Brandon Lee was just 8 years old when his father, the martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, died at the age of 32. Lee grew up to be an actor but, like his father, died young. The real-life story behind his death while filming 1993's "The Crow" reads like skillfully plotted fiction: a chain of minor lapses in judgment ends in the death of an innocent victim.
It began when the prop crew, untrained in firearms, made homemade "dummies": harmless, disarmed bullets used for close-up shots of a loaded gun. The crew bought conventional cartridges as well as the entire ammunition assembly: bullets, gunpowder and a primer, the small charge that triggers the gunpowder [source: Ferguson]. They removed the bullets, emptied the gunpowder and then placed the now-empty bullets back in. That same gun was used to shoot blanks in the scene where Lee's character is murdered [source: Wilkins]. Blanks are cartridges with the gunpowder and primer but without bullets. Blanks provide the flash, bang and smoke used to show a gun being fired [source: Ferguson].
On the fateful day, the firearms expert had left the set because the "dangerous" scenes had already been shot [source: Harris]. If he'd been there, he might have checked the gun and seen that one bullet from the dummies was left in the barrel. He would have known that the blanks could expel that bullet with lethal force — and that's just what happened. Fired from 15 feet (4.6 meters) away, the bullet tore into Lee's abdomen and through his vital organs, coming to rest at his spine [source: Wilkins]. Despite hours of surgery and 60 pints (28 liters) of blood transfusions, Lee died of massive internal bleeding [source: Harris]. He was 28 years old.