows Lee’s life and complex journey as he proved to Hollywood that an Asian actor could be a leading man.