Saturday, January 29, 2011

Brandon & Eliza: The Love Story

The year was 1990. Brandon Lee had newly turned 25, and was still on his lifelong quest for acting stardom. He was a struggling actor, but an actor just the same. Brandon was still wrestling with the shadow of his father, and trying to prove to everyone that he was more than just an extension of Bruce.

French-Canadian Journalist, Denis Monette interviewed Brandon in early 1990 for the French language Magazine 'Le Lundi'. Brandon articulated to Monette that he had been through much emotional turmoil associated with his father’s death, and he was still very much coming to terms with his father's shadow and legacy. In the company of Monette, Brandon spoke very openly and candidly about his personal life, including why he hadn’t committed to anyone but himself. In a response to a question about if he ever wanted to get married, he told Monette, “Look around you.


Who would want to pick up this mess?", referring to the amount of cluttered mess (and unpaid bills) in eyes view in his home. Lee recalled that until that point every single girl he had dated wanted only to change him, and he didn’t want anyone to control or limit his freedom. He also confessed to have never felt like he had ever been truly or “soulfully in love”, saying that he never had loved a woman enough to want to merge his life with hers, however, at his young age claimed it did not bother him. Brandon felt that he may never find someone he could ever settle down with, and commented that he was his own man and there just wasn’t a girl that liked that much freedom in a man. To Monette, Brandon expressed that his ideal woman would be someone who could "balance" his sense of freedom, impulsive and spontaneity AND marry it with that of sensitivity and romance. Lee concluded that he just might be destined to never settle down, as he would never consider just getting married for the sake of perpetuating the family name.

Destiny, however, was about to call Brandon’s bluff in the form of a reserved brunette named Eliza “Lisa” Hutton. Eliza was a personal assistant to director Renny Harlin, who at the time was a much celebrated action director in Hollywood. She was a few years older than Brandon, mature and wise in nature, but definitely not impressed by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. She also was not involved with the martial arts at all and not an actor. Eliza had worked in Hollywood for a number of years for casting and production companies, and so had been exposed (no doubt) to the well oiled Hollywood machine. Eliza or " Lisa", as she preferred to be called, had grown up the second of three daughters to a geologist and city councilman father, and his wife in the mid-western city of Kansas City, Missouri.

The pair met in 1990, at the office where Eliza was working, based at 20 Century Fox headquarters in Century City, Los Angeles.  At the time her boss, Renny Harlin (DIE HARD II) shared an agent (David Goldman) with Brandon at the influential William Morris Agency. Brandon had been in talks with 20th Century Fox, together with his agent, and producer Robert Lawerence since late 1989, in order to secure a developmental deal (which he did in 1990). They met when Goldman, after the meeting with FOX, had dropped in to speak with his client Harlin, and Lee was introduced to Harlin's beautiful executive assistant Eliza "Lisa" Hutton. It has been widely reported that Brandon fell in love at first sight, and was immediately drawn to her. Eliza on the other hand although attracted to him (according to statements), was somewhat turned off when in trying to impress Eliza, Brandon inadvertly was “blowing” his own horn a little TOO loudly. In a 1992 interview with Brandon for the Chicago's Sun Times, Hutton recalled her first meeting with Brandon and her first impression of his as being " pretty arrogant." She added, " I was working in an office at the time, when he came in. He seemed to be very stuck on himself." Unknown to Eliza at the time, the same day he meet her, Brandon called his manager and friend, Jan McCormack smitten over meeting her and asked her, “ Jan, have you ever met anyone in your lifetime where you just say ‘Hello’ and you hope that they will be in your life for the rest of your life? Well I met a girl like that today”. Never one to give up easily, Brandon was determined to win Eliza over and prove to her just how wrong first impressions can be. Brandon knew instinctively that he wanted Eliza in his life forever and that his life would never be the same. However, later confessions to James O’Barr on the set of ‘The Crow’, Brandon revealed that he didn’t realize just how much finding true love would change his life, and for the better. This next chapter became one of the most fulfilling of his life. Brandon seemed to be so taken with her, and knew instinctively that his life would never be the same again. When the pair met a second time, Brandon was more himself, and things went much better according to Eliza, "the second time we met he was different, very nice." And with that he sealed the deal, and Hutton agreed to a date. Soon after, the pair began dating and were inseparable from that moment on.

A 1992, People Magazine article on Brandon included a comment from Eliza, where she spoke about Brandon’s intimidating qualities, “He is confident, intense and direct, and a lot of people find that intimidating.” Family and friends started seeing a change in his rebellious streak and reckless nature after he met Eliza. Brandon’s cousin Jeff Wilson said in the E! THS Documentary on Brandon that, “He loved looking for any edge of danger… He was that way up until he met Eliza”. It seemed almost instantly apparent that the couple were deeply in love. Eliza helped Brandon think about settling down for the first time in his young life, and he realized that he wanted to be with Eliza for the rest of his life. In Eliza, Brandon found an invaluable support system, someone who encouraged instead of dictating and trying to change or control him. She was the "balance" that Brandon had long sought in a mate, but never found until her. Still, the couple weren't without their own challenges, one being Brandon's own inner struggle over the state of his career.

Brandon was still a struggling actor throughout 1990, and besides doing a few low-paying plays, and some extra work on one low budget video clip, he was unemployed (like many actors in Hollywood). He was active on the Hollywood audition circuit, doing what he could to get roles, but the quality opportunities were hard to come by. It was a very frustrating time for Brandon, but also proved challenging, when he made the decision to begin training again in his father's arts. Brandon picked up his martial arts training with the Inosanto Academy, and for the first time made a more conscious effort to not run from his father's legacy. Eliza having worked in Hollywood for a number of production and casting companies was familiar with the struggles in Hollywood, and understood (obviously) the way things worked in the film industry. Hutton provided Lee with invaluable support. Their blossoming romance, friendship and love became a source of strength and comfort to Brandon during this rough time.

In the new year of 1991, things started to look up for Brandon. He landed his first American feature film role in Showdown in Little Tokyo, and Rapid Fire originally called Moving Target) finally was looking set to being made. In early 1991, Showdown in Little Tokyo was filmed, and as he progressed in his professional life a new sense of ecstasy carried over to his personal life too.

The pair moved into their own house in Beverly Hills in the Spring of 1991, and then Brandon started work on Rapid Fire. Eliza also changed career paths by becoming story editor at Stillwater Productions, Kiefer Sutherland’s production company.

Eliza by all respects made Brandon a more considerate, loving and responsible person, as well as giving him his freedom. A born romantic, Brandon frequently wrote her love letters, Eliza revealing to People Magazine in 1992 that he " writes me beautiful letters, he quotes Shakespeare." He took her on romantic camping trips, and over the border to Mexico, a place that became a special hide-way for the pair on weekends. His mother has commented that she was a “complete and total support system,” for Brandon. 


 In a 1991 interview with Prevue Magazine, Brandon spoke about how Eliza had helped his acting, “She’s (Eliza) been great for my acting. Love teaches you about yourself, which in-turn teaches you about your craft”. During the summer of 1992, Brandon went on a worldwide press tour in favor of Rapid Fire. Eliza often accompanied him to these interviews, and toured with him overseas during this time on the press tour. He saw her as a vital part of his life, and wanted her with him no matter where he was. In one of those interviews he spoke of her level-head nature, and described her as " gorgeous, very wise and wonderful.

" The couple were inseparable from the get go. Brandon's personal trainer Darryl Chan later recalled Brandon and Eliza's passion for each other in the E!THS documentary on Brandon, saying that Eliza often was with him during his training sessions. Chan recalled that during breaks Eliza " would come over and sit on his lap, and they would be hugging and kissing and everything, and I would have to say ' come on we got to do our next set', and they would go ' ok'. [Chan reenacts them kissing before they were parted when Brandon had to get back to training.]

As an actor, Brandon was eager and excited to try any type of acting experience, that is except for love scenes. He admitted that he was so uncomfortable doing them (especially nudity), namely due to the other person he was suppose to acting affectionately towards in an intimate setting was not Eliza (and the fact that they were impersonal, no emotional pull and usually irrelevant to the storyline), and nudity with an actress on film is not a very comfortable setting.

During the final script meetings for Rapid Fire the writer and producers were wanting to capitalize on Brandon's sex appeal to females, and wrote in a sex scene between Brandon's character and the character played by actress Kate Hodge. Eliza, while understanding that as an actor Brandon would probably have to do a love scene eventually, a nude scene with another actress was something that was emotionally a bit hard to digest at first.

Although Eliza wasn’t jealous and realized it was part of the job, it was actually seeing Brandon kiss another woman on screen, that was at first hard to watch. She revealed in a co-Interview in 1992 with Brandon her shock at seeing it on the big screen, " I thought I was emotionally prepared for it, until I saw it." Eliza went on to say, "You don't really know how you're going to react to something like that until you see it. It was ...hard."

Brandon also was not happy about doing it, saying " I guess you know from watching other movies that these (nude scenes) are something that you may or may not be called upon to do, if you're fortunate enough to get a job. But like Lisa (Eliza) says, I knew something like this might come up, but until you actually do it, you don't know exactly how you're going to feel about it. I would be happy never to do another one, but it unfortunately comes with the business, luckily Lisa understands that and is very supportive of my career".

Brandon also commented at the time that nude scenes, he felt, were marketing ploys that had almost no bearing on the characters in the film or the storylines. Later when he worked on The Crow it was reported that he felt the original love scenes in the script were rather excessive, and he asked for most of them to be cut from the script. Director Alex Proyas later agreed that nude scenes were irrelevant to the story, and only one sex scene eventually was filmed, as well as moderate intimate scenes that were arranged to be shot.

Despite not liking her partner doing such scenes, Eliza never made any requests (according to factual statements) for any changes in scripts, or in the cutting of the films. She knew Brandon only loved her, and there was no emotional connection for him, however, it is hardly normal for a spouse to be completely at ease with watching your partner do such scenes, therefore these reactions were quite normal and justified. Brandon always considered Eliza’s feeling and maintained great love and respect for her in making the decisions he did. Arianne Phillips, a friend of both Eliza’s and Brandon's, who would work on The Crow as a costume designer commented that, “He was really close to his girlfriend. They were best friends, as well as boyfriend/girlfriend”.

Despite the deep love Brandon had for Eliza, he still had fears of losing her, “Brandon was afraid of getting married. A lot of it stemmed from the fact that he knew what it was like to make a commitment with your heart and then lose that person. He had gone through pain of losing his father, and he did not want to repeat that pain”, said his mother Linda in 1993 in an interview with the New York Times. However, it finally dawned on him on what he was missing out on; having a complete life with Eliza and starting a family of their own.

By The summer of 1992, Brandon had read the script for ‘The Crow’. The young murdered couple in the script were very much like he and Eliza, deeply in love. Brandon felt very passionate that this role was very much part of him. Perhaps it helped make him see that he couldn't waste another moment. During the Rapid Fire press tour in Europe, Brandon took Eliza to Venice, Italy.

There one evening, on hand with champagne and flowers, he bend on one knee and asked her to marry him after more than two years of dating. The pair excitingly called their parents (Brandon's mother and Eliza's parents) from Italy to tell them of the happy news. Their happiness was made more exciting with the news that Brandon had won the part of Eric Draven in The Crow. Brandon had feverishly fought to get the role. It would be his first role where his martial arts skills would not be a primary part of the film.

Once back from Europe the pair threw a lavish cocktail party that turned out to a surprise engagement party, to let their friends know of their engagement. In the middle of the party, Brandon announced his engagement to Eliza to much excitement. The pair then started to plan the happy event of their marriage with great enthusiasm. They decided on getting married in Ensenada, Mexico, a beach town they frequented. The pair (both family orientated) wanted their families included in on the festive event. Eliza's younger sister was to be maid of honor, and Brandon's younger sister was to act as the best man.

Brandon began working on The Crow in pre-production and in January 1993. Brandon and Eliza relocated temporary to Wilmington, North Carolina, where the picture would be filming. Eliza was taking care of the wedding preparations, making trips back to L.A when needed. Brandon happily bragged to the crew and anyone else who cared to listen about their upcoming wedding.

A Magazine editor Jeff Yang visited Brandon on the set and later wrote, “When I asked him what his next project was and he said ‘ It starts production April 17, its all been cast, and it's going to go on for about 50 years, I’m getting married’.

Then he introduced his fiancée.” Besides getting married, the pair also had plans to start a family immediately, “He couldn’t wait to have kids. They wanted to have children right away", Said his mother Linda in a 1999 interview with the Fox Family Network.

There have been reports that the pair were actively trying to conceive at the time of his death. For the wedding, the pair planned to take a bus load of friends and family, 100 in total, over the border into Mexico, where they planned to marry at sunset on the walkway to the beach on April 17, 1993. They also had booked out an entire hotel, in Rosarito for their guests.

Back on the set of The Crow, Eliza was a frequent fixture on the set of The Crow, and was part of the very close group made up of Brandon's ' JKD brothers', which consisted of Jeff Imada, his brother Brian, and Jeff Cadiente.' She unofficially became his assistant, tending to and making sure he was supported in his role as Eric Draven.

After his death, her dedication to Brandon on the set was not forgotten with her being credited as " assistant to Mr Lee." Brandon (it has been reported) attracted a number of female admirers wherever he went, but to him (by his own admission) there was only ever one woman for him and that was Eliza.

On set, he preferred to socialize within his close knit group of Eliza, and his "JKD" brothers. Although he was friendly to everyone, and liked to tell jokes making others feel comforted on the gloomy set, however, he was a very private person and was chiefly focused on his role.

Brandon commented in an candid interview in 1992 that he choose to surround himself only "with a very loyal group of people", who knew him very well, and weren't going to betray his trust, which according to reports, had happened a few times previously. Brandon had experience betrayals in his youth, which resulted in not being able to open up to some friends, because he was never sure if they were his friends, or were hanging around him because of who his father was or what they could get out of him.

There was a buzz about Brandon in Hollywood at this time, and the industry 'leeches' were out in force.

Brandon also publicly said that the film business and film sets were not representative of real life, and any success is fleeting compared to true love and friendship. The Crow set was not a complete positive experience for Brandon.

He had became frustrated at the poor working conditions, and after a month of shooting in very cold, wet and dark surrounding, he commented that for once he would like to " see the sun," referring to him only being awake at night. His main focus as he progressed in filming was getting married to Eliza, going on their honeymoon and starting a new life together as husband and wife. Moments before he was shot, the actress playing Shelly, Sofia Shinas, asked him what role he was doing next, to which he replied "being a husband."

Brandon's portrayal of his character Eric Draven was essential to Brandon getting industry recognition, and as a result he spent a lot of time preparing for the emotional as well as physical experience of playing him. Brandon's need to understand a deeper meaning to Eric's transformation as a anti-superhero became a source of introspective conservation between Brandon and Eliza.

Brandon felt he understood Eric psyche as he related how he would feel if he and Eliza would ever be separated. However, Eliza felt Eric was a symbol for something more meaningful to the public. Brandon recalled in an interview on the set about his bride-to-be's wise thoughts on his character, " my girlfriend keeps telling me that Eric symbolizes justice for victims who never have a chance to receive it. That sounds really heavy to me, but I guess it's very true.

" Eliza also provided some assistance when Brandon, who believed in method acting, wanted to see what it felt like to be dead and entering from a cold, wet grave.

Shortly before filming begun, Brandon with Eliza, and Jeff Imada had bought a few bags of ice from the local store. Jeff and Eliza put the ice on Brandon, and then he later said that he had Eliza stop watched him to see how much time he would take.

When the producers found out about his method acting experiment Brandon, by his own admission, had got into an "argument," with one of the producers, who no doubt didn't share his enthusiasm for method acting.

During the filming of The Crow, Brandon and Eliza went to the movies (reportedly Lorenzo's Oil), hoping for a distraction to the stress of him filming, and taking a break from planning the wedding. As the pair sat watching the previews, a silence began to gripe them; a film preview for Dragon: The Bruce Lee story, an up coming biopic on Brandon's father Bruce Lee appeared on screen. Brandon had originally been offered the role of his father in 1991 for the film, but turned it down, and then chose not to have anything to do with the production. He cited to his mother the idea of watching his father and their family on screen was "too difficult," for him and he had no intentions of ever seeing the film. There in the cinema, Brandon sat, watching a preview of the film snipets, where Brandon (portrayed as a child) is running into his father's arms and warm embrace. Not surprisingly, Brandon became emotionally stunned, and Eliza noticed (as she tried to comfort him) a visible change in his body language. She later told Linda that in that moment Brandon" went from being 28, to being 8 years old again, as he was remembering what it felt like to be held by his father". Brandon and Eliza had epic plans for the rest of their lives, and Brandon was eager to be the best husband and eventually father he could.

His mother Linda Lee Cadwell in 1997 recalled a conversation she had with her son shortly before he died. Brandon was full of excitement about his upcoming nuptials, and wanted to convey to his mother how much Eliza meant to him, “Oh Mom, I am so much in love with Eliza. I can’t wait to get married”. The pair frequently discussed their wedding plans with The Crow crew, even with Brandon's local guitar teacher JK Loftin and his wife, " they were very sweet together", Mrs Loftin later recalled.

Arianne Phillips, a friend of Brandon's, who also shared a mutual friend with Eliza in New York, worked on the film as a costume designer, felt honored to be included in their wedding plans. When deciding on her wedding dress, Phillips gave Eliza fashion advice when choosing it. Eliza later wore the dress, which she had bought at a L.A boutique to Brandon's Memorial service in L.A, the day after his funeral. Philips just the day before Brandon's death had fitted him in a Georgio Armani tuxedo, an item that was to be for his wedding day, later became the clothing he was buried in.

Many on The Crow crew observed Eliza's and Brandon's close relationship. Darryl Levine, a Costume Supervisor said that" even for couples he knew at the time, they seemed more close than most". Similarly, The Crow creator James O'Barr recalled in an interview in 2007, that " the fact that his fiancée, Eliza, was with him all the time, that perfected that image of Eric and Shelly I had in the book. They had to have been one of the most deeply in love couples I’ve ever met. Whenever someone would come up to meet Brandon, he would always introduce her first. When Brandon did have time to himself, according to Jeff Imada, it usually revolved around Eliza, " we would hang out some, but he wanted to be with Eliza, so I would give them space." Even when he was working, his mind was often thinking of her, according to Arianne Philips. After seeing some dresses on a few of the extras, Brandon asked Costumer Designer Phillips for the dresses stating to her that "Eliza would look great in them."

There was hardly anyone who saw the couple or had any dealings with Brandon on the set that didn't know of his pending marriage to Eliza. A journalist friend of Proyas's later recalled his brief encounter with the couple, saying how he" met Brandon and his fiancee Eliza very briefly one evening when I was on the set. He was charming and unaffected and very charismatic. He and Eliza, who were due to be married after the film was completed, seemed happy and comfortable in one another’s company. " It seemed almost impossible to escape the excitement and happiness of the pair on set.

As the date of April 17 loomed closer, the more excited and eager Brandon began, and counting the days until filming ceased. He often told interviewers happily that like his character he was also due to be married, describing to one how he had “found a wonderful woman”, who he couldn’t wait to marry. In the months and weeks leading up till his death, Brandon had pondered the question of, if he died and he had a chance to come back who would he want to see? His answer was always "Eliza".

In interviews, he frequently quoted a paragraph from James Bowles’s novel "The sheltering sky".

"Because we don't know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember as certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps 4 and 5 times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless."

The quote meant so much to the couple, that they had placed it on their wedding invitations. Later this quote would prove to be Brandon’s signature quote,  used in promotion for the movie. After Brandon's death, his mother Linda chose to have it put on his gravesite, with a special dedication to the pair that reads, "For Brandon and Eliza: Ever Joined In True Love's Beauty". Eliza's father after Brandon's death pondered it's significance, "It's so ironic, because their wedding invitations said, in effect, that it was the right thing to do because we never know when we're going to die." The quote then served as a eulogy to Brandon's own life.

Eliza was back in Los Angeles in late March for further preparation for the wedding, but was to return to Wilmington in the last few days of filming. Still Photographer Robert Zuckerman recalled that Brandon had especially asked if he would take some romantic photographs of him and Eliza in one of the Wilmington's gothic gardens, after filming had ceased. Brandon, it was reported wanted to preserve their happiness by recording the time on film. On the 27th of March, 1993 Eliza had her bridal party at the push Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, laughing with friends as she opened gifts, so eager and looking  forward very much to the long future and her new life with Brandon as husband and wife.

That life with Brandon was about to come to a premature end. A few hours before he went to the set on March 30, 1993, Brandon spoke to Eliza one last time, according to reports in the NY Times, she told him that her engagement ring (which had been custom made) had finally arrived from Harry Winston Jewellers. The rest of their conversation, one can only speculate. No one was to know, that neither one would ever get to speak to other again.

Even up to the last moments of his life Eliza was not far from his thoughts. He was chatting to the crew about his wedding just before he was shot. He had told members of the cast and crew that his next project was being a husband, and he was planning on taking an extended break to spend time with his new wife. Preparations had been made for their honeymoon, which according to reports was to take place in Spain  (Brandon revealed in an interview that Eliza had Spanish roots in Mexico), and the pair shared a passion for the culture.

Brandon's accident that would take his life occurred just after Midnight, and he almost immediately began fighting for his life. When his best friend Jeff Imada, the stunt co-coordinator for the film called Eliza to see how she was coping with the news of his accident, he assumed she had been contacted. The producers had advised him that she had been contacted, but that was not true. Sadly what Imada was about to tell her would come as a deep shock to her. Eliza at first thought Imada was pulling an early April fools joke on her, practical jokes being one of Brandon special “talents”, according to friends. Eliza asked Imada in all innocence if "Brandon had put him up to it?," Slowly, he told her it was no joke and that Brandon had been seriously hurt. Brandon had been injured on the set of Rapid Fire when he broke his foot, but this time it was much more serious. Eliza asked Imada, ' How bad is it?', and Imada advised her that she needed to get to Wilmington ASAP. Eliza headed straight for the airport and got on the first plane to Brandon.

While waiting for a connecting flight to Atlanta, Georgia, on route to Wilmington, North Carolina, Eliza called Arianne Phillips, who was now back in L.A working on another film and informed her that Brandon had been hurt. Eliza - not surprisingly was very upset and "Freaking" out, because the plane she was about to board did not have a phone, and she would have no way of checking to see if Brandon was okay. Phillips told Eliza that it would be okay, not knowing how serious Brandon was hurt. Eliza was in a state of panic, perhaps feeling in her gut that something bad had happened, but still managed to call Brandon's mother in Idaho before she boarded to let her know that Brandon had been injured. Linda decided to not fly to Wilmington until she heard more about his condition. None of them at that time knew what had exactly happened, or what a life threatening situation it was. Eliza also called her friend in New York City, with whom Phillips was friends with. Later, when Phillips phoned her friend to advise her, what had happened, and that Eliza would be in need of their support. Arianne was shock to know that Eliza had already spoken to her. The lack of comprehension at what might of occurred, or the lack of information coming to her, no doubt, added to Eliza's high anxiety.


 When Eliza arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, Jeff Imada met her and together they flew to Wilmington, North Carolina. When they landed at around 12.P.M, they went directly to the hospital. At the hospital only Eliza, Imada and one other friend Jeff Cadiente, who was Brandon's stunt double, were permitted to see him. Brandon was now in a coma in the ICU and very critical. Brandon had slipped into an unconscious state shortly after going into shock almost immediately after being shot, and never regained consciousness again.

After spending short time with Brandon, Eliza, together with Jeff Imada and Jeff Cadiente attended a private meeting with the doctor. The doctor advised Eliza of the impossible odds that Brandon would come out of it, and how he doubted that Brandon would survive the day. Jeff Imada later said that she (Eliza) took the difficult news very hard, and was "understandably a wreck." Shortly after telling them of the news, the doctor was called out for an emergency, which just happened to be a one last attempt to save Brandon's life. With Brandon's best friends by her side, she witnessed him flatline and die in front of her eyes (according to reports, she was holding his hand). He was pronounced dead at 1:03 P.M on March 31st, 1993. 18 days before he was to marry the love of his life. Eliza received the devastating news and was then comforted by Brandon's closest friends, Jeff Imada and Jeff Cadiente, two men Brandon considered his brothers. Her beloved Brandon was gone, so were their hopes of a long future together, and the epic wedding they both planned, that now would never take place.

After he died, it was revealed to Eliza and Jeff Imada that Linda's mother and sister were on a plane to Wilmington, which would later arrive several hours after Brandon had been pronounced dead. Eliza decided it would be best if she told his mother and sister herself, in person, of the tragic news, and so she and Jeff Imada volunteered to meet their plane. When their plane landed, Eliza told them the devastating news.

Despite her overwhelming grief, before she left Wilmington, Eliza offered Brandon's guitar, which he was learning to play for his role in The Crow, to his guitar teacher JK Loftin (who later sold it). She also gifted a pin ball game set, that Brandon had displayed in his temporary living space in Wilmington to Brandon's driver, Scott Siler, with whom he often played ping-pong with. She felt that these were things that Brandon would of wanted them to have.

Brandon's body was flown to Jacksonville, North Carolina, where an autopsy was preformed. He was then flown to Seattle, Washington, where he was buried next to his father, in a cemetery plot that originally Linda Lee Cadwell had reserved for herself.

The private funeral took place in Seattle, Washington on April 3, 1993, only close family and friends were permitted to attend, those included Brandon's immediate family, as well as Eliza's parents and younger sister, who flew in from Missouri. Eliza was too shock at this time to even speak (hiding behind dark sunglasses being comforted by her family), according to sources, and the following day, 250 of Brandon's family, friends and business associates attended a Memorial service in L.A. The service was held at the house of actress Polly Bergen, with whom Lee used to regularly play backgammon.

At the memorial service service, Arianne Phillips, in particular was shocked when Eliza turned up in what was to be her wedding dress, a white cocktail style dress. Eliza was too devastated and upset to even speak about Brandon at the service, but listened to his friends and family recalling the Brandon they remembered. None of them quite believing that Lee was gone. No doubt, for those that knew him the best like Eliza, and his family, the realization that Lee was gone forever would not settle in for a long time. Eliza most probably was still in a state of extreme shock, which also is apparent when a few weeks after Brandon's death, the creator of The Crow, James O'Barr paid Eliza a home visit. O'Barr recently recalling , " One of the saddest, most profoundly moving experiences I had in my entire life was visiting Brandon’s fiancé a few weeks after his funeral. Eliza still resided in the modest humble home she shared with Brandon and the living room was filled with little mementos of their love and the time they’d spent together: wooden framed 5x7 photos of them hugging and kissing in front of various locations in L.A. and Mexico, some flea market set of porcelain figures of two toddlers holding hands sitting on a park bench trading a shy kiss, the little boy pushing the girl on a swing (all reminiscent of joyous, jubilant, young, innocent love), some condolence cards (Surprisingly few, though), a big B&W photo of Bruce that had been tinted with oil paints, a cabinet full of home videos containing images of their trips together, Brandon doing his martial arts workouts in their meager back yard. Just all your typical knick-knack’s of two people deeply in love. I’d bought her two dozen yellow roses because I, more than anything wanted her to know that I was her friend and that was never going to change, that I didn’t base our friendship on her being Brandon’s fiancé.

She knew that I had suffered the same loss she was experiencing: the sudden inexplicable death of the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with. As she put the roses in a vase she turned to me and said “Do you want to see it?” I had no idea what she was referring to, but her expression was unmistakable, she wanted to share something deeply personal with me. So I nodded and she took me by the hand and waked me down the narrow hallway to the bedroom. Hanging off a headless mannequin was the wedding dress she would never ever get to wear.

She said “Isn’t it beautiful?” and indeed it was. It was also the saddest thing I had ever seen. Brandon died 18 days before they were to be married. " It is assumed that Eliza wanted someone to see her for what she was that was being lost in the media attention (the malicious rumors that centered around Brandon's father's death), “that “being, that she Brandon's widow (married or not) and wanted someone to acknowledge that.

Despite her grief, Eliza knew how important the role of Eric Draven had been to Brandon, and was instrumental in getting the film finished, to honor Brandon's talent, and commented in her only statement (with Linda) after his death that "Brandon had told me this was his finest performance yet. I know he would want it to be completed".

She also wanted to make sure that the producers and distributors did not exploit Brandon's death in the promotion for the film. As a result much of the advertising was submitted to Eliza, in an attempt to have it be as respectful as possible. But not every wish of the family was abided by; Edward Pressman, The Crow’s Executive Producer, held a Hollywood Screening after Eliza requested them not to hold one. Arianne Phillips went to the screening to voice her disgust to the producers, "Eliza had told them that to have one would be a celebration of the film and she couldn't support that”. Later Pressman and Eliza disagreed again, when Pressman wanted money made from promotion of the film to go to a youth charity.

Eliza argued that the money should be donated to a program, to educate the film industry about gun safety on film sets. It has been reported that Eliza petitioned for more education for the film industry about gun safety on film sets, as well as the tightening of gun safety regulations on all film set - especially those non-union sets. Linda herself is also reported to have petitioned for more awareness in the Wilmington film community. Both women did not want to ever see that type of accident occur again on a film set.

Brandon's mother, Linda Lee Cadwell (who was made the executor of his estate after his death) filed a law suit against the makers of The Crow in 1993. It was later settled out of court. No criminal charges were filed against the crew members, which caused Brandon's death, after it was revealed that while the crew members who were responsible had breached gun safety film regulations, it was not illegal, and did not fit the legal definition of negligence.

At the end of the film a special dedication appears, "For Brandon and Eliza". If anyone ever forgets what really was lost, then that puts it sharply into focus. The story of love lost was not fictional. It was very real; two people that wanted only to be together would be now forever apart.

Besides a private statement made with Linda shortly after his death, Eliza refused for all media requests for interviews. Linda took over any requests for interviews (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story had just been released so many interviews were Bruce Lee centered), most probably to allow Eliza the privacy and time she was denied when her own husband Bruce died in 1973.

Given the amount of malicious slander and gossip circulating in the media in the aftermath of Brandon's death, trying to connect it with his father's death in 1973, as well as other ridiculous rumors, it was hardly surprising that Eliza didn't want to talk to the tabloid media. She is reported to have been in extreme state of depression at this time, and preferred to spend quiet time alone with Brandon's family, friends and her own loved ones.

Her need for privacy during a time of grieving, and her refusal to officially comment is both very understandable and very admirable. She was not someone who sought out public attention or exposure, and it is an act, I am sure, that Brandon would have been proud of her for making, being the kind of very loyal person he was also. Eliza's father described the pair as "very private."

After Brandon's death, Eliza retained a close friendship with Brandon's mother Linda, and his sister Shannon, at least for a while. Eliza and Linda became crucial to ensuring The Crow was completed and released. Linda became involved in the civil suit against those whose negligence had caused the death of Brandon, which was settled out of court in October, 1993. Eliza spent a great deal of time with the Lees after Brandon's death, Linda saying at the time to People Magazine that Eliza " will be a member of my family forever." In late 1994, Eliza was trying hard to deal with her grief, and it was felt by Brandon's sister Shannon that possibly she and her mother reminded Eliza too much of what she loss (and perhaps too Eliza reminded them what they lost), and stated that in her opinion Eliza started keeping a distance (Shannon married Ian Keasler in August 1994, which might have been painful for an almost bride to see), because it was " her way of dealing with it." Reports at the time, also claim that Eliza was finding daily life without Brandon hard to deal with and wanted to be left alone.

 The Lees and Eliza seemed to be in different stages of grief, which is understandable as Eliza was mourning the loss of her best friend, lover and partner, and Linda and Shannon were grieving the loss of their son and brother.

Eliza needed to find out who she was now that Brandon was gone, and the truth remains that sometimes grieving family members have to go separate ways in order to grow as people. Grief is a very individualist experience, and all parties did what they needed to in order to deal with their loss. There have been rumors over the years that there was a fight that caused the split, but don't appear to have any factual basis to them, so it appears to have been a mutual decision, and the best one for both parties for them to grieve in their respective ways.

The years since Brandon's passing both the Lees and Eliza have been able to move through their grief and on with their lives, as Brandon would have wanted. Ultimately, The Lees and Eliza will always be bonded with their memories, and with their loss experience, therefore she will always be part of Brandon's family, as Linda's initial statement articulated.

Eliza was eventually able to move through her grief and embrace a new kind of normal. She left the industry of Hollywood (reported to have been working with neglected kids and social welfare for the last decade), and in the decade after Brandon’s death was able to find happiness again, marrying in the L.A area in 2003. The love her and Brandon will always share will forever be part of her life and soul, but life goes on – the true irony of death.

Source : http://www.brandonleemovement.com

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