On March 19, 1993, a week and a half before his death, The Crow‘s Brandon Lee met with interviewer Ira Teller on the film’s Wilmington, N.C., abandoned- warehouse set, where his character, Eric, wages his first open confrontation against those responsible for his murder and that of the woman he loved. The actor’s videotaped comments were originally intended as part of the electronic publicity material that would go out to television stations to promote the film. Here, for the first time, are excerpts from that interview, which begins with
Lee talking about his attraction to the role.
LEE: When I first met with Alex Proyas, the director, one of the things that he talked about was wanting to see the film through Eric Draven’s eyes. You’re dealing with…a man who has come back from the dead, and I think the thing that I enjoy most about this is the questions that raises.
If you died, and a year had passed since you died, you have to assume that the people you loved and the people who loved you would have had to come to terms with having lost you. And now suddenly you are given the chance to come back for two days…. Wouldn’t you feel a responsibility not to trammel in the lives of the people who have had a year to deal with that loss? And you would see the world from a perspective no one has…. That’s one of the wonderful things about playing this character-there are no rules about how a person who has come back from the dead is going to behave.
There’s this wonderful quote from (Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel) The Sheltering Sky (paraphrasing): ”Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well, and yet everything happens only a certain number of times . How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood that is so deeply a part of your being you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps, twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
I know that’s kind of a roundabout way of talking about it. But you tend to take a great deal for granted, because you feel like you’re going to live forever. It’s only if you lose a friend, or maybe have a near-death experience, (that) many events and people in your life suddenly attain real significance. When you take into account the fact that that could have been the last time I would ever see that person (or) do something so mundane as go out to dinner…. This is (where) this character is coming from. (He realizes) how precious each moment of his life is.
And I thought to myself, if I were given the opportunity after a year of having been dead to come back, who would I want to see? The person would be my fiancee, Eliza, because I’m getting married after the film. And the thing about Eric is, the one person he would want to share this with isn’t there anymore. And that’s the tragic element of this character.
TELLER: (While playing the character of Eric, who is murdered and then after being resurrected survives repeated attempts on his life) you’ve been subjected to extremes-shot, stabbed at, shot again. Would you elaborate on the unusual physical nature of the role?
LEE: It’s extreme. The character comes back from the dead, and, at first he doesn’t know where he is, how he got there…. How does that tie in with the physicality? I just didn’t think he should be too healthy-looking, so I lost some weight for the role.
I’ve been colder on this film than I’ve been in years; I can never remember deliberately going outside when it was about 5 degrees, in the rain, with no shoes on. I think it adds to the character’s experience-I mean, he’s torn up emotionally, physically, and psychically, and the fact that there have been some stringent physical demands placed on me (has) only been helpful in creating that environment.
TELLER: There’s a great deal of action in the film. How did you approach the fights in this picture?
LEE: I must say I’ve never done anything where I felt that the violence was as justified as it is in this (movie). The man I’m playing was murdered; the woman he loved was raped and then murdered. And he has come back to settle the score. I truly feel that if I were in the same situation, I would do the same thing.
TELLER: There’s a unique look to Eric-his dress, his makeup, his conversational style. Could you talk about that?
LEE: If you’ve ever found yourself pushed to the limits of your tolerance… you find yourself doing some things that, from the outside, can be seen as quite insane…. The makeup Eric ends up putting on when he assumes this persona of the Crow is his reaction to being pushed to those limits. He cannot deal with what is going on, and by assuming this persona he creates someone who can.
TELLER: What is his reward?
LEE: His reward is that he is promised that he will be with Shelly, the woman he loved, in a better place. That’s interesting because that falls into (the) realm of what is your conception of a better place, you know, is it a Christian heaven, or, uh, some kind of reincarnation? That’s something the film never really tries to answer. We just leave it that he is given the opportunity to be with Shelly again, in a better place.
TELLER: There’s a wicked, dark sense of humor in this film.
LEE: You’re dealing with a character who is, at some points, quite insane. And I hope that any wicked, dark sense of humor Eric exhibits comes out of the fact that he’d been pushed to the point where it seems quite sensible to say some of the ridiculous things he says.
God knows the times I have found myself in absurd situations…. (I) had this guy break into my house about four years ago, and I caught him in the middle of robbing me. I jumped in through the window…and put him on the ground. When the cops came, the fight had progressed out the window, onto the sidewalk. He had a knife I had taken away from him, and (I) pressed (it) up against the corner of his eye. The cops came down the street in the car. And I was together enough to realize that the cops wouldn’t know what was going on at first glance, because all they know is people are yelling, ”Call the cops! Call the cops!”
So I stand up and take a couple steps away from the guy, and I toss the knife out in the street and put my hands up, and yell, ”I’m the good guy! I’m the good guy!” It was a response that seemed to make sense to me at the time, and when I look at it later it’s pretty absurd. I completely hope that moments in the film that echo that feeling come from the same place.
One of my favorite bits that I wanted in the film (is) a line in the comic book (James O’Barr’s The Crow), where Eric kills someone, shoots him several times, and then says, ”So much for the single-bullet theory.” I always wanted that line where I was just about to take somebody down and I look at them and say, ”Do you have any theories about the Kennedy assassination? Boom-boom- boom-boom! So much for the single- bullet theory.” But I’m not sure we’re gonna get that in.
TELLER: Destiny plays a very important role in the film. Characters are linked by events past. What about the destiny of Brandon Lee?
LEE: Oh, now we’re gonna talk about me, huh? Well, I’m freezing to death; it’s cold in here! Was I destined to play this role? I don’t know if I was destined to play this role, but I feel very fortunate to be doing so.