The late martial arts icon passed away before making The Silent Flute, but a Hong Kong-born Hollywood executive wants to see it through
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The Silent Flute, the spiritual martial arts epic co-written by Bruce Lee, is being adapted into a special limited series. Hong Kong-born Jason Kothari, an entrepreneur and executive producer on Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot, acquired all rights to produce the project.
A five-year collaboration between Lee and his friends (Oscar winners Stirling Silliphant and James Coburn), The Silent Flute encapsulates the late Hong Kong-American’s vision of the true essence of martial arts and the meaning of life. It was a passion project that sadly remained unfinished because of his unfortunate passing in 1973.
The film is set in a dystopian future where—after mankind has suffered from fires, civil wars, and, well, pandemics—all weapons and combat arts are banned. It follows a fighter who overcomes grave obstacles and loss to reach enlightenment and become the best in the world.
Kothari purchased the rights to Lee’s movie from producer Paul Maslansky, who is best known for the Police Academy franchise, as well as Sasha Maslansky, Kurt Fehtke and Arlene Howard. They will all be credited as executive producers on the project.
A dedicated martial arts fan who considers himself a life-long follower of Lee, Kothari’s first job was a production assistant on the film Jackie Chan: My Stunts. He is the former CEO of Valiant Entertainment, a US-based superhero entertainment company. He is part of the board and has held top positions in India-based companies such as Balaji Telefilms, Housing.com, and Snapdeal.
The Wharton School alum considers it a privilege to realize Lee’s vision. “Despite it havingbeen untouched for half a century, the story conveys groundbreaking themes for today, and my ambition is to do justice to the global icon’s powerful and inspiring cinematic vision,” Kothari says.
Kothari hired Hollywood writer John Fusco as executive producer. Fusco is the creator of the Netflix series Marco Polo, one of the most expensive series ever made, and the writer of numerous movies, including most recently Netflix’s The Highwaymen, which stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson.
Fusco has practiced martial arts for nearly 50 years, and holds three black belt ranks in three different martial arts and has studied Jeet Kune Do under several of Lee’s former students.
“What Bruce wrote, along with Sterling Silliphant and my late friend James Coburn, was ahead of its time and transcends action drama in profound and provocative ways,” Fusco says. “What we hope to do is open up the canvas of his story world and honor his vision in the exciting way that epic long-form narrative can do today.”
Decades of waiting
Matthew Polly, Bruce Lee historian and bestselling author of Bruce Lee: A Life, a definitive biography of the legend, confirms just how much The Silent Flute meant to Lee.
“When he was a struggling actor in late 1960s Hollywood, Lee poured his heart and soul into the martial arts script, believing it was his best shot at becoming America’s first Asian superstar,” Polly says.
The author says the film’s failure to gain traction tortured the iconic actor. “Lee spent the rest of his short life trying to get it made, and there is little doubt if he had lived longer, he would have succeeded,” he explains. “Lee’s ardent fans have been waiting 50 years to see his original vision properly honored on screen.”